Print Advertising Still Works

Even in today’s market, some well-placed column-inches can still work wonders.

There’s no question that print advertising has been taking a bit of a beating of late. And for our clients At Braun/Allison Inc., they aren’t the cornerstone of a marketing campaign like they used to be. But print ads still have an important role to play, albeit a different one than the role they played in pre-recessionary times. Here’s what you can expect from them, and how to make sure you have a good one.

What to expect from new-school print ads

For many old-school marketers this is the hard bit. We circle around these clients in our board room and chant the following line in soft dulcet tones, hoping it will seep into their consciousness in a pleasant way:

“A print ad is not a salesperson. Do not expect a print ad to sell anything.”

In fact, print ads have never been good at selling things – and this has always been a place where many companies fall down. In the new economy, it’s just more true than before, because people don’t want to be sold anything. They want information. So if you have a really good print ad, it might be successful at getting people to remember something about your brand. An exceptional print ad might get prospects to go to your website for more information. But that’s about all you can expect.

If you think an aggressive print campaign is going to get your product to fly of the shelves, I’m afraid you need to give your head a shake. Consumers today want more of a relationship than a print ad alone can give.

Viewed through another filter, however, what print ads can do is fantastic. Think about it for a moment: you can buy a piece of a page in a targeted publication, and if your print ad is working right you can get people to seek more information. What marketer wouldn’t want that?

With that in mind, here are six rules to keep in mind to make sure your print ad is working as hard as it can for you:

1. The law of singular focus says a print ad can talk about one thing well. Just one. Pick a very competitive benefit that distinguishes you from your competitors and focus on that. Forget all the other stuff.

2. Don’t try to be clever. You can be creative, and you should be, but kooky headlines and nutty visuals will just obfuscate the message.

3. Don’t sell, just educate.

4. Have a clear and concise call to action. What do you want people to do?

5. If you can leave something out without damaging the message, leave it out. Less is more. Ditch the map, the hours of operation, the photos of your sales team, the history of your company and the fourteen awards you won last year. You can put all that on your website.

6. Make it easy for people to follow up. Your website address and other contact information should be easy to find and easy to read.

For any experienced marketers out there, these six rules will seem very elementary. But if you look at 99 per cent of the print ads in any publication, you’ll see that most advertisements break at least half of these rules. If advertisers can at least start following these simple rules, they may re-discover the value of print advertising – and have an old but new tool at their disposal as they work to meet their sales objectives.