Six strategies to improve print advertising (and how to achieve them)

Today, careful attention should be made to getting the most out of new forms of communication such as online interaction and email blasts and take advantage of how they relate to the reliable printed document. Are you wondering how to improve your complete advertising plan? Through experience, we uphold that cookie-cutter marketing is not the key. We must take a broad view of your business, your budget, your consumer, your potential customer. Contact us to talk about the print and digital challenge. Our clients testify that we are skilled in taking advantage of this rapidly changing landscape.

Unless you are seasoned in the communication arts field, you may not have heard of David Ogilvy. The following snippets include six “opinions” from his book titled Ogilvy on Advertising. Decades later, many of Ogilvy’s opinions still carry validity, although there are exceptions to the rules.

1. Headlines

  • On the average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy. The headlines that work best are those that promise the reader a benefit.
  • On the average, ads with news are recalled by 22% more people than ads without news.
  • One study reports that headlines with more than ten words get less readership than short headlines. On the other hand, another study of retail ads found that headlines of ten words sell more merchandise than short headlines. Conclusion: If you need a long headline, go ahead and write one, and if you want a short headline, that’s all right, too.
  • Some headlines are “blind.” They don’t say what the product is, or what it will do for them. They are about 20% below average in recall.

2. Illustrations and Photography

  • The subject of your illustration is all important. If you don’t have a remarkable idea for it, not even a great photographer can save you.
  • Photographs that work hardest are those that arouse the reader’s curiosity.
  • When you don’t have a story to tell, it is often a good thing to make your package the subject of your illustration.
  • It pays to illustrate the end-result of using your product. “Before” and “after” photographs seem to fascinate readers.
  • Photographs attract more readers than drawings, are more believable and better remembered.
  • Keep your illustrations as simple as possible with the focus of attention on one person [or product]. Crowd scenes don’t pull.
  • Don’t show human faces enlarged bigger than life size. They seem to repel readers.
  • Historical subjects bore the majority of readers.
  • Do not assume that subjects which interest you will necessarily interest consumers.
  • When you use a photograph of a woman, men ignore your ad. [Arrow’s note—we’re not too sure about that one, Mr. Ogilvy.]
  • Color ads cost more than black and white, but on the average, they are 100% more memorable resulting in a good bargain.
  • When the client moans and sighs, make his logo twice the size. If he still should prove refractory, show a picture of his factory. Only in the gravest cases should you show the clients’ faces. [ha!]

3. Body Copy

  • Pretend you are writing each of your readers a letter on behalf of your client—one human being to another, second person singular.
  • It pays to write short sentences and short paragraphs and to avoid difficult words.
  • Copy should be written in the language people use in everyday conversation.
  • Tell your reader what your product will do for him or her and tell it with specifics.
  • Avoid analogies… that they are widely misunderstood.
  • Stay away from superlatives like “Our product is the best in the world,” Gallup calls this “Brag and Boast.” It convinces nobody.
  • If you include a testimonial in your copy, you make it more credible.
  • For a great many products, long copy sells more than short. I believe, without any research to support me, that ads with long copy convey the impression that you have something important to say, whether people read the copy or not.

4. Layout

  • KISS—an acronym for Keep It Simple, Stupid. Readers look first at the illustration, then at the headline, then at the copy. So, put these elements in that order—illustration at the top, headline under the illustration, copy under the headline. This follows the normal order of scanning from top to bottom. If you put the headline above the illustration, you are asking people to scan in an order which does not fit their habit.
  • On the average, headlines below the illustration are read by 10% more people than headlines above the illustration. But, please do not put the headline at the bottom, under the copy.
  • More people read the captions under an illustration than read the body copy, so never use an illustration without putting a caption under it. Your caption should include the brand name and the promise.

5. Posters

  • Your poster should deliver your selling promise not only in words, but also pictorially.
  • Use the largest possible type.
  • Make your brand name visible at a long distance.
  • Use strong, pure colors.
  • Never use more than three elements in your design.

6. Typography

  • [Some] advertising agencies usually set their headlines in capital letters. This is a mistake. …capitals retard reading. They have no ascenders (b, d, h, k, 1, t) or descenders (g, j. p, q, y) to help you recognize words and tend to be read letter by letter.
  • Another way to make headlines hard to read is to superimpose them on your illustration.
  • Another mistake is to put a period at the end of headlines. Periods are also called full stops, because they stop the reader dead in his tracks. You will find no full stops at the end of headlines in newspapers.
  • Yet another common mistake is to set copy in a measure too wide or too narrow to be legible. People are accustomed to reading newspapers which are set about 40 characters wide.
  • What typefaces are easy to read? Those that people are accustomed to reading, like the Century family, Caslon, Baskerville, and Jenson. The more outlandish the typeface, the harder it is to read.
  • San serif faces like this are particularly difficult to read. Serifs help the eye pick up the shape of the letter. [Note: when designing for websites, the opposite is true. Usually san serif faces are easier to read on a computer screen.]
  • If you have to set long copy, there are some typographical devices that increase readership.
    1. A subhead of two lines, between your headline and your body copy, heightens your reader’s appetite for the feast to come.
    2. If you start your body copy with a drop initial, you increase readership by an average of 13%.
    3. Limit your opening paragraph to a maximum of 11 words.
    4. After two or three inches of copy, insert a cross-head, and thereafter, throughout. Make some of them interrogative to excite curiosity.
    5. Copy set flush left, ragged right, increases readership.
    6. Set key paragraphs in bold face or italic.
    7. Help the reader into your paragraphs with arrow heads, bullets or numbers.
  • What size type should you use?6 point type and too small to read.14 point and too big.11 point and about right.
  • If you use extra leading between paragraphs you increase readership by an average of 12%.