Your Ads Suck and Here's Why..
Newspapers and magazines make their money selling ads, not designing them. Keep that in mind next time you lay out a small fortune for advertising. Sure, the medium may be perfect for advertising your business, but will your actual advertisement be perfect for the medium and the market you're trying to reach?
Chances are if you let the newspaper or magazine people design your ad for you, you may end up with an ad that looks no different than any of the other ads in the publication that were created "in-house". Open up your favorite newspaper and take a good look at all the ads. it will soon become obvious which ads were professionally designed (the 'big name' advertisers are obvious) and which were most likely created by the newspaper people. You'll notice the same borders from ad to ad, the cheezy clip art graphics, the overuse of reverse type, the bad choices for fonts, text lines that are too close or too far apart, photos that didn't reproduce well, misspellings, bad grammar -- the list goes on and on.
These "problems" are found in every newspaper. Some more than others. You won't notice this so much with the national magazines, since most of their big money ads come from ad agencies who use professional ad designers. So compare your favorite national magazine with your favorite local magazine -- like a community guide, newsweekly, etc. Again, you'll see a stark contrast in ad design from one to the other.
This isn't to say that your local newspapers and magazines (or even your local web designers) aren't capable of producing quality work. It's to say that you need to be concious of the fact that just because you paid big bucks for your ad, doesn't mean you'll get the quality ad design you want.
Newspapers and magazines normally don't employ professionally-trained ad designers. That would cost way too much. Instead, they employ hourly compositors who "slap together" ads in something short of a boiler-room type environment. They use a basic, easy-to-use ad creator program that they're trained on for a week and then let loose to start creating cookie-cutter-like ads. Often times, their only qualification for the job is their ability to operate a computer! They needn't know a thing about aesthetics, positioning, headlines, grammar, usage, or other design elements.
And the results speak for themselves. Having worked with several newspapers and magazines in the past, I can tell you that one of the biggest problems they have is getting those in-house ads done to the satisfaction of the advertisers. It's a neverending battle. And all too often, the advertiser (who's shelling out their hard-earned money for the ad) is stuck with whatever lousy ad they get -- because that's the best the compositor can do.
Don't settle! Don't take the crappy ad the newspaper or magazine people provide you with. Send it back. Demand quality. Draw up a proof of your ad on paper -- tell them exactly what you want, the more detailed the better -- and demand that they create that for you. If they can't, don't advertise. Period.
The quality of the advertisements you run is a direct reflection on your business. Shoddy-looking, unprofessional-looking ads can create perceptions of shoddy products or services -- or unprofessionalism -- in the eyes of your prospects. Too often, your ad is their first impression of you. Make it a good one.
If all else fails, and your advertising medium can't provide you with a quality, professional-looking advertisement to run in their publication, you may want to seek professional help. There are many professional ad designers out there who have experience in various forms of media -- in print and online. Some are more costly than others, but if you play your cards right, you may be able to get professional ad design without spending a penny more than you're already paying for your ad. Here's how:
Many publications offer a standard 15% discount for camera-ready ads (that is, ads that are already created and ready to print.) To give you a good example, advertising agencies always provide ad camera-ready, which is why they get a 15% commission. Get it?
Now, there are ad designers out there who will create your ads for you based on that 15% discount. You tell them the medium and the price of the ad, and they -- usually, within reason -- provide you with a professionally-designed ad at a rate equal to that discount.
You then take your ad to the newspaper or magazine and ask for the camera-ready discount. In the end, you pay the same price for the ad, but receive top-notch, professional ad design to boot. And best of all, you get an ad you're happy with, one that stands out, makes you look your best, and ultimately, WORKS.