Making Your Own Ads: Helpful Tips

So, you’re an independent hardware retailer and you want to create your own advertisement…where do you start?

Increasing numbers of businesses are creating their own ads these days, and there are plenty of publishing software packages to assist with the process. But the basic principles of ad design are often ignored or misunderstood. Why are some ads eye-catching and impressive, while others look like they were cobbled together on a kindergarten desk?

Justin Field, a Graphic Designer at PageSet in Melbourne, Victoria, says a successful ad combines numerous elements, each of which must be considered with care. These elements include: ad content, shape, colour, fonts, budget, as well as the anticipated target audience and ad positioning within the publication.

Case StudyBrief: Design a quarter-page Natural (125x87mm) ad for Big Harry’s Hardware, one of two stores in an isolated regional town of 1,500 people, average age 61. Easter Sale, 10% off chainsaws. Demographic: mining and timber industry, retirees.

Rationale: Justin placed the store logo and address at the base of the ad to leave at least 2/3 or 3/4 of the page for the primary announcement. He chose ITC Century as the main font for the text because it is a conservative serif font that is easy for senior people to read and sympathise with. The main part of the ad is simple, plain and highlighted by the diagonal angles of the egg and the “Easter Sale” text within it.For the sake of repetition and coherence, he used the same font (Aachen BT) for both the words “Easter Sale” and the store logo banner. The lettering in “Easter Sale” is broad because the black ink in poor-quality newspaper can drown out fine white lettering. The word “10%” is given prominence as the key attraction. Overall, the ad is in three parts: egg, main announcement and logo/contact details. A line above the contact details gives prominence to the upper key announcement.

Content: Justin says inappropriate content can doom an ad even before it is designed. “Less is more as far as text is concerned,” advises Justin. “You have to create a hierarchy of messages – define the main point and work down. Don’t use too many words.” Minimal text offers greater flexibility to increase font (lettering) sizes and shapes, and also produces an uncluttered result with plenty of open space. Give prominence to the main message/line in the top half of the ad.

Shape: Justin says there are many common shapes of ads, the main ones ranging from full-page to horizontal/vertical half-page, quarter-page, quarter-page Natural (box) eighth-page and strip. Budgets rather than design issues normally dictate size.

Strip ads, usually ideal where ads contain little text, are perfect for repetitious use over consecutive pages. Change each ad slightly to create variations on one theme. “A pattern develops so the reader says, ‘I’ve seen this ad before,’ and might even flick back to see the earlier appearances,” says Justin. “Consecutive strip ads are normally similar but not the same.”

Most of the ads Justin makes up are between full-page and quarter-page formats – if you have control over placement, make sure ads are at the bottom of the page to allow easy reading of editorial from previous pages. If box-style ads are used, put them at the bottom outside of the page.

Colour: Remember that full-colour ads cost about twice as much to print as black and white (Mono) ads. When paying for ad space in a publication, the Mono ad space costs about 80% of a similar-sized colour ad.

“People using colour are often tempted to use a kaleidoscope of colour,” says Justin. “But you shouldn’t use more than two or three dominant colours. I like large areas of solid colour that contrast against a white background or another solid colour. Contrast is the key, both with letters against backgrounds and colours against colours.”

Fonts: The style of lettering chosen can add greatly to the impact of an ad. Lettering that is too small can be difficult to read (never use sizes smaller than 6-point), and different lines can stand out by featuring dramatic changes in font size and variety. Don’t use capital letters for entire words, and consider the merits of increasing the spacing between letters to highlight a core word.

Justin says his two main tips for designers relate to contrast and repetition.

“Don’t be afraid to use contrast,” he recommends. “You can create contrast within the ad, for example, by varying the letter sizes in certain words and placing different colours against each other.”

Also, Justin says it pays to look at other ads in the publication to identify ways of contrasting your whole ad with others. Choose an ad shape or dominant colour scheme that will differentiate it from the crowd. Include some unusual shapes if other ads tend to be linear and symmetrical.

Repetition, another important factor, is vital for achieving a consistent image. If your ads always feature a logo, make sure the placement (for example, top centre) is the same in every ad. “Repetition can be based around themes, text and images,” says Justin. “Without going overboard, have a bit of fun with unusual angles or reverse imaging of text on backgrounds.”

By John Power