4 Marketing Pillars of GR8 Print Advertising

Recommendations from a practicing marketeer


In  2010 I’m kicking off my New Year with a new advertising campaign.  It starts with the focus of a print ad, to be placed in journals.  As I embark on this process, I thought I’d write about the practical considerations of developing an ad. These recommendations may be part of the creative brief or even an evaluation scorecard. 

For reference, I’ll use an Ad that I developed last year – and later leveraged into a comprehensive marketing campaign. 

1. Identify a clear objective & target

It all starts with the goal of the advertisement.  Depending on your product lifecycle and strategic business plan, you should have ONE clear goal.  At the onset of this ad, we sought to introduce a new product into the market.  As example, the main goal of the sample ad the was introduction of the a new offering.  Therefore the copy leads as “Introducing…”

Other potential advertising goals for consideration: switch from competitors, grow a class (good examples in pharmaceutical ads) or announce a promotion.  Personally I’m not a big fan of advertising just for SOV, but in some categories it makes sense – and billions of dollars are spent on this objective.

As you’re creating your ad, consider the target audience you’re attempting to appeal to.  What is the segment?  What are the buying behaviors?  Who makes the decision?  What are their “pain points” (in their language)?  The more detailed, the


Next, create a Creative Brief that outlines your strategy, objectives, customer insights and communication goals.  Debrief with your agency or creative team & writers to make sure all key components are clearly understood.  Then, get out of the way and let them work on creating break-through copy and visuals. 

Once you’ve generated an ad to meet this target audience, move to testing.  Test, test, test.  Do it with a random sample of your target audience.  Listen… you’ll have your biases… your superiors will have their biases… the creatives will have their biases… let the customer decide for you.  Test a broad range of creative, from the truly innovative to the image/language that you feel truly captures your brand essence.  

Back to the example, this was originally not my favorite concept, but testing over-road my bias as our customers dictated the final direction.

2. “STOPability


The number one criteria for success in your ad will be STOPability – the power to make your target audience stop whatever they are doing to read more about your offering.  If they’re not stopping your audience, you lost, nothing else matters.  Also consider the targeted publications where you’ll be placing the ad and avoid the same old tired graphics, colors, pictures, etc…

In this ad we used a combination of picture and graphics to illustrate the “bottleneck” concept. 

As soon the audience stops, the next important thing is the headline.  Spend time on the development of this critical component.  Warning: avoid cheesy proverbs or common sayings – unless they apply to your overall scheme.  Original content that connects with your target audience will provide a closer connection with your brand.

3. Message clarity


After your image and headline, focus on the content.  Remember your medium.  If it’s a one-page magazine, write accordingly… if it’s a web page, write accordingly.  Your message must strike the balance of relevant, informative and memorable.

End your message by proposing a call to action.  We used a web site on our ad, but you can use: “call 1-800” or “click here” or “write to” – no matter what, so long as it is appropriate for your audience, based on the medium.  Your call to action should tie back to your objective (what are you attempting to accomplish).

4. Target audience validation


As you look to validate your ad, it’s important to analyze feedback from your target audience testing.  What is the message they recall?  What was the call to action?  Does the ad compel them to move along the buying cycle?  Is the ad differentiated to others in the class?

Note: Differentiation is a topic that volumes have been written on, and rightly so… for reference see Al Ries & Jack Trout’s Differentiate or Die, worth every dime.


These are 4 Pillars for GR8 advertising.  I’ve seen more complicated models, but these are the essentials.  These are, like a recipe, must ingredients; the rest is practice, practice, and practice.


I welcome your additions to these pillars or feedback and insights on the blog or sample ad… good or bad… I simply cannot disclose proprietary information, but happy to discuss the proposed pillars and ad structure.

Good marketing!



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