Format of the printed advert

Format: This is the way in which all the advertising elements — headline, copy, illustration, colour — come together, creating an attractive and interesting whole.  The end result has to look clean and easy to read and above all, INVITING.

It’s been said before but this is a good place to repeat it: A common mistake advertisers make is in trying to tell it all in one advert.  It’s wrong to think you’ll get more value for your money that way.  Quite the reverse, in fact.


Here are some guidelines to achieving effective formats:

  • Don’t let your headline run all the way across to   the border of the advert … it might lead the eye out.  Rather break it into two lines
  • Make sure your headline is larger than the print size of your body copy.  This is especially important in classified adverts.
  • Avoid clutter.  Don’t think of white space as a waste of money … it helps keep your advertisement clean and neat.  Keep space between the elements — headline, illustration, paragraphs — and lay them out in an orderly fashion.
  • Establish a focal point.  You’ll have seen them before, adverts that are so confusing and cluttered you don’t know where to begin reading.  Make sure your reader knows where to start — why should he have to figure that out for himself?  The reader’s eye movements follow a logical pattern: top to bottom, left to right.
  • If your advert includes a response coupon, place it in the bottom right hand corner.
  • Place your headlines below the illustration rather than above — it gets greater attention that way.  It’s been found that readers glance at an illustration first, then downwards to headlines followed by the bottom of the advert.
  • Following on from the above, the name of your company must always come at the end.  Many retailers seem to think the latter is the most important thing to readers and use it as a headline.
  • When the advert exceeds two columns, consider placing your text into narrow columns.
  • With classified ads, make yours larger than everyone else’s.  Spend extra and place your headline in bold print, or use strong borders.
  • Avoid doing anything that makes reading difficult.  It’s easy to be tempted into using a variety of type styles and type sizes, but it’s a mistake.
  • Avoid doing anything purely for artistic effect. Printing masses of text in white on a black background might make the advertisement stand out on the page, but it’s also very difficult to read.  Then there’s the old yarn about the response advert with its coupon reversed out … Did they expect respondents to write in white ink?  Actually, it’s no yarn — I once had to rap a major advertising agency over the knuckles for this!
  • Study the publication you plan on using, and make sure the print size of your advertising copy is at least no smaller than that of the publication’s editorial.
  • Project your company and brand name.  It’s important to establish your image, and the reader must know who’s doing the talking.  Like a signature on a letter, it must come at the end of the advertisement.
  • Don’t feel the need to fill blank spaces or every corner with logos.  Also limit details; a street address and telephone number are usually sufficient unless you want your audience to write to you.  If the advert includes a response coupon, make sure it contains your postal address.
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