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Increasing Response in Newspaper Ads

Increasing Response: How To Make Your Ad More Responsive

Ad Composition.

All ads need a large, electrifying or benefit-heavy headline due to the fast page-turning, skimming nature of the newspaper reader.

The headline can make or break an ad in this particular media more than any other media. To be effective, use the Jeff Dobkin “Hundred to One Rule” when writing headlines: write 100 headlines, go back and pick out your best one. Hey, I didn’t say you’d like it, I just said “to be effective…”.

Photos and Graphics.

With large space ads, a photo or graphic is essential. Use more than one graphic if copy permits. Graphics are a necessity of attracting attention and also breaking up the type – so you don’t confront readers with a wall of gray type.

Placing a great graphic in the ad visually attracts readers and demands attention. Graphics also stops the quick-skimming, page-flipping, short attention-spanned audience and solicits them to look again at your advertisement.

Attractive visuals provide readers with a graphic hook to remember, give additional credibility to you, your product and your firm and add a visual point of reference to draw-in readers and focus their attention to your space.

Photo Captions.

Photos are always high-interest areas, and photo captions – short bits of copy directly under the photograph – are unusually compelling to read. Photo-captions are probably the most highly read part of the ad outside of the headline and sub heads.

Too valuable a space to waste, I always insert a compelling reader benefit in the high readership photo-caption space.

No need to say “Here is the product!” in your photo caption area, readers can see that. Why not say, “Call now to see how much better you’ll feel in just 21 days!” or some other reader benefit This will add to fulfilling the objective of the ad: make the phone ring. Every time you mention “Call Now!” in the ad it creates additional phone calls.

The objective of the ad is always making the phone ring. My ads, anyhow. In the end, all lines of copy should be measured against how well they work to fulfill the objective of the ad, which – in direct-selling ads – is “to call.” Nothing happens if the phone doesn’t ring. Well, something happens… you lose money.

Most ads, being taller than wide, benefit from both a photo at the top and an additional photo or graphic near the bottom.

Generally in direct-selling ads, the bottom photo is a product shot. This gives readers a reference of what they’ll receive when they order. Showing the product builds confidence that the product is real—since readers can’t feel it or touch the product as they can in a retail store.

Use an extra large phone number.

This reassures readers they can call and they should. The phone number should be large enough to see when the paper is laying on a desk and open to that page. Encourage calls by saying “Call Now” right before (or right above) where the phone number is presented. It this generates just one extra caller in 100 views, if 10,000 people see your ad… well, you do the math.

Don’t let the reader guess what he or she is supposed to do. Tell readers to pick up the phone and call now. If they don’t, nothing else matters, does it? Tell readers several times. In the direct-selling ads I create for clients it wouldn’t be unusual for me to say “Call” or show the phone number a dozen times in one 1/4 or 1/2 page ad.

Increase readership.

To break up the type and keep the ad even more visually interesting, I like to include a graph or a chart if at all possible. This mix of copy, art and graphics gives the ad a little fresh air, increases white space, breaks up the copy and boosts readership.

Almost any kind of graph or chart will do, as it becomes part of the visual hook. With a little forward thinking, almost any kind of information – real or imagined – can be displayed in an interesting graphic format. While it helps if it does, it actually doesn’t have to say anything truly meaningful – it can be used just for its graphic value.

Large Benefit-Oriented Subheads

While the visual layout and a distinctive graphic attracts readers, it’s the copy that sells and makes them call.

Eyeflow starts at the top as the reader sees the graphic and reads the headline, and skims past the smaller text to the bottom product photograph and phone number.

If the reader is interested at all, he goes back up to read the first subhead and continues skimming the subheads if they look promising.

If a subhead is particularly captivating, the reader reads the text block following it. If the whole thing is intriguing, he starts at the top text block and reads the ad until he loses interest or finishes reading it.

In a quarter page ad (approximately 10-1/2” x 6-1/2”) there is usually room for two, three, or four subheads depending on the layout. Each subhead is created using the “100 to 1 Rule”.

A short, crisp supporting paragraph or two follows each subhead, with the beginning line of each paragraph highly focused on keeping the reader in the copy. That’s the objective of the first line of each paragraph – this line doesn’t sell – it just keep the reader interested so they continue reading.

As the paragraph ages and races towards the close, the copy changes from keeping the reader interested to selling the product by offering the reader benefits, then pointing the reader to “Pick up the phone and CALL NOW!” This is the recurring theme of the copy throughout the ad.

Towards the end of each paragraph the words “Call Now!” can usually be placed successfully. Always remember, if the reader doesn’t call, the ad fails. Never let the reader forget what he or she is supposed to do during or after reading the ad.

Turn up the Selling Proposition at the End of Paragraph Three

If the reader makes it down to the end of the third paragraph my guess is that the reader has made the commitment to read the rest of the ad. This is a very important milestone in your ad, and congratulations. By reaching this level of depth in reading the ad the reader has shown quite a bit of interest in what you are saying — or selling.

About this time – the third paragraph or about halfway to 2/3 of the way through the ad, I turn up the selling proposition and lay on heavily bulleted reader benefits and ask the reader to call several times. If just one of the benefits peaks the readers interest, he picks up the phone. I also place our phone number within the text several times. In bold.

Towards the end of the ad copy, once again the interested reader needs to be briefly reminded of the major benefits, and to be assured he is making the right decision to call as he or she receives a progressively harder “sell” to generate a phone call.

Down at the bottom of the ad it’s “make it or break it” time and all stops are pulled out to make the phone ring. Readers at this depth of the ad are searching for concrete reasons to call, and for those that have decided to pick up the phone, they are looking for decision-support and reinforcement that they have made the right choice – which is to call. Sometimes at this point the reader has already made up his mind to purchase.

Add an independent box at the bottom of the ad.

If you need an additional – but independent – selling space, place the bottom two or three lines of copy within a heavily-ruled black box at the bottom of the ad.

Or – place a solid black box at the bottom of the ad and reverse out the letters. Make sure the copy is in a bold typeface so it don’t fill in and make it hard to read. Newspapers usually have a 5 to 10% dot gain on press, so the black spreads out. IF the type is thin it will fill in.

This reversed out horizontal bar at the bottom of your ad additionally separates your ad visually from other ads on the page under it and gives the ad additional visual weight at the bottom. This makes it more distinct and increases the separation from the ad below it. Weight at the bottom of your ad also increase the eye flow from the top to the solid bottom of your ad.

A 2 point rule as a border around the ad separates it and sets it off from the rest of the ads and editorial on the page.

Place any necessary disclaimers in tiny 5 or 6 point type at the very bottom of the ad. I usually bury a selling line or two in the disclaimer just in case anyone actually reads it.

If the ad is service-oriented or sells merchandise in an old fashioned craftsmanship style, a scotch rule (thick then thin lines) around the ad created a distinctive and very handsome border.


Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed this article.  It’s the most informative and accurate article I could write on buying newspaper ads at discount, and how to create highly responsive ads.  Please don’t forget, I do this for a living – if you need a quote for creating an ad – or an ad campaign – for your products, please call – 610-642-1000 rings on my desk.  I also manage ad placement campaigns for several clients, and would be happy to discuss this service for your firm. Please call.  Thanks.

Bio —
Jeffrey Dobkin creates highly responsive traditional and direct response print ads for both newspapers and magazines. He is the author of 5 books on direct marketing, and one on humor. Mr. Dobkin is a direct marketing writer whose specialty is creating highly effective direct response ads, letters; and direct mail. He also helps clients buy ad space in newspapers and magazines at tremendous discounts – you never know how much less you could be paying for your ads until you have Jeffrey negotiate ad prices for you.  To speak with Mr. Dobkin or for samples of his work call 610/642-1000.