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Designing ads that make the phone ring

Graphics | May 1, 2007 | By:

Six seconds, max. That’s how much time an advertiser has to grab a reader’s attention and visually communicate a message. So, how do you, the advertiser, get noticed in today’s visually overloaded market? Whether you are promoting a service, showcasing a product, presenting an idea, or branding your company, a well-designed ad can give you an edge over the competition.

Getting started

Of course, the basis of every successful ad is a carefully researched and constructed advertising plan. If necessary, get an experienced advertising professional to help you get started. Here are a few of the basic questions that need to be addressed before a designer can create an eye-catching ad.

Who is the target audience? Make sure your ad speaks to them. One ad does not necessarily fit all publications.

What is the message you are trying to convey? Make sure the purpose of your ad is clear. Keep a file of ads that you feel successfully communicate to their market. Use them as a reference when evaluating your own advertising.

Where is the best place to run your ad for maximum effect? Take a look at the publication you’re thinking of advertising in. Do you think the readers of this publication are likely to become your customers? Try placing your ad on a page of the publication and see how it stands out from the other ads and the articles.

When will the ad run and for how long? Constant exposure is the key to successful advertising. Give your ad a chance to work. Run your ad in every issue or a minimum of seven times to create a real presence.

Why? Color and size get you noticed, frequency gets you remembered.

Designing an effective ad

The overall visual impact of an ad relies of five basic elements established by advertising expert David Oglivy. The layout of these elements can be varied to fit your needs. Sometimes the visual takes center stage, at other times the headline can be more important.

Keep in mind that ads are read in a “Z” formation starting at the top left of the ad, moving across to the right edge, down through the middle and again left to right at the bottom of the ad. The focal point (or optical center) of an ad is in the middle, two-thirds up from the bottom edge of the ad.

The visual. An illustration or photo that is used to capture the attention of the reader. This eye-catching element can communicate a concept or feeling, or showcase a product and its benefits. The right image can go a long way to communicating your message.

The caption. If needed, the caption describes the visual.

The headline. Supports the visual. Should be 10 words or less. Makes the reader want to find out more. Can be humourous, pique curiosity, offer a solution, and be a call to action. Typeface and color plays a very important role in grabbing a reader’s attention and setting the tone of the ad.

The copy. Supports the headline, generates interest. Emphasize customer benefits, highlight what makes you different from the competition. Use words and phrases the target audience knows and understands. Readability of typeface critical.

Signature or contact information. Includes a company logo and contact information. Make it easy for the customer to contact you.

Your advertising can have an impact in today’s market if you understand your audience, have clear objectives, and create a strong visual image to support your message. Instantly.

Marti Naughton, sMart desigN, is a freelance designer based in North St. Paul, Minn.,

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