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 why advertising is not as effective as it once was is that ad agency art directors have too much control over the process of creating advertising and marketing deliverables.

Advertising layout types include traditional mediums and digital mediums.

Are you planning a Facebook ad layout, print ad layout or magazine ad layout? This will require ad layout ideas and ad layout design mock-ups for testing.

If this is new to you go get an ad layout template. They are all over the web. There are not great but help give you ideas for your advertising layout.

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In many cases, this happens because marketing managers and their management counterparts in ad agencies have simply not done their jobs.

If neither the marketing manager or the ad agency had or account executive takes on the process of hammering down the product key selling benefits, then this vacuum will be filled by those who follow in the next step for the process the ad agency’s art director, and other creatives.

When marketing managers and agency account executives view salesmanship as a creative process and passed the buck to art and creative directors at the agency, they nearly always doom their marketing projects to fail.

denver ad agency
Source: Canva

Why? The art director’s primary career motivation is to create advertising that wins local or national design awards. Winning a show award in an ad design competition is a mark of pride and a resume enhancer.

Sales appeal used to be an important factor in the way show judges pick the winners of these design competitions, but no longer.

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 as 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 of the 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

Ad Layout Process
Source: Pixabay

When judge by inquiries or sales generated from an ad, advertising projects dominated by art directors nearly always fail. That’s why most advertising is as poor and ineffective as it is today.

If, as a marketing manager, you develop your product sales benefits, and insist these benefits be effectively communicated all the way 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.

This post covers the key techniques for producing effective ad layout and, like the other techniques described in my past posts, they apply to any type of marketing deliverable print ads, online ads, brochures, websites, landing pages, etc.

Now, this post is not going to make you an advertising layout designer, but 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 the most important sales message always. 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. Sans-serif typeface is, without feet.

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San-serif typefaces, such as Franklin Gothic, Futura or Helvetica, works best with ads headlines and subheads because they give the biggest impact where the fewest words are used.

Serif typeface, such as Times, Garamond, 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 ads longer body copy.

While the San-serif type can also be used in body copy, and Serif type can look just fine in a headline; the contrast generated between Serif body copy type and Sans serif headline and subheadings makes for a more attention-getting ad.

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Tight kerning is good:  current line is the amount of space between the letters of the text of your ad. Headline with kerning set tighter than a headline with no kerning conveys the sense of 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 failed to tell the reader had contacted them.

Don’t repeat their mistakes in your ads. Always featured your company’s phone number and website URL and 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 that 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 Ad 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 detail questions about your product, such as engineers, programmers, or doctors. These layouts require extra skill on the part of your agency’s ad layout person, and it always helps to have some examples for them to work from.

If you see a good layout, copy it: become a connoisseur of ad layouts. As you flip through trade publications, magazines, newspapers, keep an eye out for ad layouts but you think doing an especially good job of presenting product sales not pretty ads, or over-designed ones.

But ads that attract you and buy into their sales appeal, and the way 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 they are a source of ready inspiration for every art director. There’s nothing wrong with adopting someone else’s ad layout for your own projects.

Obviously, we’re not suggesting you steal their photos or art just let the layout of another ad inspire your own, as many artists have done throughout history.

Learn to see with new eyes:  it’s likely your prospect has never heard of your company or product, and, when she sees your ad, we’ll be seeing it for the first time.

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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 really 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

Denver Advertising Agency
Source: Pixabay

Should you use color? In certain instances, the use of color in your company’s advertising is mandatory like hotels, travel agencies, and big-ticket consumer products manufacturers have known for decades.

Advances in digital pre-press technology in recent years 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, bear in mind 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 there is any visual aspect of your company’s product or service that will be communicated more effectively, or with greater impact, in color, then you should use color.

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Just because a color is used, doesn’t mean that 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 the headline or body copy of your sales message suppresses the impact of your ads sales message.

The most successful four-color advertising uses color sparingly, with a small, beautifully executed color photography, or an illustration teamed with competent 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 colors 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 photograph shots must sometimes be enhanced and digitally airbrush to bring out their best features and highlights. When you’re spending money on color, spend the extra money it sometimes requires perfecting your photos and other color art.

Full-color illustrations:  what color illustrations work best when they are created by the best illustration artist your company can afford. Often, these artists still work largely in the nondigital mediums, such as watercolor, paint, and ink, etc.

This means your company will incur added cost to scan these illustrations on high-resolution scanners in your advertising final production process. However, when working with color, the added punch it gives your ads selling power makes the effort worthwhile.


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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 publication page on all three sides.

This method only works in ads that use a few photos or illustrations, and, most important, in ads that do not utilize an extensive amount of tax. 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.

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 you will prevent color from over-running your advertising sales message.

Creative and Black and White Ad Design Options

boulder marketing agency

There will be times when the option of using full color will either be too expensive or, as in the case of newspaper advertising, unavailable.

For example, if you decide to run fractional add sizes, such as half and quarter-page ads, and the additional cost for color on these smaller ads will average 30% to 50% higher than for the equivalent black and white ad size.

Which often makes four-color advertising in the sizes too expensive to consider. Or, you may be promoting 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 ad even more effective than many, more expensive, four-color ads.

Use These Techniques, Trust Yourself, and Your Marketing Team

ad agency team
Source: Pixabay

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 a bad aspect of human nature that leads people to tear down or unduly criticized any creative work. It’s especially destructive when people don’t know what they’re talking about.

You’ll find this to be especially true whenever you’re working on advertising, and for layouts of other kinds of marketing deliverables in your company.

In the development and final approval stages, limit the number of people who see your company’s advertising, and above all, have confidence in your own abilities, those of your marketing team, and then your marketing projects and their direction.


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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.

A Facebook ad layout is going to be different than a print ad layout. Get your ad layout ideas and begin your ad layout design. There are ad layout templates but I find them useless.

Give us your best ad layout strategy tip.

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General FAQ’s

What is the ad layout?

The ad layout may be defined as the design of the various elements of advertising design elements such as illustration, text matter, product, and name of the company. A good advertisement is a combination of both art and copy.

How do you make a great ad layout?

Let the meaning of your ad be the master of your ad 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.

What are digital display ads?

Display advertising is defined by banner ads (graphic or text), that appear in designated areas of a website or social media platform (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn). Digital display advertising comes in a variety of different forms, but at its core, it revolves around the same principle.

What types of ads format do Google ads support?

Google’s types of ad formats are ad extensions. Some examples of ad extensions include location extensions (which attach your business address to your ads) and site links (which include additional links to other pieces of relevant content from additional pages within your site).

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