The Fool-Proof Checklist For Creating Great Magazine Ads

Put down that ad brief! Before you start working on your creative, here’s everything you absolutely positively have to know.

  1. Know your purpose
    What EXACTLY do you want the readers of this magazine to know? Your ad should impart information to the reader. Don’t just take out an ad because you have some dollars in your advertising budget. An ad that lacks direction is bound to fail. Remember, at its core, your ad is a direct message to the consumer, so make sure you have something of value to tell them!
  1. First headline is everything!
    Remember the young kid on the corner with the paper? ‘Extra, extra – read all about it!’ He knew the importance of a headline. That simple catchcry immediately piqued the interest of the consumer. In nearly all cases, the headline is the single most important element of a print ad. It’s your first impression on a consumer, so strive to be clear and concise. (See page 36 for some great headline tips.)
  1. Shape your subheading!
    The subheading imparts secondary information. While the headline must grab the reader’s attention, the subheading explains the deal/product further. Not all ads require a subheading but this element (generally set in smaller type) is there to give the reader additional information without cluttering up your ad or detracting from the headline.
  2. Copy – why would anyone want to read this?
    This is the most fundamental question to answer before you write your ad copy. The answer can range from “because it’s useful” to “because it’s funny” or any number of other reasons, but you must answer that question before putting words to paper. Once you establish the purpose of your copy, make sure you write about what you know. Keep it simple and to the point.
  1. Style your ad smart
    Statistics show that ads that look more like they’re part of the magazine are more likely to be read. Focus on content first, but make sure the style has a feel that suits the magazine. You already know the audience likes the style of the publication, so utilise it! A great publisher will design your ads for you as part of your ad booking, which will not only get you a professionally designed ad but ensure it hits the above points. No one is more vested in making sure your ad looks great than the people whose pages it will appear in.
  1. Call to action… yes, you do need one!
    Put simply, a CTA invites the reader to perform a task. You have their attention but how do you want them to respond? A CTA directs them to the next step in simple and clear language. “Call now”, “Order today” – there are many options but one must be included, particularly if your ad is looking for a short-term result based on a specific offer.
  1. Proper etiquette
    Naturally, the standard spelling and grammar laws apply to creating a magazine ad for your business, but are meaningless without the correct formatting. Use white space to break up copy, etc. Spellings and abbreviations are evolving, but are still not proper for a magazine ad. Keep this in mind, particularly if your demographic is above the 18 to 25-year-old bracket.
  1. Layout 101
    If you flick through any magazine, you will notice that there is a general structure to most ads. This is called ‘layout’. As mentioned, your headline will usually be at the top of the ad to grab the consumer’s attention. Placing your contact details at the top makes no sense as the reader doesn’t know anything about your business yet. This should be followed by any imagery/copy, with the logo and contact details at the bottom, as they aren’t the focus of the ad.
  1. Create a visual feast
    Think about how to create points of interest in a clever way. Colour schemes, use of (no more than two or three) different fonts, special effects such as image mirroring or fade out… these can all enhance your ad, but keep in mind that there needs to be a purpose behind each element. Does it work with your product, service or message?
  1. Less is more (yes, really!)
    We’ve all seen those ads that look so jammed it hurts to try to read them… so we don’t. An ad is a step in converting a consumer to a customer, one of several steps, so you don’t need to tell them your whole life story in one go! Be focused on what you are promoting, what you want the reader to do to take the next step. Your ad is a breadcrumb in a trail you will leave to make your sale. ‘White space’ is imperative to any successful ad as it ensures each element has an opportunity to shine – don’t be scared to use it.