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How Do I Develop Creative Print Advertising?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

Print ads are placed in magazines, newspapers, and other print publications so a business can reach a target audience. The process of designing creative print advertising and delivering it to the right audiences can be a difficult task, especially if the business owner has little or no experience. The best way to design and implement creative print advertising is to hire an advertising agency that can find a specific target audience and create an ad that will appeal to that market. If the business owner cannot afford to hire such an agency, he or she can begin to develop an ad from within the company.

The first step in developing creative print advertising is writing an advertising plan. The plan should include an analysis of potential media outlets in which the ad will be placed, the target audience the business wants to attract, and the budget for the entire advertising campaign. The business owner will need to have a solid understanding not only of his or her own product and business, but also of competitors' products and businesses; this will help the business owner come up with reasons why he or she should be chosen over the competition. The creative print advertising campaign must give the target audience a reason why they should choose the business over the competition.

Newspaper ads must do something to grab the attention of the reader, who may just be skimming through the ads.
Newspaper ads must do something to grab the attention of the reader, who may just be skimming through the ads.

Simple is often better when it comes to creative print advertising. Most people will skim over ads in magazines, newspapers, and other print outlets, so the ad must immediately grab the reader's attention and hold it. Too much text will often deter a person from reading the entire ad, and too many busy graphics may make the ad difficult to read. Be brief, and whenever possible, include some sort of discount or offer in the ad to give potential customers a reason to try out the business or service.

It may be necessary to design more than one creative print advertising campaign for a single business or product. This will allow the business owner more versatility, and he or she will be able to place ads in more print media by reaching different target audiences. An advertising agency will be able to do this more easily, but a business owner can do so as well if he or she is willing to do some research into the audiences a particular print magazine or newspaper caters to. Many magazine websites will have marketing information that will help the business owner make such decisions.

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Discussion Comments


@NathanG - I agree in general, but display advertising is a little different than copywriting for a direct mail piece.

You have limited space and text options. What I suggest, if you want to know what works, is to study your competition for several months. What ads are they running – and in what print mediums?

As a general principle, if you see an ad running over and over again, that means that it’s working. The same thing applies for the medium.

If you see certain kinds of ads running in that medium, that’s where you want your advertising. It’s a cheap lesson in marketing success for print advertising.


Print advertising must follow the same principles of good copywriting as any other advertising medium in my opinion.

From a design perspective I think you need to have a lot of white space to set the ad apart from the regular text on the page, and then in bold print you need to state to the reader what benefits you’re offering them with that product or service.

Remember – products have features, but we don’t sell features, we sell benefits. You sell the sizzle and not the steak. I know that’s trite but people often forget that, especially businesses who bypass using professional advertising services and just slap a display ad of their business on the page.


I am the ad director at an advertising agency, and I find that the more people I have working in a project, the more creative the ads have a chance to be. For every client that comes into our office, I have at least three people come up with an ad for them.

This way, I get a variety of ideas and styles. If all of them are good, I pitch them all to the client. If not, I simply show him the best ones.

Our office operates a bit differently than most agencies in this manner, but the good thing is that all the designers get paid, regardless of whether or not their ad is chosen by the client. They do good work, and they receive compensation for their time and efforts, even if the ads get thrown out.


@cloudel – I agree with you. I work for an advertising agency, and ads that don't adhere to the basic rectangular frame filled with text mold get the most attention and praise.

I once did an ad for a swimming pool store, and all the text and the logo were inside a big kidney-bean-shaped pool. The water was light blue, so the black text showed up very well. I made the logo the largest item, and the address and phone number were smaller underneath it.

I have also done ads made entirely of text before. Triangular ads can be made by going from small text at one end to incredibly large text at the other, with the most important information being the largest. No border is even needed.


I am a graphic designer at a newspaper, and though I sometimes get to have creative control of an ad, usually the copywriting and decisions are left up to the sales reps. Since their specialty is selling ads, they have the authority to come up with what each one should say and how it should look, to a certain degree.

They hand me a sheet with all the information that should go in an ad. If they have picked out creative graphics or a fancy border for the ad, that is listed on there, as well. Otherwise, I get to create one on my own.

I love it when I get to be in charge of how the ad will look. I do my best work when set free to design things how I think will look best.

I have found that oddly shaped frames and making images from text works best to draw the readers' attention to an ad. The more unique it looks, the more eyes will be drawn to it.


I work for a car dealership, and since I have a degree in advertising, my boss leaves me in charge of coming up with things to go in our ads. We run ads in the local newspaper and on the local television station, and I usually use the same slant for both.

I try to come up with catchy slogans based on the season or what is going on in town at the time the ad will run. We are located in a college town that is big on football, so during football season, I usually tell the newspaper to add graphics related to the game. I once had them put several photos of our cars inside football-shaped frames.

I'm not allowed to alter pricing, so I can't offer our customers special deals in the ads, unless the boss tells me to do so. However, if someone is seriously looking for a car, seeing one they like in our ad would be enough to bring them in.

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    • Newspaper ads must do something to grab the attention of the reader, who may just be skimming through the ads.
      By: Petoo
      Newspaper ads must do something to grab the attention of the reader, who may just be skimming through the ads.