In today’s digital landscape, it can be easy to dismiss print. Because print is dead, right? We don’t think so. Print is alive and well. And we’re here to show you how you can design a powerful print ad and use it as an effective way to build brand awareness, trust and higher recall rates.

A well-designed print ad offers a clear and concise messageone that can have higher recall than its digital counterpart. If you like data, there’s some compelling info out there that backs this up and shows that our brains love print. 

That’s right, a bunch of neuroscientists nerded out on researching how our brains process print information differently from digital information. The long and short of it is: Print ads are better understood, they get embedded deeper in our minds, they are recalled with more detail, and they generate a higher level of emotional engagement. Sounds good, right? 

All of this makes it apparent that having a well-built print ad is important. But how do you go about creating one? Don’t worry. You don’t need a neuroscientist on your marketing team! With the tips we’ve included below, you can craft a great print ad without a Ph.D.

80% of people read only the headline

Start with a strong headline

You may have seen the report that showed the average attention span of a human is now less than that of a goldfish. We’re not sure if the study really happened, but the results ring true. After all, that goldfish doesn’t live in a world of information overload like we do. Having more content available might sound like a good thing. But when it comes to designing an effective ad, it means you have a whole lot of competition. It means that most people won’t make it past your headline. Our advice? Use words carefully. Keep it short and to the point. Be enticing, and appeal to emotion. Solve a problem, show a benefit, or highlight what is unique about your brand.

Be creative, but stay on brand

How can you be creative yet still be consistent? In an endless sea of advertising messages, consistency is crucial for brand recognition and recall. And consistency starts with your brand standards. Make sure you have (and use) guidelines for your brand’s logos, fonts, colors, visual elements, tone and personality. Keeping key components the same across all of your ads will create that needed sense of stability and trust. It can be tempting to chase new design trends. While you should continually evaluate, don’t lose sight of your brand’s identity.

Keep your copy clean and easy to read

This is no time for a high-dollar vocabulary and complex sentence structure. Remember, your audience has a lot of other choices for their time. Don’t make your copy difficult to understand. Instead, go for shorter sentences, common language and a voice that fits your audience. Then give it a test. Read your copy out loud. Does it flow naturally? Check for errors. It’s amazing how quickly someone reaches for their grammar police badge when they spot a misspelled word or the wrong subject-verb agreement. Don’t let simple mistakes get in the way of your message.

Sometimes less is more

Just because your ad space will hold all that copy, should it? Probably not. Again, most of your audience will only read your headline. For those still reading, keep earning their eyeballs with an ad that is easy to digest. That means: Say it in fewer words. Focus on your key points. Give the reader an easy way to learn more, like pointing them to your website. 

For your design, white space is your friend. Use white space, or empty space, as an active part of your design to draw attention to the important message. Well-used white space creates a comfortable balance. It improves readability and comprehension. It can even convey a message of sophistication. Don’t believe us? Just take a look at the print ads of some of your favorite luxury brands.

An image is worth a thousand words

It’s a given. Readers respond better to images than plain text. So the images you use need to be the right ones to convey your message. The best images are the ones that make your audience feel what you are trying to get them to feel. Are you pointing them to an ideal, sunny beach location or to the power of a waterfall? Are you pointing them to a mouthwatering dish from a top restaurant or to the thrill of a roller coaster? Use images that convey the emotion. Make your audience want that experience. 

Since images are so important, it makes sense to invest in high-quality photography. Don’t let a grainy, low-resolution, poorly composed image be your message.

Show the reader why

The audience reading your ad can often be as inquisitive as a four-year-old child. Before you get annoyed, remember: If you’re lucky, they’re inquisitive. You want a reader who wants to know the why of your ad. Why should they vacation at your hotel? Why should they eat at your restaurant? Why should they spend their travel budget at your attraction or with your experience? Why should they trust you. Don’t be shy. Tell them why.

Finish with a good Call To Action

You’ve gotten this far. You know how to write a compelling headline. You’re going to keep your copy short and easy to read and make sure it hits on all the key points. Your image will be the perfect one to reinforce your message. Time to wrap it up. If your ad does its job, the reader will want to follow through. Make it easy. 

Be sure your ad contains your contact information. Key elements to include are your logo, physical address, URL and phone number. If you want to include a QR code, please don’t have it be the only way to learn more. Some people may be hesitant to scan. And some might not have their phone handy. Hey, it could happen! 

If you do include a QR code, here are some helpful tips: Ideally, QR codes need to be created in 100% black, and they should have a white space around them. Don’t make them too small or too complex. We recommend building them in a paid platform so that you can create a dynamic QR code. That means the destination URL can be updated if needed.

That's it!

You’re ready to design a powerful print ad for your brand. Still feeling a bit overwhelmed? Compass Media offers free ad design with your ad purchase. And our designers are happy to help you maximize your investment. Want to learn more? Contact Laura McGill, Executive Editor, 251-967-7545.

Sources: Neuroscience and Print

Why (most) People Only Read Headlines

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