If it’s done well, newspaper advertising can be an extremely cost effective way of attracting new customers to your business. However, done poorly, this is one sure way to waste large amounts of money in an amazingly short period! Newspaper advertising gives you access to a large audience for a very low cost per reader. For example, the advertisement below allows Hudson Research to put their message in front of more than 600,000 Sunday Mail readers for less than half a cent per person! Of course, with newspaper advertising you are competing with editorial and other advertisers for readers’ attention. This means that newspapers are an extremely sensitive medium. Minor changes to your advertisement can have a profound effect on its responsiveness. Like all marketing disciplines, newspaper advertising presents plenty of traps for the unwary. In this area, conventional wisdom is almost always wrong! This discussion paper presents some tried and tested ground rules to consider when designing a campaign containing newspaper advertising.

Where should you advertise?

My comments in this paper refer predominantly to metropolitan news-papers. Community papers tend to be expensive (in terms of cost per reader). Use community news-papers to market products that appeal only to limited geographical areas. (Brisbane News is a particularly responsive publication.) On the subject of responsiveness, you will find that the first quarter of a newspaper (early general news) is far more responsive than the rest of the paper. The best spot for your advertisement is the right hand side of a right hand page. Always insist that your advertisement appears in the early general news – regardless of what you’re advertising! I’ll stress this point because it’s important. If a newspaper has a section devoted to your market (for example, finance, business, or real estate) do not advertise there – place your advertisement in early general news. There is a simple reason why. Almost everyone reads the first quarter of a newspaper first. If you advertise in the early general news you have an opportunity to capture almost every readers’ attention. But if your advertise-ment appears further back in the paper there is a chance the readers you’re looking for may give up before they get that far.

One or two step sales process?

Before you begin to create an advertisement for your product or service, there is an important decision that must be made. Will you sell your product off-the-page? Or will you use a two (or more) step selling campaign? If your product is simple and inexpensive you may be able to sell it off-the-page. But if it requires a reasonable amount of selling you will need to run a two step campaign. A two step campaign is where you sell your product or service in two stages. Initially you run a (lead generation) advertisement to offer a free information package, report or sample. (You might even sell a ticket to a seminar.) You then follow-up respondents and present your product or service with either a direct mail campaign or a telephone or face-to-face presentation.

The offer

If your offer is not perceived to be valuable by your target market, you will get few responses … simple as that. Make your offer as valuable and as exciting as you possibly can. In a two step campaign it is important to remember to sell your offer (information package, seminar, etc.) in the advertisement, not your actual product or service.

Advertisement design

This is one area where observation of conventional wisdom is downright dangerous! Clever headlines, lots of white space and emotionless bullet points may sell a discounted tube of toothpaste, but they almost certainly won’t sell a bigger-ticket product or service. In most cases, editorial style advertisements (like the ones on this page) will outperform traditional display advertisements hundreds of times over. This can be attributed to a basic principle of salesmanship – the more you tell, the more you sell. Your head-line should articulate a clear promise in bold, no-nonsense language. And body copy should explain that promise (and ask for the sale) as if you were talking with your prospect, face-to-face. Your advertisement should be large enough to tell your story – and no larger. (Billboards belong on the sides of roads, not in papers.) This kind of lead generation advertisement can provide you with a valuable list of qualified prospects. (Most of the advertisements on these pages generate in excess of 100 responses with each insertion – some, many times this figure.) If an advertisement works well, keep running it until it ceases to be cost effective. We have written advertisements that have been responsible for generating literally millions of dollars in sales for our clients! With careful planning, and a little testing, you should be able to create a winning campaign for your business.