7 Forgotten Strategies for Running Successful Print Ads

Timothy Carter
January 11, 2023

In a world where digital marketing reigns supreme, you might be wondering if there’s still room for print ads. The answer is yes – there’s always room for print ads because people still largely consume physical media. What you need to be concerned with is how to run successful print ads, and this article will help you sort that out.

Print ads and digital ads work the same way

The first thing to know is that print ads operate by the same principles as digital marketing messages. You still need to know your target audience, reach your audience with convincing copy, and include an enticing call to action. The difference is that digital marketing can reach a larger number of people. However, that doesn’t mean the conversion rate is higher. In fact, many companies generate a higher conversion rate from print ads.[caption id="attachment_1066" align="aligncenter" width="800"]

print vs digital advertising

Source: H20 Media, Inc.[/caption]The conversion rate for print ads will vary based on each organization’s strategy and industry but consider this example from Print Observer. Their average conversion rate for a print campaign is 42%. The reason their ads are so successful is because they have identified a very specific market for their products, that market has specific needs, and their ads are convincing.Whether you’re already running creative print ads, or you’re just starting to think about launching a print advertising campaign, here are 7 strategies that will help make your print ad campaign a success.

1. Hire a professional designer

Always hire a professional designer if you want successful print ads. The aesthetics of your print designs matter just as much as your copy and call to action. Stunning graphics will get you more conversions than stock photos ever will. If your designs are flawed, low-quality, or off-center, the perception will be that your company is also low-quality.Print ads are not a good DIY project. While templates are available, they’re harder to work with than digital ad templates. For instance, if you’re not a designer, you can still open up a template in Photoshop, make some changes, save your file, and make it work. It doesn’t even have to be high-resolution sometimes. Print is a different story.Working with print templates is harder if you don’t have design experience. Most of the time, print ad templates will be created for use in programs you don’t have, like Adobe InDesign, Adobe Illustrator, and Adobe Spark. While you can buy a subscription to these applications, there will be a huge learning curve just to learn how to use the basic tools. The same goes for Photoshop. No matter how many times you’ve used Photoshop, preparing images for print media is a whole other story.Even if you make it past that learning curve, it’s easy to mess up a print-ready file if you don’t have experience. For example, say you create a design from scratch in Photoshop, but fail to set the right resolution. A design created in the standard 72dpi will need to be recreated in 300dpi in order to be print-ready. In other words, you’ll have to do your work over if you want it to print well.You also have to set up your templates with the right margins and bleeds, and you need to know how to make your text print flawlessly. This is easier said than done. You’ll also need to take your file(s) to a professional printer because printing your files at Walmart or a local mail center won’t produce high-quality results.If you don’t have professional design experience, hire someone to create and print your ads to ensure you get the best possible results.

2. Keep your print ad campaigns simple

When it comes to print ads, white space is your best friend and simplicity is king. However, “white space” doesn’t need to be white – it can be any color. The point is to have space on your ad that isn’t stuffed with content.You want generous margins and plenty of space in your ads. Resist the temptation to fill the entire space with images and text. You don’t even need a background image most of the time. You may want to use a solid-colored background with light texture, but it doesn’t need to be busy to capture attention. That’s what your main imagery is for.Print ads with generous white space are easier to read and actually stand out more than cluttered ads. Spacious designs can make your business look higher end as well, and with the right color scheme, you can convey some very specific feelings about your brand.

3. Spend time on your typography

Typography is crucial for print ads, just like it is for digital ads. When you craft your typography for your print ads, you’ll want to spend time getting it perfect because even just the typeface you use will influence visitors in specific ways.Choose the wrong typeface and you’ll convey the wrong idea. For example, if you use a font that has been branded by a well-known company, you’re going to send subconscious signals to people related to that brand. It doesn’t matter if that isn’t your intention because once people associate imagery with a brand, it’s impossible to counter that.To avoid sending the wrong message to your audience, run your ads by several different people to make sure they don’t make them think of other brands, especially if they’re your competitors.To ensure you convey the message you intend, stick with easy-to-read typefaces and don’t use too many different fonts on the same page. It’s okay to use a couple of different fonts, but don’t use them in a way that distracts the reader.

Other typography tips

  • Make sure your copy is large enough to be read
  • Use colored text wisely – if color makes it hard to read, go back to black and white
  • Adjust line and letter spacing to perfection
  • Avoid fonts that are hard to read in print, like Trebuchet
  • Consider using Baskerville for your main copy – it’s been proven to be the most persuasive font
  • Use a clearly readable font for your headlines

Great typography will go unnoticed by the reader – it won’t stand out, and that’s exactly what you want. You want readers to absorb your message as they read, not become distracted by the way your copy looks.

4. Adjust your ads for the season

Whenever you run ads, adjust them for the season or upcoming holiday. For instance, if you’re running ads in December, use a Christmas themed visual element and advertise your products and services as holiday specials.People are going to have the next upcoming holiday in mind, and by running ads that connect to that holiday, you’ll capture more attention. It’s easy to do this even if you don’t actually have any upcoming specials for each holiday. You can rebrand your existing deals as a holiday deal or create a new deal. Or you can just run a basic ad for your company with imagery and copy that highlights the holiday. For example, for Veteran’s Day, the top ¾ of your ad can depict a patriotic image with copy that honors all veterans. The bottom ¼ of your ad can be a general ad for your business. Around Veteran’s Day, your ad will catch people’s attention because the holiday will be on their minds.Some of the best holidays to craft your ads around include:

  • New Year’s Day – January 1
  • Memorial Day – the last Monday in May
  • Mother’s Day – the second Sunday in May
  • Father’s Day – the third Sunday in June
  • Independence Day – July 4
  • Labor Day – the first Monday in September
  • Veteran’s Day – November 11
  • Thanksgiving – the fourth Thursday in November
  • Christmas – December 25

These are the main holidays that most people celebrate in some way and are used to seeing ads with special deals for these holidays.

5. Know when to be clever, sarcastic, or direct with your copy

Both clever and direct copy will sell, but the secret is to know when to apply each of these techniques to your ads. It really depends on your industry because some industries don’t do well with cleverness or sarcasm. For instance, if you’re a firearms dealer, sarcasm won’t sell your products. However, if you sell cleaning supplies, sarcasm is on the table.If you can’t make cleverness or sarcasm work to perfection, stick with direct messages. You can’t go wrong with direct copy. However, misplaced sarcasm and cleverness can hurt your brand image. The best way to figure out how to use sarcasm and clever copy is to look at past ads in your industry and see when or if it’s been used before. If popular companies have run successful ads in the past of that nature, it will probably work for you, too.

6. Present one clear, direct call to action

Having a clear call to action (CTA) is paramount in any print advertisement campaign, but it’s even more important in a print ad. Say you have multiple CTAs, directing readers to do different things. Online, your audience can just hit the back button if they choose the wrong CTA, but in print, it doesn’t work like that.Define the action you want your audience to take after reading your ad and make sure it’s made clear to the reader. Tell people exactly what you want them to do, for instance, be direct and say:

  • Call us right now at (your phone number)
  • Email us right now at (your email address)
  • Visit our store at (store address)
  • Send this form back to us

These are just basic examples of CTAs you might use in your print ads. Whatever your desired action, just make sure it’s clearly stated and that you only have one CTA per ad.

7. Send your ad to the right audience

Amazing print ads aren’t going to be effective on their own – you’ve got to get them in front of the right people. Do you know your target audience well? If not, it’s time to get acquainted with your market on a detailed level. Do some in-depth market research to find out who your ideal market is and learn about them. The narrower you can define your market, the more successful your ads will be at generating conversions.Once you have your target audience narrowed down, you’ll need to get addresses to mail your print ads. If you already have a list, you’re ahead of the game. However, if you’re new to print advertising you’ll need to source a mailing list. The easiest way to do this is to go through a mailing list broker. If you just buy mailing lists related to your industry, you won’t get the narrow target you’re after. There are far too many lists out there that may not be specific to your market. A list broker will talk with you to find out more about what you need and will curate a set of lists that meet your specific requirements.

Combine print with digital marketing

Many companies choose to run fully digital marketing campaigns, ignoring physical ads all together. If this is the route you choose, you’re missing out on the opportunity to generate a large number of conversions through print ads.Yes, digital has fast eclipsed print in terms of advertising market share, but using print ads in your campaign is a holistic marketing strategy for your business.

For the best possible results from your marketing efforts, combine both digital and print advertisements; both are perfectly viable methods for generating revenue. If you’ve been avoiding print advertising and print marketing, try it – print ads just might turn out to be more effective than you thought.


Timothy Carter

Chief Revenue Officer

Timothy Carter is a digital marketing industry veteran and the Chief Revenue Officer at Marketer. With an illustrious career spanning over two decades in the dynamic realms of SEO and digital marketing, Tim is a driving force behind Marketer's revenue strategies. With a flair for the written word, Tim has graced the pages of renowned publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, Marketing Land, Search Engine Journal, and ReadWrite, among others. His insightful contributions to the digital marketing landscape have earned him a reputation as a trusted authority in the field. Beyond his professional pursuits, Tim finds solace in the simple pleasures of life, whether it's mastering the art of disc golf, pounding the pavement on his morning run, or basking in the sun-kissed shores of Hawaii with his beloved wife and family.