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Nine Questions Business Owners Should Ask About Their Newspaper And Magazine Ads

By Rich Silver

If you’re a business owner or a manager responsible for placing advertising in newspapers or magazines, there’s a good chance you’re throwing your money away. Millions of dollars are wasted every year on these ads.

I’m not an expert on newspaper and magazine ads, but I do study them to get copywriting ideas about what works and what doesn’t. Based on my own personal observations—and from reading the findings of ad masters—I’ll give you a few things to look out for the next time you pay someone to create a newspaper or magazine ad for you.

Let me illustrate what I have to say by describing an ad I recently cut out of the newspaper. And understand that ineffective ads like this run every day of the week. This ad showed little pictures of pairs of boots and shoes, about a dozen of them, and the big headline said “Walk All Over Us.” I instantly thought—probably like every other person who saw the ad—that this was an ad for boots and shoes.

I wasn’t interested in boots or shoes so I would normally flip the page. But because I pay attention to ads, I read the small copy at the bottom of the picture. They were selling jewelry! The jewelry was on sale and this was the copywriter’s way of saying, “you can walk all over us and take advantage of our good prices.”

What is wrong with having a picture of some jewelry and then writing, “Diamonds, gold, and silver jewelry prices have been slashed!” This might not be the greatest I could come up with off the top of my head, but it would attract the attention of anyone who might be interested in jewelry. And, it tells the reader what he or she will get if they read the ad.

Unfortunately, even after decades of advertising research, too many copywriters still feel compelled to try to be cute, clever, or funny.

An ad like I wrote above would not be creative enough for them. But there’s only one reason a business owner runs an ad—TO SELL STUFF!

So here are some general copy tips to help make newspaper and magazine ads pay off. If you want to know if your ad is any good, keep the following nine questions in mind when you read it:

  1. Do you know within five seconds or less what the ad is selling?
  2. When you read the ad, do you feel persuaded to buy the product?
  3. Does the ad answer any questions a prospect may have?
  4. Does the ad address the reader’s concerns?
  5. Does the ad tell the reader how the product will benefit them?
  6. Does the ad have an emotional aspect to it that got you involved n the copy?
  7. Does the ad offer something new, give some interesting news, instill curiosity, tell a good story, or show a problem and then how the product offers a solution?
  8. Does the graphic design of the ad make it easy to read?
  9. Does the ad laser in on only the people who would be prospects
    for your product?

If you really want to get the most out of your advertising dollars, start reading the ads in newspapers and magazines with a critical eye. As you scan these ads, if one gets your attention and makes you stop flipping the magazine pages, sit for a moment and analyze why. What you’ll find is that the headline and illustration is about something you are interested in. If you’re getting married, any headline that says “How to have the perfect wedding” will stop you dead in your tracks and you’ll probably want to start reading the ad. The main thing to remember is that people see hundreds of newspaper and magazine ads every day. Only a small percentage of these people are prospects for your product and they are the ones who should be targeted. Everyone else can be ignored.

© 2009 Crow Moon Marketing

Rich Silver is a copywriter who specializes in writing direct mail packages and sales letters (print and e-mail). He has worked with some of the top direct marketers in the world.

Lorie Drozdenko is a graphic designer and illustrator, specializing in catalog, direct mail, and web site design.

You can view their Web site at

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