6 tips for creating a print ad that actually works

Stethescope Let’s be honest.  Most print ads in newspapers and magazines stink.  We flip through the publications without a glance at the ads or their offers.

How can you avoid being nothing more than a blur?

Make sure your headline has stopping power

If your headline is a snooze, your ad will go unread. It’s that simple. Intrigue them, challenge a common belief, ask a question or throw your offer up there – but do not be dull.

Your ad is not about you

Consumers care about their lives and their needs. Not you. So don’t waste valuable ad space talking about you. Help them understand how or why you can help them.  Talk to them about what matters to them.

One message

If your audience can only remember one thing from your ad what do you want it to be?  Don’t overload the ad with every benefit and feature to your offering. Stay focused on your main point and don’t take the readers off on a bunch of tangents.

Short and sweet

Write the copy that you want to include in your ad. Now cut it in half. It’s a painful process but it forces you to really think through your message.  After you cut it in half, cut it again by a third. Now…you have boiled down to the bare essentials.

Say it visually

The visual you select for your ad is critical. It should help advance the story.  It should not be trite – the same photo everyone else would choose.  You don’t always have to be literal. If you’re going into a trade publication where everyone used a set of trite images to convey the same message, avoid those images like the plague!  Ask yourself "what visual would communicate the message but also surprise the reader?"  That’s a winner.

Make your offer clear and compelling

Every ad has one job.  To advance the reader to the next step.  Visit your website, call your 800 number, clip the coupon.  Whatever it is you want them to do…be clear.  And give them a reason to do it now, rather than a few weeks from now.

Print advertising can be a very effective tactic.  But most people don’t make the most of the ads they buy.  Don’t waste good money on bad ads.

16 comments on “6 tips for creating a print ad that actually works

  1. kim sheehan says:

    Great tips!

    And I also might add: find a way to track response. Tell people to bring in the ad, or ask customers if they saw your ad. Once you start to track how individual ads work, you’ll know which elements work best for your business.

  2. Mark True says:


    You buried the lead…don’t waste good money on bad ads! 😉

    You nailed the rest. Most advertising is a waste of money because the advertiser is not doing these things with their ads.


  3. Kim,

    Excellent addition — thank you!


  4. Mark,

    So true. How often do you flip through the paper or a magazine and just shake your head?


  5. Karin H. says:

    Hi Drew

    Copy-writing is hard stuff, I know so well. But we all have to do it – or have at least a notion on what is good and what is bad copy if you’re hiring a copy-writer to do the hard work for you.
    Can I promote a free 16 hours ‘course’ on copy-writing secrets I’m following myself? Its from Paul Gorman and Ed Rivis – two marketing experts in the UK, one on copy-writing and one on webmarketing.
    The journey into the secrets starts here:

    Karin H. (Keep It Simple Sweetheart, specially in business)

  6. Jay Ramirez says:

    Hi Drew, I laughed when I read your post because I just finished one on my blog about the same thing. The only thing I added is to keep your brand’s promise in mind. Don’t try to be funny just to be funny. It’s gotta point back to what you are promising you can do for the customer. Too many superbowl ads get caught up in entertaining but lose the message.

    If you’re interested, the link is below:


  7. Karin,

    So tell us a little about the course so far. What have you learned or changed about the way you’re writing?


  8. Jay,

    Great post on your end as well. Those are rules to apply to just about any marketing tactic.

    And I totally agree about the funny for funny sake. Unless you are trying to book gigs as a stand up comedian, you’d better have more of a message than leaving the audience with a chuckle.


  9. Karin H. says:

    Hi Drew

    The simplest way to explain is to direct you to a page on which I implemented three ideas from one session – the greatest session so far IMHO

    Please let me know what you think.

    Karin H

  10. Karin,

    I just requested the check list. Will let you know!


  11. Karin H. says:

    Yes please Drew.

    Could do with some professional feedback 😉

    The most peculiar thing with anyone requesting the list, they all – each and everyone one them – want to receive more information from us, they all tick the yes box.
    But then, on the other hand, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want to learn more.

    Karin H

  12. Karin,

    They want more information because you present it in a way that appeals to them and doesn’t feel like a sales job!


  13. Karin H. says:

    Hi Drew

    Good, glad to hear!

    Karin H

  14. Excellent tips; love the short and sweet one – quite practical!

    Thanks Drew.

    Patricia Weber
    Sales Accelerator Coach
    For Introverts, Shy and Reluctant

  15. Patricia,

    Glad you found them of value. Come back again soon!


  16. Dave says:

    Thanks for these 6 tips.

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