The following is a continuation of a series of articles coverings the essentials for retail advertising. The series began with "Advertising By the Numbers" in the August 1998 issue of Draperies & Window Coverings.
PREPARING PRINT ADS
By now, you have planned objectives, determined your image, set up a budget and decided where you will advertise. Now, it is time for you, your media representative or your ad agency contact person to do your ads. For most retailers, this means preparing a newspaper or print ad.
Here are the primary elements of any print ad. Each of these, with examples, will be detailed in following articles.
1. Theme: What is the main purpose of your ad? (This has been discussed before in an article on image, see D&WC, June 1999).
2. Headline: The most important element. It must catch the reader's eye and lead into your main copy. It should include a reader benefit. (You may prefer to write your headline after writing the body copy first).
3. Body copy (or text): A descriptive explanation in support of your headline. End your copy with a call to action, telling the reader what to do next to enjoy your product or service.
4. Illustration: A photograph or drawing used to attract readers and reinforce ideas in headline or copy. It should show your product used in a room setting, if possible.
5. Signature (or logo): Sign off with your store name and logo design if you have one, complete address, telephone numbers, Web address and business hours.
6. Layout: An arrangement of the above elements in an eye-catching design. Good layouts draw readers into and through the body copy. They also should follow your planned image. You, or your ad professional, will want to start with a rough layout when first planning your ad. Make a rough sketch of where elements in the ad will be placed. Then, polish your copy and concepts as you proceed. Make sure you proof and approve final copy before the ad is printed. You are responsible for mistakes even if someone else does the ad for you.
TIPS FOR TOP HEADLINES
Headlines must be reader stoppers. A good headline will make your ad work. It is the spark that determines if your message will be read.
The most important space in your retail store are those few feet of talking distance between you and the customer. The most important space in your newspaper ad is that small area occupied by your headline. What you say there must flag down prospects for a brief second or two, long enough to perceive your basic message, then hold their interest sufficiently to read more of your ad.
Two elements must capture a reader's attention. A good headline can do this alone; so can an enticing illustration. The odds for attention and readership rise sharply when you use both elements. One reinforces the other.
THE PROMISE OR BENEFIT
Experts use two basic types of headlines: The promise headline, or what's in it for your prospects; and the message headline, a factual statement or question that may hook a reader's interest.
Homemakers want interior coverings for a variety of self-interest reasons from the need for social approval and status to the desire for beauty and comfort. In the promise headline, point out how your products or service will help meet these needs. Present the benefit clearly in a few words such as:
Everyone wants a bargain, even if it's for a costly luxury item. At least, they want to think they're getting a bargain. That's why the promise of savings is such a strong benefit. From retail ads featuring window coverings-especially alternate treatments-it's apparent that the large majority of industry retailers still believe firmly that price discounts and markdowns are the only benefits that interest prospects.
Probably the most common headline combines several benefits, such as:
"Now Have the Stylish Look of Pleated Shades at X% Off."
Home decorators are always on the lookout for new and different ways to use your products, for popular styles and trends in treatments, colors and designs. In this headline, make the most of these magic words: "New," "Now," "Latest," "Introducing," "Announcing," "At Last."
Combine news with a benefit and you increase chances for readership of your entire ad. You've seen many lead-in heads like these:
"New for Your Windows-An Old-
"Now, for Modern Styling, Select from Our New Louver Colors and Textures"
"Save Now On (almost anything)."
ADVICE AND EDUCATION
These headlines offer help and ideas for purchasing products, planning treatments or solving problems. The special words here are: "How To," "Here's How," "Here's Why," "Everything You Need to Know." For years, these have been the most-used starting words for stopper headlines.
Your prospects notice and respond to headlines like:
"How to Save Energy at Your Windows,"
"How to Decorate with . . ."
"Ten Different Ways to . . ."
SALES OR SERVICE FEATURE
Make a direct, clear-cut statement about a product feature or service. If it's about a product with news or how-to information, you add considerable interest.
If it's a slogan about your store or service, it should be used over a long period of time so readers will recognize your ad immediately. Try to use a distinctive slogan, not the usual "Quality For XX Years," or "Serving Our Town for XX Years."
Direct your headline to a specific group such as new home owners or, like this headline:
"Package Services for Condo Owners."
Single out a special market and speak to it members alone. This type of approach is used more in direct mail than in newspaper advertising.
There are many other types of headlines: Testimonials by satisfied customers, statistics and comparisons, teasers for an upcoming event, command or call-for-action headlines telling prospects to stop by the store using words such as "Get the Facts," "Try," or "Choose." Such headlines usually combine several of the major categories for best results.
When in doubt about which headline approach to use, try the benefit headline. A promised benefit, specific or implied, even if it's just a price listing, has major appeal for just about any of your prospects.
The first question a reader asks of an ad is: "What's in it for me?" Select the main benefit that your merchandise offers and feature it in a compelling headline. Amplify this message in subheads. Remember that standard label headlines do little selling. Always try to appeal to one or more of the basic desires of your readers.
MORE HEADLINE TIPS
• On the average, five times more people read your headlines than your body copy. The headlines that work best promise the reader a benefit.
• Your words have only one second to interest a prospect in your message. Every word is important.
• Give thought to your headlines. Start by writing down all the possibilities you can think of. Write and rewrite the same idea in different ways. Then pick the best one.
• Remember, your purpose is to sell your product or service, not merely to entertain the reader.
• Don't worry about length. Long headlines (10 words or more for newspapers) get as much readership as short ones (five words or less).
• Don't use tricky, cutesy or double-meaning headlines. People won't take time to play games with you when you try to be too clever. Even good puns often confuse people.
John J. Lichty is a consultant and senior editor for Draperies & Window Coverings magazine. He has more than 30 years experience in the planning and administration of various consumer, trade and retail advertising programs.