How to succeed in designing your display ad (or printed flyer/pdf)

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brilliant print ads
Here’s an ad that demonstrates the formula. Notably, however, the other examples in 100 brilliant print advertisements have even less text and more focus on the core image creativity.

There are two principal design concepts for printed display advertising. These were effective in the 1960s, and continue to be the gold standard in 2015. Although of course printed advertising has been supplemented by video and internet messages, the underlying concepts still apply. However, these days you can adopt and embed the sound and video (and direct response/link) elements into your online “print” advertisement.

The two frameworks relate to general branding and direct response advertising. Today, I’ll discuss the general branding concepts, tomorrow, direct response, and the following day I’ll pull the threads together with an overview of when/how to use these models — and when you can vary things (if at all).

Here are the general advertising rules:

  • Nine to 13 word “catchy” headline, focusing on the reader’s interests
  • Evocative and representative graphic image (can be video in embed ads), taking up 2/3 to 3/4 of the advertising space
  • Body text — relating to the photo image, tied and concluding with a call to action. Word count can vary, but obviously shouldn’t be too long — perhaps 50 to 150 words.
  • Company logo (smallish) with contact/response information near bottom of the ad.
  • As a rule, you shouldn’t vary these foundations. When I learned them about 10 years ago, the instructor pointed to successful, well-established national magazines and virtually all the ads (except the direct response variant, to be discussed tomorrow), follow this formula.

There of course is plenty of room for creativity within the framework. However, anytime someone asks me to design a general print advertisement, I look to these rules to come up with the concept.

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