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Creating print ads that work

Creativity is core to ad effectiveness, says ADRIAN FERNANDES.

Quantifying the value of a “big idea” that underpins a print campaign can be tricky but isolating and measuring the effectiveness of an advertisement’s headline, image and copy is within everyone’s reach.

The Newspaper Works has just completed an analysis of more than 1400 ad effectiveness surveys in the past 12 months to understand the importance of these key elements in a design, and how they combine to drive sales and brand affinity for the advertiser.

Data Source

In April 2014, we relaunched ADvance, the creative benchmarking research series designed to assist advertisers and their agencies to better understand how print creative works.

Each month, Ipsos Media CT conducts ad effectiveness surveys with 300 respondents who critique selected print ads across a number of creative diagnostics (see Figure 1).


Figure 1: Creative Diagnostics Map: Woolworths & Coles Ads

Ad effectiveness is then measured via two proprietary metrics, RoleMap and ActionMap.

Figure 2: Role Map & Action Map

The Role Map measures how consumers connect with newspaper advertising across the six roles.

The ActionMap expands on RoleMap to provide an understanding of the types of action a newspaper ad inspires.

The Big Ah-Ha

In the past 12 months, more than 1,400 ADvance surveys have been conducted, testing more than 50 ads and creating a dataset of 4,200 observations.

We took the information from the ADvance RoleMap and ActionMap creative diagnostics and conducted a correlation analysis* to measure the relationship between creative design elements and consumer behaviours.

Our aim was to understand which elements prompt certain consumer responses, such as consideration of a brand, desire to find out more, or to try a new product.

Results can guide advertisers to optimise their print executions, and ensure the creative is on point to reach marketing goals.

Headline Act 1

The headline is the key creative element that, more than any other, drives consumers to purchase a brand. This is the first step to achieving a sale. Now, this is not a revelation. Back in the 60s, ad guru David Ogilvy demonstrated how a headline is read five times more than the body copy of a print ad.

Yet it is remarkable that it even after conditioning society with 50 years of TV advertising and 20 years of web banners, the power of the headline is undiminished.

The headline is the prime moment to make a statement to consumers, and our research shows that getting it right sets consumers on the path to purchase. Many won’t read beyond it but genuine prospects will.

IKEA used this attention grabbing headline to promote a Valentines Day offer in The Adelaide Advertiser.

50706_303Lowe_IKEA_VD_15x5 - Copy (2)

Words Matter 2

Great ads attract new customers. Real prospects are hungry for information and convincing copy is strongly linked to the trial of a new product.

More than any other media traditional channel, newspapers are the information platform. Research shows readers are more deeply engaged than with other media and, as a consequence, they are open to discovery and learning.

Brands can take advantage of this environment with informative copy, whether in long or short form.

A campaign that used the power of succinct writing was created for Bank of Queensland.

It took on the Big Four banks with a campaign that used local area marketing to great effect, and regional newspapers helped deliver a 7 percent increase in brand awareness.


Crowd Pleaser 3

Standing out from a crowded market is becoming increasingly difficult.

Ads that fail to stand out also struggle to build interest in a brand.

Our analysis shows that ads with attention-grabbing imagery are not only more likely to get noticed, but also build positive feelings around a brand. The right image can deliver healthy results for brands.

Tourism New Zealand created a campaign appreciating this truth. Its print campaign, which featured amazing photography of incredible landscapes, produced a 316% return on investment and increased visitor numbers to the country by 9 percent.


Total Recall 4

Print ads that go beyond promoting product benefits and engage readers by making them think differently gain a lift in recall.

Clever creative is a powerful way to build memorability, especially clever creative with a point. An entertaining ad that highlights an important feature has a better chance of being remembered. Readers are also more likely to tell their family and friends about it. This instigates word of mouth and the power of personal recommendation.

Pool fencing company Midalia Steel innovated to produce this print ad to increase standout and stick in the minds of readers.

38810_BESTADS MID Pool Fence - CopyHere’s a clever local newspaper ad produced by Vodafone that helped encourage a 20 percent increase in positive word of mouth in the area.


Just Right 5

Finding the balance in the content of an advertisement is crucial.

Data shows that clutter or irrelevant information turn consumers off. There is no simple answer to this challenge except to acknowledge that designers are expert in their field for a reason.

Taking a safe approach is actually risky. Dull and unoriginal creative leads to ads that do not get noticed or, if they do, can lower the perceptions of the advertiser. Just as great creative drives sales and enhances brand attitudes, poor ads drag down brands scores in our research.

Key Ingredients

Our analysis of the ADvance database identifies common elements of effective print campaigns that drive brand attitudes and encourage consumers into action.

  • Evocative headline
  • Eye-catching imagery
  • Clean, not cluttered
  • Tight copy
  • Prominent branding
  • Clear call-to-action

Campaigns seeking to encourage specific consumer actions, such as lifting brand attitudes or driving sales and trials, can confidently use print creative to achieve their commercial goals.

*Correlation Analysis

A correlation analysis measures the relationship between two items. The resulting value (called the “correlation coefficient”) shows if changes in one item will result in changes in the other item.
The correlation coefficient, cor, can be positive (an increase in item one helps cause an increase in item two) or negative (an increase in item one helps cause a decrease in item two).
A p value is measure of the significance, or accuracy of a correlation coefficient. For this article, only correlations with significant p-values were chosen.


Correlation one: Strong Ad headline & purchase intention (cor = 0.57, p<0.01).

Correlation two: Great copy & intention to trial or buy a product (cor = 0.36, p<0.05).

Correlation three: Attractive visuals & Ad stand-out (cor = 0.61, p<0.01).

4 Correlation four: Clever creative & memorability (cor = 0.46, p<0.05).

Correlation five: Dull and boring ads & brand attitudes (cor = -0.38, p<0.05).

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