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Successful Advertising

Al Kenney | August 18th, 2013

The Art of Marketing

Last month I began to cover the topic ofadvertising. Because it is such a large and complex topic, I’ve decided to continue on that same theme this month. Advertising plays a crucial role in persuading your target customers to buy from you. Companies spend millions of dollars on advertising. The obvious reason is that the competition is often brutal, and each company wants and needs to sell its product and build its following. Effective advertising techniques make a world of difference in selling your company and product lines. Advertising effectiveness is measured by the role the advertisement has played in making the product a real success and how well it will connect your offerings with your customer’s needs.

Advertising can take many forms: radio, on line, television, social, print (magazine, newspaper), to name just a few. I’m going to stick with print advertising in this issue. Here are important enablers that the pros rely on to create effective advertisement messages:

  • Grab and hold viewers’ attention with interesting information. Keep in mind that people don’t read ads; they read what interests them.
  • Differentiate yourself from your competition. Give your customers reasons to select you.
  • Keep it simple so the reader will easily understand. Keep your words to a minimum and utilize pictures and graphics as effectively as possible.
  • Know your target customer. Keep in mind that one message will not fit all.
  • Make your ad a component of a cohesive larger marketing campaign.

Remember, it is not what advertising does with the consumer, it is what the consumer does after reading the advertisement that is important. I’d like to highlight a few key elements of a successful ad.


Let’s assume for a moment that your current ad is reaching exactly the right people. They want to buy from you but maybe just not yet. Unfortunately, without consistent reminders they are unlikely to remember you in three to six months. It’s true that more conscientious readers might see your ad and store it in a safe place for the future, but the vast majority won’t. You need to make sure that you run ads on a consistent basis to have a good chance of winning their business.

Ad Placement

One of the most important things in advertising is placement. The back cover and inside front and back covers sell at a premium price. That’s because those ad placements have proven to be very effective. You also might want your ads placed next to articles that are somewhat related to your area of specialty or, even better, write the article about your specialty, then place your ad next to it. (Not all publications will allow this. M.A.D.’s policy is to keep the editiorial and advertising departments separate.)


How large an ad should you place? This depends on your situation. For smaller businesses my rule of thumb is that it is more important to be seen in a publication somewhat frequently than to have a large ad run infrequently (unless you have some special item or event you wish to highlight). As long as your message is effectively delivered it can be any size. Just make sure it’s easy for people to find.

Opening Line

Think of your ad in terms of the mental image you want to create in the mind of your readers. Highly effective ads begin with great opening lines. Think it through so that the first mental image you create in your readers’ minds is what you intended. The first mental image (FMI) of your ad will be the first thing your reader will “see” clearly in his or her mind. You are the one that has to think it through and effectively plant it there.

Uniqueness—Tell Your Story!

Making your ad stand out from others can be a very effective way to advertise. I found two great examples of this in the May issue of M.A.D. The first ad was unique by its use of a simple but very effective squiggly outline, when 99% of the ads were rectangular. This made the ad stand out. The second ad used another simple concept with striking results. Stephen and Carol Huber used a black backdrop with color inset, while the majority of ads utilized a white background. This made the ad pop.

An ad from the American Marine Model Gallery tells the dealer’s story very well. How better to demonstrate that the gallery restores ship models than to show a before and after picture, very effectively done in black and white?

I always scan through all the dealer adsin M.A.D. The ads that stand out are the ones with pictures of dealer inventory that changes from month to month. Those pictures show me what that dealer is all about and what his or her inventory looks like so I can get a better feel for what he or she is selling, one piece at a time. Carefully pick the pictures you print in your ads as they say a lot about your business.


The old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” is as true today as it was when first spoken. Although there are many very effective ways to promote your business in black and white, there are many more things you can do in color.

Kahn Fine Antiques placed what I feel is a very effective full-page color ad in the May issue of M.A.D. that featured a picture of items you might find in its shop. It gives the reader a very good feel for what it sells and shows a nice looking shop that looks like a place most would want to visit. Now, I’m not saying everyone should go out and place a full-color ad next month. I’m saying I feel the ad was very effective in delivering the dealer’s message to me. The ad could have been large or small, color or black and white.

Coloring M.A.D.

When I first saw the new color photos in M.A.D. my initial reaction was “awesome!” But I’ve read a few letters from people expressing their displeasure with M.A.D.’s printing color pictures. To me, that was shocking. I couldn’t believe it! I was ecstatic with the new color ad pages. Color pictures in newspapers are nothing new. In fact, the first color pictures were printed in the British newspaper The Illustrated London News back in December 1855. I don’t know why the idea didn’t take root and flourish back then, but the time has now come. My eyes see and my brain functions in color, so please give me something to make them work and wander so I can search every detail of what’s in the ad or article.

While black-and-white print pictures in newspapers have been the staple of our news and marketing industries for over a hundred years, we are now sitting firmly in the digital age, and there will be no going back. Things like 35mm printed pictures have gone by the wayside fast. Remember when you had to take 36 pictures to get one good one, and you needed to pay to get them all printed to see if you had one keeper? If I were an art dealer how could I best show my beautiful landscape painting to the world? It’s probably not painted in black and white. Certainly a black-and-white picture is better than just a written description, but sometimes it just doesn’t cause readers to stop in their tracks. You want impact! You want your ad to draw enough of the reader’s attention so he or she will stop, look, and act. Most would agree when comparing black-and-white photos to color ones that color would/should draw more attention, especially when it is surrounded by black-and-white ads. Isn’t that what ads are for, to draw attention? Color helps you do that.

M.A.D. certainly had requests for color pictures from dealers, and I’m sure they responded (as they should) with the new color medium. It costs more to print color and more to advertise in color. Time will tell if advertisers are getting a good return on their investment. If they aren’t effective in delivering new business, the color pages will go away, but I wouldn’t hold my breath as I’m pretty sure, based on my past experience, that the color ads will produce a good return for those interested in bringing their unique items to life.

Edit and Review

No writer can edit his or her own ad. It takes a second pair of eyes and ears to see and hear weakness in the copy. An advertisement with the best intentions from the writer could seem completely irrelevant to the reader. That’s why the best marketing writers ensure their ads are edited by a “tell it to me as you see it” person who won’t spare their feelings. Listening to the candid feedback from a friend or associate and making adjustments will make your ads more effective.

Marketing Campaigns

Here are some guidelines to help you form an effective response for marketing campaigns:

  • 40% of the success of your marketing is dependent on reaching the proper target audience;
  • 40% of the success of your marketing is dependent on what you’re offering;
  • 20% of the success of your marketing is dependent on your creativity and delivery of your message. (Is it easy to understand?)

Once your advertising campaign has started, the next stage is to track your responses, analyze the results, and refine your strategy. I’ll come back to that  in another issue.

Feel free to e-mail me if you have potential topics you want me to cover or have comments. I can be reached at <>. I’d love to hear from you!

Originally published in the September 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest

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