Creating your own newspaper ads.
If you’re hoping your newspaper ads will get the business rolling in, you could be disappointed if you’re not careful.
Newspaper ads can be great for bringing in leads and getting you the exposure you want, but you have to be careful how you create them, and how you place them. You also need to understand that this advertising method can be expensive - depending on whether you are advertising in your local paper, or on a national or regional scale – so you have to weigh the cost of space against what you hope to achieve sales-wise.
That being said, it’s important for me to remind you that you can’t always measure your exposure by how many customers or sales you get in a given day. There is a thing called “image advertising” that works best as part of a long-term overall campaign strategy to help increase business. Image advertising usually (but not always) involves several different types of media, and has a cohesive, consistent feel. We’ll save the discussion on image advertising for another time; right now we’re focusing on newspaper ads, and how you can use them to your advantage.
First things first.
Before you buy space, here are some things to consider:
Is your newspaper ad going to be a single run, or part of a consistent campaign? If you plan on running once, you need to make sure your offer is compelling enough to get traffic in the door. If you plan to run your newspaper ads as part of a campaign, you can be more flexible in your message, although you still need a compelling reason to buy/believe.
Will you be running locally, regionally, or nationally? This makes a difference cost-wise. Local papers are almost always cheaper to run in than national or regional publications. This is common sense…if you own a local decorating shop, you’re going to want to run in your local papers. If your product or service is more national in scope, you may want to consider running regional or national newspaper ads. Also, if you plan on running newspaper ads consistently, nearly all papers will give you a discount if you run as a contract advertiser.
In what section are you planning to run? Newspaper ads are sold by column inch. The more popular a section of the paper, the higher the cost-per-column-inch. To help you decide upon your section, let your product/service dictate selection. If you sell automotive parts or run a car dealership, you will probably want to advertise in the “automotive” section of the paper. If you run that decorating shop mentioned above, you may want to run in the “family” section, or “trends” section. Another route is to take a look at the paper you want to run in and see which section is the less cluttered.
Tips on getting noticed.
If you’ve looked through a newspaper lately, you know that for the most part, ads are stacked on top of ads in a veritable jumble of offers! It can be a mess. Makes you wonder how one ad ever gets noticed.
Here are some of my suggestions for creating newspaper ads that cut through the clutter:
Make sure your offer is unique and eye-catching. For instance, if you’re having a sale, tell them how much they’ll save. If you’re holding an open house, let them know about the clown, balloons, and free popcorn. You might also consider including a coupon. Don’t hide your offer…especially if this is a one or two-time run.
Never let the newspaper design your ad for you. Don’t get me wrong…they mean well. But the newspaper has to create a lot of ads in a day. Do you really think your ad is going to get the attention it deserves, especially considering how much you’re paying for it? Huh-uh.
If you have the budget, my suggestion is to hire an advertising agency (they have trained professionals!), or a freelancer (a one-person band) who can coordinate everything for you — from concept to completion to placement. If you want to save money, though, you can do it yourself by following the tips below. You can also download ad templates (for a cost) from sites on the web by typing in “newspaper templates."
Or you can design a rough layout, then hand it over to the newspaper to put together for you. Since they now have a guide to go by, it shouldn’t be too traumatic. Just insist on seeing and approving a final copy of the ad before it runs, in plenty of time to make changes.
Position yourself properly. Optimum placement for your ad is on the outside. My personal preference is the right outside, lower corner. Of course, you will pay more for outside placement of your newspaper ads, but the increased visibility you will get is worth it, in my opinion.
Don’t get lost in the crowd. Buy a big enough space where you will be dominant on the page. I usually recommend a quarter page, but you’ll have to decide what your budget can stand.
White space is good. Do not – let me repeat – DO NOT cram as much as you can into your newspaper ads! I can’t even begin to tell you how important this is. You may be thinking, “Hey, I’m paying big money for this ad and I want to get as much bang for my buck as possible.” In reality, however, you are doing the opposite. The more you stuff into your newspaper ads, the less effective they become. Too much of a good thing is never a good thing.
Keep a singular focus. Take one message and make it the focus of your ad.
Use one compelling headline and visual. That’s all…just one each. The combination of a great headline and a great visual is called a “concept.” I’ll be coming out with an ebook about this soon, but in the meantime, if you’d like to see some great, award-winning, highly-effective newspaper ads (if I do say so myself!) and get an idea of what I mean about a headline/visual combination, go to my freelance website at
and click on “Portfolio.”
Write strong newspaper ad copy. Again, keep your copy short, and make it descriptive. There are very few times when longer copy is better, especially for novices. Good ad copy needs to have a beginning and an end, and needs to focus on benefits, not features.
(A “feature is a factual statement about your product or service, while a “benefit” is what your consumer gets out of the feature. For example, if one of the “features” of a coffee maker is that it’s self-timing, the “benefit” would be “convenience” or the fact that “you coffee can be ready for you when you wake up.” I’ll be doing a page on this soon, so check back.)
Newspaper ad copy also needs to “payoff” your headline and visual concept. Use powerful words and action tenses, but don’t overdo the it. Again, go to my portfolio and check this out, or grab a Communication Arts Advertising Annual by visiting their website at
Be sure to include your logo, address, phone number, hours of operation, and website address.
Never submit your ad without proofreading it. Even better, have two other people proofread it as well!
Position your logo toward the bottom of the ad.
Create your ad with your customer in mind. After all, they’re the ones you want to appeal to, not you wife or mother (unless they also happen to fit your customer demographic!).
Time your newspaper ads properly. For example, if you’re going to have a sale, you might want to start running your ad a day or two early, as well as on the day of the event.
Newspaper ads can be fun and profitable if you do them right. I hope the information on this page has been helpful to you, and that you will check back often for updates.
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can be a cost-effective way to reach your customer in a very specific and targeted way. Learn what it takes to create a successful direct mail piece, and why you should give direct mail a try.
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Yellow Pages Advertising
definitely isn’t cheap, but is a great way to add credibility in your local customers’ minds.
Get practical tips on how to develop a corporate brochure that will have maximum impact.
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