Smarter ad design by savvy papers

June 12, 2017

By Bob Berting
Sales Advice

I once conducted a two-day sales training program for a chain of papers that were struggling to get more business. They had readers tell them that their ads were hard to read. As a matter of fact, all their papers were hard to read. After looking over several issues, I saw the problem—their paper was crammed with reverse type ads—white copy on a dark black background—a sea of black ink everywhere. To make things worse, the ads were crammed full of type from border to border, making them difficult to read, as well.

I suggested that they change their ads to eliminate much of the reverse type. I also explained that ads need to be designed so there are units of thought—that each unit of graphic art and copy blocks need white space around them, which would make them far easier to read. Once these changes were implemented, the paper had a new look that drastically improved their readership.

What had happened was the advertising sales staff had slowly caused the ugly look on a gradual basis. They felt by creating reverse type ads this would make their ads stand out. When the customers saw all the reverse-type advertising, even they thought that was the thing to do.


in many cases, Ugly ads are a production process

The more ads brought in and run rapidly through the production department, the better. I call this the “sausage grinder mentality.” Unfortunately, this causes the well-designed ads to fall by the wayside.

Many times, quality advertisers resent the look of a paper and its poorly designed ads. In a study by the Readership Institute, it gave the opinion that people will spend more time with a paper if they find the ads interesting and enjoyable to read. Also, editorial content was better read when the paper had quality advertising content.

On the other extreme, there are publications that spend excessive amounts of time designing ads with the hope they’ll somehow win awards in press association ad contests. These beautiful ads are just that—beautiful ads. They aren’t designed to really pull in business for the advertiser.


The impact on future advertisers

The publication with ugly ads needs to recognize the impact on future advertisers. The new, chic restaurant thinking about running in this newspaper wants an upscale image and might go elsewhere for its advertising campaign. This movement can create a domino effect and can be devastating if large chunks of advertisers start rejecting the idea of advertising in the ugly-ad newspaper. Worse, competing media will notice it, too, and take advantage of the situation.

So if you’re worried about declining readership, start by looking at your ads; they might be ugly. © Bob Berting 2017


Bob Berting is a professional speaker, advertising sales trainer and publisher marketing consultant, who has conducted more than 1,500 live seminars, tele-seminars and webinars for newspaper sales staffs, their customers, and print media associations in the U.S. and Canada. His newest offer for the newspaper industry is a package of his two e-books, “Dynamic Advertising Sales and Image Power” and “Advanced Selling Skills For The Advertising Sales Pro.” Both books can be ordered on his website individually for $19.95 or both for $35. Contact Bob at or at 800-536-5408. He is located at 6330 Woburn Drive, Indianapolis, IN 46250.

Web Design LVSYS - Copyright © 2017