"We're big on small ads," says an independent retailer. "Small ads, from 10 or 20 inches in size overall to 1/4-page are our best and most effective ads at the least cost, especially on a long-range basis. They build sales and save our ad budget at the same time."
Newspapers offer small-space ads in varied combinations of columns and heights to fit almost any budget and marketing goal. A "20 ad," usually four columns by five inches high, or a companion size and similar cost ad of five columns by four inches high, is used by all kinds and sizes of retail outlets.
Specialty stores and studios, from custom workrooms to bargain shops, run small ads in various newspaper sections on repeat schedules. Department stores, national and local, feature their home decorating fashions in 1/4- or 1/6-page ad sizes. Discount chains might run full-page ads, but break them up into a mix of small ads, which sometimes feature their home fashions products such as ready-made curtains or in-stock blinds.
OTHER FACTORS INVOLVED
As your media representative will point out, size is not the only factor to consider when planning ad schedules. You must work out budgets, pricing and ad format. Then you must decide on creative content and layout for any advertisement. And you can't forget your all-important logo and the details of your location and telephone numbers. Finally, you want to reach the proper home-oriented audience for your message.
That's a lot of content to pack into a small ad. You can't expect miracle results from a minimum investment. On occasion, you may have reason to invest in a large newspaper ad, especially for sales and special events. But most home fashions dealers have learned that a big ad is not always a better ad. On a dollar-for-dollar basis, a 1/4-page ad that's repeated will pull better than a 1/2-page ad inserted one time. The sales results from three small-space ads run on three different days will pull better than one larger ad with the same total space inserted only once.
SIZE OR FREQUENCY?
An often-asked question: Do I use my limited budget to create larger, more impressive ads less often, or run smaller ads more frequently?
Answer: Run smaller ads more often.
Reasoning: Most prospects don't respond to an ad the first time they see it. A reader must notice an ad a number of times to develop an awareness of it, especially if the product or service is new to them. The more we see an ad, the better we recognize the product or service.
Then, according to the experts, as our awareness increases so do our potential desire and the possibility of a favorable response. That's why you see the same ad repeated over and over. We may hate the ad, but we finally become aware of the offer being made. Maybe we buy in self-defense. More scientific reasons, backed by tons of research, show that when we finally need or want the product or service, our minds have been conditioned to remember the ad. Then, we may investigate the offer.
SMALL COSTS PERMIT REPETITION
The point to remember in all this discourse? Simply that frequency is an important factor in advertising. And the best way for most retailers to afford that needed frequency is to prepare a good small ad. Then to repeat that same ad until it no longer is effective.
That time may take longer then you, as the advertiser, might imagine. You may become bored running the same old ad, but that doesn't mean your prospects also are bored. Rather, that may be the time when your ad finally penetrates their minds and awareness.
That's why it's so important to keep some record of the response to your ads. You then will know better when it's time to create another good small ad.
BIG PLUSES FOR SMALL ADS
Here are more positives for your consideration:
• Attention deficiency—School children aren't the only ones with short attention spans. Today's media audiences, readers and viewers, have a similar problem. We seldom really read stories or ads. Most often, we just scan copy and pictures, even headlines. Only occasionally does an unusual headline or interesting picture catch our eye and attention.
Maybe it's the big ad with a special offer that stops us. Or it might be a repeated small ad we missed the first time, or maybe it finally catches our eye on its seventh time. Advertisers wish they could gauge readers' reaction times better.
• Testing—Learning more about sales messages, new service concepts or marketing solutions is possible at less cost with small ads. Try this sometime: Take a neglected product, then feature it in a small ad with a special offer. Repeat the ad once a week for four weeks. Chances are good you will be pleased with sales results.
• Check out other ideas—Increase attention for your advertising program by featuring a different product or decorating suggestion in a series of small ads. Your prep costs will be higher, but so will readers' interest and potential sales.
Small ads can be an efficient way to generate new prospects and in-home appointments. Offer a free brochure or sample, along with a discount if the prospect brings the ad to your store.
• Add more audience—Reach added prospects by running your small ad in various other newspapers and local magazines. Find other window decorating prospects by inserting your small ads in extra sections of your newspaper or other neighborhood newspapers and shopping guides. Pick the "Living," "Home Fashion," or other general interest sections, even the Classifieds.
SOME NEGATIVES, TOO
Advertising is not an exact science and no technique is perfect. Your small ads have some definitive limitations, too.
• May lack image—They may not convey the long-range prestige or status appeal you want to establish for you store. Your small ad may be buried at the bottom of a page with other similar or smaller-size ads, some of which may reflect an undesirable image on your store.
• A placement problem?—Chances are you won't be able to demand a special position near an editorial feature or at the preferred top right of a page.
• Checking results—It's easier to evaluate results with a large ad. You probably will need to complete a series of ads (an ad campaign) to measure your small ad results properly.
• More attention?—Your mini-ad usually must compete with other small ads placed in an ad grouping. To be effective, your ad then must stand out from other products and different-sized ads.
• May lack impact—Finally, you will need larger ads to attract prospects for your special event, promotions and sales.
LOOKS ARE IMPORTANT
Because of the limitations above, a small ad should be planned as carefully as a large ad. It may be wise to spend some of your space savings to retain an advertising agency, a freelance artist or writer to help you plan your image, ads and their placement.
The look of your ads along with the long-range impact of your small ad campaign should create the image you want. In preceding articles, I've discussed at length the elements of type, copy and design that make up any advertisement. Store ads that have a family resemblance with other store ads stand the best chance of becoming recognized by readers.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT LOOK
When we scan our daily newspapers, we form impressions about a store, its merchandise and product price range simply by the look of its ads.
The "Bargain Look" small ad features a number of items and prices with very little white space. The idea is to crowd a lot of information into a small space. Sometimes the look is used wrongly by a higher-priced retail store trying to promote a false bargain look. The tactic may backfire because readers may resent this attempt at deception.
The "Mid Priced Look" small ad may feature two or three items with a price range listed. It may be a moderately full ad with some white space. The idea is to create a good quality, but still affordable store image. Any discount prices usually will be listed only in special event and sale ads.
The "High Priced Look" small ad likely will feature a classy illustration surrounded by ample white space and small, discrete copy and headline. Prices are seldom mentioned except for low-key listings in small type during special sales events.
The price looks noted above can be conveyed just as effectively in small ads of varied sizes as in large, expensive advertisements. There are many ways you can create a unique look for your small ads. Here are a few:
1. Keep it simple. That's the basic rule for any ad, especially a small ad. Each word is important, like words in a telegram or e-mail message. Condense and abbreviate where possible. Include only the basic "who," "what," "when," "where" and "why" information and prices, only when necessary.
Keep headlines short; catchy is better than cutesy. It's a good idea to point out both in headlines and copy the benefits prospects will receive if they choose your products or services.
2. Some special ad layout ideas may help your ad stand out from others, such as:
• A unique border to give your ad series a family look, much like a distinctive logo can do.
• Reverse type (white copy over a black background) or overall reverse.
• Consider using special artwork or cartoons rather than photographs, which may become blurry if reduced to fit your small space.
3. If one ad doesn't work as you want, try a different approach and idea with your next ad. With small ads you may have enough left in your ad budget to keep trying until you get the results hoped for.
4. Any ad will usually include a headline, subheads, illustration, caption, tag line and logo, plus information about location, credit cards and telephone number. With a limited budget you may not be able to find room in your small ads for all these elements. If so, you can eliminate subheads and, if necessary, the illustration. Use your headline, typeface and logo to create attention and interest. Always include your tag line, logo and necessary location information.
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.