Print Advertising Fundamentals

I’ve often gone through the effort of making creative ads for print advertising. Some worked – some didn’t. Sometimes it was the medium (Trade magazine, newspaper) that wasn’t the proper fit. But more often than not, it was the ad itself. I’ve found through experience that even if you have the best marketing hook, you need to take care of simple “mechanics’ to get the most bang out of it. I’m including some of these for you to think about when designing your next creative ad.

Ad Size:

The bigger the better. But this means you spend more. And there’s a trade off between size and runs. Depending on the project it may be better to go with a quarter page ad and run it 24 times than to run one page ad 6 times.

Creative Placement:

If you can’t afford prime location (front or back) then try to match location with the editorial content. One thing I’ve noticed is that you need to place the ad at the same spot consistently each issue. This will hit big with the regular readers.

Print Color:

Depending on your budget you may be restricted to a 1 color + black. Rule of thumb: Go with Black text. Choose a bright color (yellow, red, blue, green) that is not so common in the magazine. Shift through past editions to see what colors aren’t used. Then use that uncommon color. This will make your ad stick out more. If you can afford to go full color, then go for it!

Print Shelf life:

Each print medium has a shelf life. From newspaper to being shortest to trade magazines to be longest. Keep this in mind when designing your ad. You would be surprised how many leads I’ve gotten from ads that are over 12 months old.

Ads Tracking:

Of course print ads don’t offer the same tracking as online. But there are other ways to track the success. This can be as simple as a different promotion code/url/email for each run of the ad.

Zaki Usman

Hello, I'm the founder and CEO at ShoutEx. I like to blog about marketing, mobile and web topics. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn.

Comments (4)

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    Nice set of advices. Most advertisers shy away from print ads these days, unless you include an online copy of the publication. There is merit to that. So as an Advertiser, make sure to ask about the online part and whether it’s search engine indexed or not.


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    Very helpful article. Especially your points about number of runs, shelf life and tracking are great.

    I think print media ads and classifieds are still a great promotion medium in many countries.


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    Thanks, this helps out a bit. Even though we don’t do much with print, its always good to get some old-school basics in.


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