honeyMooners-250You’d think we’d know a lot about print advertising at this point. It’s not exactly a new medium after all. But there seems to be a strong tendency to make the same mistakes over and over, and then wonder why the campaign didn’t work. Here’s a list of do’s and don’ts to help make your print ads more successful.


  • Clarify your audience—knowing whom you’re trying to reach is the ultra-crucial first step.
  • Hire a professional to develop a media plan—wrong publications, wrong timing, wrong frequency, wrong mix can easily doom the best ad campaign.
  • Decide what you’re selling before creating an ad.
  • Sell benefits, not features in a product or service ad—focus on the top two or three.
  • Show your product or service in action—incorporate people.
  • Consider premium positions to increase readership and recall.
  • Learn from other advertising campaigns—including your competitors.
  • Write killer headlines that speak to benefits—five times more people read a headline than body copy.
  • Communicate the brand and a positive message.
  • Incorporate high-impact visuals and easy-to-read typefaces.
  • Remember that you are not the buyer—what matters is whether your campaign works, not whether you like it.
  • Include URLs to drive website traffic—a study shows the biggest lifts in women’s service (198%), home (203%), and travel (286%) categories vs. ads with no URL.
  • Track and test, track and test—improve tracking with coupons, new VOIP services, special pricing, landing pages, subscriber surveys, tip-ins, etc.


  • Underestimate the power of frequency—it’s a critical campaign success factor.
  • Forget to include a strong direct response component to generate leads.
  • Fail to hook readers quickly—the average reader glances at a print ad for two seconds with 1.5 devoted to the visual.
  • Sacrifice brand visibility for “creativity”—ideally integrate the brand with the visual.
  • Choose visuals that generate negative, unintended associations.
  • Make people work hard to connect your visuals with your product and brand.
  • Wander from your key points.
  • Load your ad with meaningless platitudes—“we provide quality service,” etc.
  • Forget that a direct response ad needs more copy to explain a product or service.
  • Choose an inappropriate format for your message—consider spreads, inserts and advertorials if you need more space.
  • Neglect to advance the reader to the next step.
  • Limit your advertising to just print or any other single medium—it’s very much a multi-channel world.

By Larry Bauer