Monday, July 20, 2009

Advertising in Newspapers the Right Way

Most advertising fails because it is the wrong type of advertising for the medium in which it is placed. As I mentioned before, I'm going to discuss a variety of advertising media and how they work best (and worst).

First up is Newspapers - the medium of Relevancy.

To start, let's identify the elephant in the room. Yes, newspapers are shrinking in numbers, size and circulation. Yes, many are predicting the demise of the newspaper as we know it within a decade or less. But they still have a wide audience of dedicated readers today. I'm one of them. I read my local newspaper cover to cover every single day.

Yet, I cannot remember a single ad I saw in yesterday's paper.

Why? None of the ads were relevant. (Half the stories weren't relevant either, but that's another discussion.)

Think about how people read newspapers. They scan the headlines looking for something of interest. (Newspapers have people who only write headlines - specialists at getting your attention.) And if the headline is successful, the reader might quickly skim the first paragraph to see if they are interested in reading further. (Journalists pack that first paragraph with the main point of the article, knowing that most won't read a single sentence more.)

The newspaper is all about scanning and filtering, looking for something that is relevant to the reader.

Therefore, to have your ad work in a newspaper, it has to be relevant to the reader. Just mentioning your company's name isn't relevant. Sorry, you just aren't that important. Relevancy comes from talking about a product or event. Are you having a huge furniture sale? That is relevant. Are you the new distributor for a well-known brand? Relevant.

If you run an ad with a big sofa pictured, you'll attract everyone reading that page who is currently in the market for a sofa (and no one else). If you run an ad with the headline, "HUGE TOY SALE" you'll attract everyone currently in the market for toys.

To be successful with newspaper ads follow this advice:

  • Make your ads Relevant by focusing on a product or event.
  • Understand that regardless of what the salesperson told you, only the people currently in the market for your product will even see your ad
  • Use a clear picture of a product or a catchy headline to grab the customer's attention
  • White space is your friend - it makes it easier for customers to see your picture or headline
  • Don't use a full page - most people don't even look at it because there is no content on the page - a half page or less has the best chance of being seen
  • Don't make the ad about you or your business. You aren't that interesting or relevant.
  • Inserts work only if your market is the Transactional Customer

Newspaper advertising is for selling products and announcing events. It's not very good at branding your company or mission.

Relevant wins in newspapers. Everything else is invisible. (The same is true for advertising in online papers.)

I challenge you to pick up today's paper and carefully read every ad. See how many are about products or events. See how many use a catchy headline or picture to grab your attention. And see how many would have been invisible to you if not for this assignment.

Do you agree or disagree?

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