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How to make a good impression in print ads

Updated on June 5, 2011

This page was inspired by a horrible-looking print ad put out by a pencil portrait artist. Maybe her art was gorgeous, but the ad was so bad - breaking every 'rule' of good design and readability, I couldn't help but think she got ripped off, no matter how little she may have paid for the ad.

With a terrible looking ad, I think an artist would be better off to do nothing. The ad certainly wouldn't entice me to contact the artist. So this page is to explain some general thoughts behind placing a print ad about your art., to urge artists to give a little extra thought before they advertise, and to help you use your advertising money wisely. For more ideas, see: How to advertise your art with little or no money.

Inquiring minds want to know

Have you ever run a print ad for your business?

See results

If the ad doesn't make your business look good, save your money

If you've decided to pay for print advertising, make sure you get a proof of what the ad will look like.

If your art doesn't look amazing in the ad, then don't run the ad.

Some publications, especially those on newsprint, will give you very poor image results, as you can see by the example pictured here. I would assume the image is a pencil portrait, but other than that, I have no idea what that picture is...the artist's contact information was nearly impossible to read.

Besides the lack of clarity in newsprint, there is also the issue of the ads on the other side of the paper showing through.

Keep it simple and clutter free

If you decide to let the ad run when the image doesn't look nice, stick with descriptive text and avoid showing the portrait in the ad. Display your website URL so people can look at your artwork at its best, online. Leave the 'http://' off the website address in print ads - it's unnecessary for a print ad and will just clutter up your ad copy.

Here is the horrible ad
Here is the horrible ad

Keep font style readable

While we're on the topic of the text, it's not just what the words say, but the font style and size is very important. It's tempting to run an advertisement with a very decorative font style ... but, don't overdo it!

The entire ad should not be in a fancy style (see example) - it's important that your ad can be read at a glance, because in general, that's all your ad will get. Your contact information should be very clear and readable. Don't make people squint or have to work too hard to figure out your ad.

Confirm where you ad will be placed & ask for changes if needed

Clarify where your ad will be shown. In general it has seemed to me that ads that are on the right side of the paper and not near the inner fold of a magazine, newspaper, or digest sized advertising booklet do the best.

If you have signed an agreement for a 6 month ad run and you don't like the location of your ad, it is possible that your ad could be moved for the next issue - just ask nicely. If you have valid reasons why you think your ad isn't doing very well where it is, the advertiser wants to hear from you - they need your ad to be successful for you so you will buy another series of ads from them.

Final thoughts and tips

Your art is judged by the company your ad keeps! Be selective about where and how you advertise. For example, you will want to make sure your ad will not be next to an ad for - let's say toilet cleaning. This will lower the perceived value of your art. Even if it was a low cost or free ad, the return you'll get from the ad will probably not be worth the devaluation of your art and image.

Drop me a line!

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