To increase how much an ad is noticed in the newspaper, improve the creative. According to research, great creative impacts noticeability more than any other factor.

How do we improve an ad? Is there a magic bullet?

No. But there are things that have proven to be effective time and time again. Don’t use all of them. Be selective, depending on the need of the advertiser.

  • Add copy. A well-written copy ad is a thing of beauty. And newspaper — over television, outdoor, and radio, to name a few other media — is the medium for long copy. 

    It should be used when things need to be explained. Or lots of information is required to make a purchase. Studies find most people don’t read long copy. Unless they are in the market for the product or service — then they read every word!

  • Try a visual. A picture is worth a thousand words. Show them. Also visuals draw us in. Eye-tracking of newspaper ads shows the reader’s eye moves to the picture first, and then it drops down for explanation. And generally the movement is from top left to bottom right. So position the logo in the bottom right corner, so it works with the eye’s movement and becomes a natural sign-off.

  • Consider colour. For some products, we need to see it in colour. A piece of art — if you are using it to advertise an art museum. Food visually speaks to us when it looks real and mouth-watering.

  • Make them smile or, God forbid, laugh. And they might let the advertising message break through. Even better, they might tell someone about the superb ad they saw. Good ol’ word of mouth!

  • Go large or small. Simple, elegant, small-space ads can get attention by not cramming in too much. Being clever helps, too. As does repeating the ad multiple times in the same newspaper or over different days (i.e. frequency). 

    Going large works when the advertisers must break through: They are an unknown brand; they have lots of (or new) competition; or they are changing the direction/stance of the brand.

Great creative is hard but it will deliver advertising results. Research finds 85% of award-winning ads are effective. While we are not necessarily going for an award, set the bar higher.