The ad layout process is the final stage of your advertising creative process before deployment.
The rise of the advertising art director and the decline of advertising: all you need to know about ad layout.
One of the major reasons advertising is not as effective as it once was is that ad agency art directors have too much control over creating advertising and marketing deliverables.
Suppose neither the marketing manager, ad agency, or account executive takes on hammering down the product’s key selling benefits. In that case, this vacuum will be filled by those who follow in the next step of the process—the ad agency’s art director and other creatives. In many cases, this happens because marketing managers and their management counterparts in ad agencies have simply not done their jobs.
When marketing managers and agency account executives view salesmanship as a creative process and pass the buck to art and creative directors at the agency, they nearly always doom their marketing projects to fail.
The art director’s primary career motivation is to create advertising that wins local and national design awards. Winning an ad design competition marks pride and a resume enhancer. Sales appeal used to be an important factor in deciding the winners.
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Like much of our culture, the art of ad layout and design has degraded such that striking visual imagery wins design awards. Many art directors do you say salesmanship is an ugly stepchild blocking the entrance hall to the design and awards ceremony.
If you compare the winning ads in any current issue of Communication Arts, the leading professional publication for advertising art directors, to any issues more than 15 years old, you’ll see my point. When viewed from the aspect of a sales-oriented presentation, the only measure that counts, most any ad from any pre-1995 issue of CA, would beat most any ad for many current issues.
Taking Back the Ad Layout Process
dIf, as a marketing manager, you develop your product sales benefits and insist these benefits be effectively communicated through the final ad or deliverable, you will guide and influence the process, and you won’t surrender the important role to your agency’s art director. principles of advertising layout
Advertising projects dominated by art directors nearly always fail when judged by inquiries or sales generated from an ad. That’s why most advertising is as poor and ineffective as it is today.
This post covers the key techniques for producing effective ad layouts. Like the other techniques described in my past posts, they apply to types of advertising layout of marketing deliverables—print ads, online ads, brochures, websites, landing pages, etc.
This post will not make you an advertising layout designer. Still, it will reveal some techniques sales-oriented layout designers use to dramatically increase the attention-getting power of their layouts. You’re if you utilize these techniques and all of your company’s advertising, email programs, print collateral, or any other marketing project.
Headlines come first: your ad’s headline is always the most important sales message. The headline should be set in big, bold type, so they’re very readable, even at a distance. Graphical elements of an ad, such as photos or illustrations, should not distract the reader from your ad’s headline, nor should they dominate your head.
San-serif for headlines, Serif for body copy: Serif type is any typeface with feet—for example, short horizontal lines running out from the base of each letter. The Sans-serif typeface is without feet.
San-serif typefaces, such as Franklin Gothic, Futura, or Helvetica, work best with ad headlines and subheads because they give the biggest impact where the fewest words are used.
Serif typefaces, such as Times, Garamond, and a New Century Schoolbook, are more readable than Serif faces and work better where more words are used, so they should be used in your ad’s longer body copy.
While the San-serif type can also be used in body copy, and the Serif type can look just fine in a headline, the contrast generated between the Serif body copy type and Sans serif headline and subheadings makes for a more attention-getting ad.
Tight kerning is good: the current line is the amount of space between the letters of the text of your ad. A headline with kerning set tighter than a headline without kerning conveys a greater urgency. Tighter kerning in long blocks of copy also allows you to fit more words in the same space.
Where’s your phone number? It’s surprising how much time and money companies spend on their advertising, yet at the end of their ad, they fail to tell the reader has contacted them at the end of their ad. Don’t repeat their mistakes in your ads. Always feature your company’s phone number, website URL, mailing address, and big and bold type across the bottom of your advertising. Your prospects want to reach you, so why should you stop them?
White space is nice, but the black space does the selling: if your product requires a long advertising copy, your ad should be long copy ads. Don’t let others criticize your ad layout for having too many words.
If you believe these words are well-written, tell your company story, and sell your company’s product. If your product sales benefits are effectively communicated in your advertising copy, your prospects will read your advertising.
Let the Meaning of Your Ad Be the Master of Your Layout.
Busy is good if it’s interesting: there’s nothing wrong if, in addition to copy, your ad requires diagrams, sidebars, or thumbnail photos.
These information-rich layouts can work very well for products that require detailed explanations. It is aimed at people who are likely to have detailed questions about your product, such as engineers, programmers, or doctors. These layouts require extra skill from your agency’s ad layout person, and it always helps to have some examples for them to work from.
As you flip through trade publications, magazines, and newspapers, keep an eye out for ad layouts, but you think they are doing an especially good job presenting product sales, not pretty ads or over-designed ones. If you see a good layout, copy it: become a connoisseur of ad layouts.
But ads that attract you buy into their sales appeal and how the product is described and presented. Clip these ads and start a file folder, so you can refer back to them whenever you need a new idea for an ad for your company.
Agency art departments are called reference files and are a source of inspiration for every art director. There’s nothing wrong with adopting someone else’s ad layout for your projects. We’re not suggesting you steal their photos or art—just let another ad layout inspire your own, as many artists have done throughout history.
Learn to see with new eyes: your prospect has likely never heard of your company or product, and when she sees your ad, we’ll see it for the first time.
To develop the ability to see your ad layouts as your prospects see them. Put yourself in their position and learn to see your ads and marketing deliverables as if your mind was a blank slate.
Does your headline make sense if someone doesn’t know about your product? Could a reader get the gist of what your company’s ad is selling by just scanning it from top to bottom? Look at your ad layouts first thing in the morning after a good night’s sleep. I know this helps to reveal missing details or points in your ad copy that could be expressed more clearly.
Using Color In Online and Print Display Advertising
Should you use color? In certain instances, using color in your company’s advertising is mandatory—as hotels, travel agencies, and big-ticket consumer products manufacturers have known for decades.
In recent years, advances in digital pre-press technology have enabled magazine production departments to reduce the added production costs of running four-color process ads. While this cost difference places color within reach of many full-page advertisers, consider that rates for four-color display advertising will generally average at least 10% to 25% higher than for the same ad size in black and white.
If your company sells a product that will benefit from a color presentation, the vivid color photo conveys an impression of quality. Technical diagrams and quality line art looks better in color as well. If any visual aspect of your company’s product or service will be communicated more effectively or with greater impact in color, then you should use color.
Using a color doesn’t mean it should be overused in advertising projects, which frequently happens. For example, an advertising art director’s placement of a photo or illustration that completely overwhelms your sales message’s headline or body copy suppresses the impact of your ad’s sales message.
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The most successful four-color advertising uses color sparingly, with a small, beautifully executed color photography or an illustration teamed with intelligent type design. Good color ad layout features mostly plain white page backgrounds or, going to the other extreme, solid, vivid background colors bleeding off the edges of a page.
I’ve mentioned this before, but modern marketing managers must sometimes retake control of the layout and design process from the ad agency’s art director. This is especially important when working with color in ad layouts. You might find it necessary to rein in the advertising art director’s use of color and restore to prominence what should always be the most important elements of your company’s advertising—headlines, subheads, body copy, and call to action.
Remember, just because the unlimited digital color design and production capabilities are now available at the click of a mouse doesn’t mean they should all find their way into your company’s advertising layouts.
Four-color Advertising Layout Techniques
Judicious application of color: limiting your use of four-color process art to jewel-like photos and line art illustrations of the highest production quality in resolution, combined with the same photo grade typesetting design you’d use in any black and white ad, makes color work the way it works best—sparingly.
Color photographs must be sharp, vivid, and professionally executed. And sometimes, even reality isn’t good enough. For example, even the best, professionally photographed shots must sometimes be enhanced and digitally airbrushed to bring out their features and highlights. Spending money on color requires perfecting your photos and other color art.
Full-color illustrations: what color illustrations work best when created by the best illustration artist your company can afford? Often, these artists work largely in non-digital mediums, such as watercolor, paint, ink, etc. In your final advertising production process, your company will incur additional costs to scan these illustrations on high-resolution scanners. However, when working with color, the added punch it gives your ad selling power makes an effort worthwhile.
Heavy solids and page bleed: at the other extreme, another highly effective technique for using color in advertising is to use solid, primary color backgrounds that bleed off a publications page on all three sides. This works best with solid, primary colors— cool, dark blues, greens, dark reds—using bolder, sans-serif typeface reversed out in white over the solid colors. This method only works in ads that use few photos or illustrations and, most importantly, in ads that do not utilize an extensive amount of tax.
Keeping your ad designed to either of these ends of the four-color design and production spectrum gives your company’s advertising they pass the opportunity to get noticed. You’ll make the best use of color in your advertising and prevent color from over-running your advertising sales message.
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Creative and Black and White Ad Design Options
There will be times when the option of using full color will either be too expensive or unavailable, as in the case of newspaper advertising.
For example, if you decide to run fractional add sizes, such as half and quarter page ads, the additional cost for color on these smaller ads will average 30% to 50% higher than for the equivalent black and white add size, which often makes four-color advertising in the sizes too expensive to consider. Or, you may promote a product that doesn’t require color presentations, such as a newsletter or other information-based product or service.
You won’t find a black and white ad to be a disadvantage if it’s produced well. Creative use of the monochrome medium of black and white in print advertising can often make a black-and-white advertisement even more effective than many, more expensive, four-color ads.
Use These Techniques, Trust Yourself, and Your Marketing Team
Your company is full of amateur art directors and creative folks. Anyone who can hold a red pen thinks they know more about ad layout than you do. It’s destructive when people don’t know what they’re talking about.
You’ll find this to be especially true when you’re working on advertising and for layouts of other marketing deliverables in your company. In the development and final approval stages, limit the number of people who see your company’s advertising. Above all, have confidence in your abilities, those of your marketing team, your marketing projects, and their direction.
Moreover, hold fast to the principles outlined in this post—they are proven, time-honored techniques that help you and your team create advertising that generates inquiries and sales for your company. Ask for a copy advertising layout pdf it shows the functions of the layout.
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1. What is the process for designing an ad?
Designing an ad typically starts with creating a rough sketch of the ad concept. Once the concept is finalized, the design is created in a software program such as Photoshop or Illustrator. After the design is complete, it is sent to the printer for production.
2. What are some common design elements that are used in ads?
Some common design elements used in ads include text, images, and logos. Each element can convey a message to the viewer and persuade them to take action.
3. How important is it to have a well-designed ad?
A well-designed ad can effectively influence the viewer’s decision-making process. It can also help create a positive image of the company or advertised product.
4. What are some things to avoid when designing an ad?
A few things to avoid when designing an ad, such as using too much text or overcrowding the design. Additionally, it is important to ensure the ad is easy to read and understand.
5. How can I ensure my ad will be successful?
There is no guarantee that an ad will be successful, but working with a professional designer and having a clear concept can help increase the chances of success. Additionally, testing the ad with a target audience before it is released can give insight into how effective it may be.