I get a ton of emails asking me about newspaper advertising. First and foremost, most people ask me if the growth and popularity of the Internet and other forms of “new” media have made newspapers obsolete as an effective advertising medium. To that I say, no way! Newspapers are alive and well, and as powerful as ever! If they weren’t, advertisers (of all shapes and sizes) wouldn’t continue to throw billions of dollars at them! Newspapers – local and national – will always be there. They’re not going anywhere, no matter how big the Internet gets or how many forms of “new media” are introduced. They’ve stood the test of time – through radio, TV and the Internet — and they’ll always be a great place to advertise, provided your target market is within the newspaper’s demographic. Next, people are always asking me for advice on newspaper advertising. They want to know the best newspapers to advertise in, the best times to advertise, the best size ads to use, what colors work best, what to say, how to say it, etc. For those people, I’ve put together this list of my 14 best newspaper advertising “secrets.” Of course, these aren’t really “secrets” – this advice has been around for years. Unlike the Internet and other forms of “new media” which seem to change every day (creating a constant need for bigger and better marketing strategies), newspaper advertising hasn’t changed much in the past 25 years, meaning the tips and techniques that follow have proven themselves to work over and over again. Time-tested and proven – the best kind of advice!
Tip #1: Consistency is key in newspaper advertising. Whether you’re interested in community, local or national newspaper advertising, always think in terms of using it consistently no less than once a week.
Tip #2: Certain days work better than others for certain types of advertising. Generally, the best day to run a newspaper ad is Sunday. That’s when most people spend the most time reading the paper. Let’s take a look at the other days:
- Monday is good if your audience is primarily men all weekend sports are usually summarized on Monday.
- Tuesday and Sunday are great days for classified ads, especially financial or business related classified ads.
- Wednesday and Thursday are good days if those are the food or health days in your paper, and yours is a food or health related offering.
- Friday is a good day if your business picks up on the weekends restaurants, bars, nightclubs, some retailers, concert venues, farmer’s markets.
- Saturday is good because fewer advertisers use the Saturday edition, thinking it’s a bad day for readership. This means less competition for your prospects attention and money
Tip #3: Positioning your ad. To gain maximum exposure, request that your ad run in the main news section of the paper, as far forward as possible. Traditionally, you were told to always ask for a right-hand page, but recent studies have shown it doesn’t really make a difference. Half the people read the newspaper front to back, the other half, back to front. You should, however, request that your ad be positioned above the fold.
Tip #4: Dominating a page, without paying for it. To dominate a page in the newspaper, which is usually 8 columns wide by twenty-two inches high, design an ad that is five columns wide and twelve or more inches high. This is proven to have the same affect as a full-page ad, at a much lower cost.
Tip #5: Use color. You should also inquire about adding one color. The use of just one color, any color, can dramatically increase your “net exposure” (that’s what I call the number of people who actually read your ad) and nearly double your response rate.
Tip #6: Whatever you do, don t let the newspaper people design your ad for you. Have your ad professionally designed, otherwise it will look like every other ad in the paper. (I once worked in a newspaper ad department, believe me, I know!) Be sure the designer has experience in newspaper ads, too. You want your ad to reproduce properly, which means it may need a certain line-screen. Also, stay away from reverse-type white type against a black background. Keep your type clear; your headline bold.
Tip #7: Make your ad newsworthy. People read newspapers to get the news, so try to make your ad as newsworthy as possible. If your ad is small, give it a distinctive border so it creates a visual identity for your ads.
Tip #8: You’re paying for that space – use it! Be sure to give your prospects enough information to buy what you’re selling. And don’t fall into the trap of revering white space because it looks good. You’re paying for every square inch of that ad – use it. Your ads should win sales, not design awards.
Tip #9: Test, test, test! If you’re just getting started in newspaper advertising, don’t settle on just one newspaper. Test your ad in the various newspapers available to your market to figure out which one works best. Once you’ve figured out which newspapers are read (the most) by your prospects, stick with them.
Tip #10: Don’t expect it to work overnight. CARDINAL RULE: Don’t expect newspaper advertising to work instantly! (This takes us back to Tip #1: Consistency is key.) Unless you make a time-sensitive offer such as a free gift for stopping by before a certain date, or offer a discount coupon with an expiration date, don’t expect a stampede of customers through your door the day you run your ad. It won’t happen. Never does.
Tip #11: Use “tracking devices” to measure ad performance. A “tracking device” is any element you can include in your advertising that makes it easier to measure that ad’s effectiveness. Adding a number code or color code to your coupons is a good example of a “tracking device.” This will make them easier to track if you’re using more than one newspaper or advertising on different days. You want to know which coupons came from where, when, and how many. That way, you’ll know which newspapers work the best for you, and on which days, and even which headlines work best for those papers on those days. Get it?
Tip #12: The “big” newspapers aren’t as expensive as you think. If you’re not happy with your local newspaper, or you’d like to hit a larger audience than just your town, look into advertising in the regional editions of USA Today, The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal, if your prospects read them. These regional editions, while more expensive to advertise in that your local newspaper, are much less expensive to advertise in than the national editions. (If you’re a local or regional business, you should NEVER advertise in the national edition. I don’t care what the ad rep tells you, don’t waste your money.)
Tip #13: The first thing people will see in your ad is your headline. This should entice the reader into wanting to learn more. I always INSIST that a headline make a meaningful or fascinating statement of benefit – or an outright offer – to the reader. For instance, “Get Your Tax Refund Today!” or “Professional Tax Preparation Only $10” are much better headlines than “Bob Jones Tax Service.” That’s pretty obvious, I know, but I can’t tell you how many people put the name of their business or product or service or worse yet, some totally worthless copy, in place of a headline and then hide the meaningful, fascinating stuff in the copy. It’s the biggest mistake in advertising! Put your main benefit or offer in the headline (and/or subheading) so even those who don’t read the entire ad will get the main point.
Tip #14: Next, people will see the visual, any subheadings, and then your name. Adding a visual can TRIPLE the “net exposure” of your ad. More people will notice it if it has a photo or image, which means more, in turn, will RESPOND to it. A photo of yourself will add instant credibility. A product image is better than a logo. Even better is an image of your product or service being used. Let people see it in action. Let them see how good it looks, how good it fits or how good it works. Let them see the smile on the face of a person using it.
Even in this super-high-tech day and age, any businesses still rely on newspaper advertising as their primary marketing tool. The key to success with it is to know the “tricks of the trade” I just revealed to you and to stick with it long enough for it to work its magic. (Read: Consistency is key.) The advertising graveyard is full of failed businesses that gave up on newspaper advertising before it had a chance to prove it’s effectiveness. If you’ve made up your mind to do it, whatever you do, DO IT, and don’t give up on it until it works. It will!