Graphic designers, please ignore this column

Tips for Entrepreneurs: Unless you're a company like Coca Cola or Apple you probably don’t need to actually engage in “brand advertising.”

Macy's Memorial Day sale 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Macy's Memorial Day sale 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Small business owners that hire a talented graphic designer usually get a beautiful advertisement. And that’s a bad thing. Clever ads can attract attention and win Madison Avenue’s most prestigious awards, but the bottom line is: have they generated new business for the business owner? Unless you're a company like Nike, Coca Cola, Apple Computer or Audi, you probably don’t need to actually engage in “brand advertising.” Larger companies engage in such advertising because the goal of the ads they plaster all over is not to make you go out and buy sneakers, a Coke, an iPad or a car right now.
Their goal is to tattoo their logo in your brain. They want you so “logo aware” of their brand that if you were woken at 3 a.m. and told “Quick! Tell me what company this logo belongs to and I’ll let you go back to sleep!” you’d be able to rattle off the name without having to wake up.
It’s a great thing to have that kind of brand recognition, but for most of us, the budget and branding proposition offered by that kind of advertising is out of reach. You simply have to reach too many millions of people to make such a campaign worthwhile.
Your goal is to create an ad that markets: that makes the reader take a specific action to reach out to you. Whether it is a one-step ad (like “lunch special”) or multistep (“contact us today for a free brochure”), there is a concerted effort to gently prod and agitate the prospect into taking a step closer toward putting money into your pocket.
I often have disagreements with graphic designers over text sizes and the look and feel of print advertisements.
Reverse type, which means that the background is dark and the words are in a lighter color, looks quite elegant – but it is hard for the reader to read. If a graphic designer gets free reign of how to design your ad, expect to see lots of white space, an elegant and modern design and probably some small sans serif text in some shade of gray.
Sans serif fonts (sans means without) are fonts that are elegant and modern, as opposed to serif fonts, such as the font this column is written in. Serifs are the little feet on the different letters. The reason that virtually all professional magazines and newspapers use these fonts is because they are easier for the reader to absorb.
The only time you should have a sans serif font or reverse text in your advertisements is in the headline. Because headlines are short, the human eye can process them without tiring. But preparing an ad with heavy reverse type or serif fonts is a major disservice to the readers of your promotion and by extension, hurtful to your own business – not to mention people’s eyes!
Let your readers know who or what is in your photos. Put a caption on every picture in your advertisement. It’s a simple suggestion, but one that will make your ad work better.
While you may think, “It’s obvious that that is a picture of me, the owner!” (and that may in fact be true), the human eye looks for a caption. Your readers don’t want to work hard to piece things together from what they might have just read to decipher a photo too.
Call to action
The most important item in any advertisement is your call to action, or what you want your reader to do after they read your ad. This means that whatever that call is, it should be simple and obvious. Your readers should know exactly what step they should take after reading the ad.
You’ve gotten them to look at your article, drawn them in with your “hook,” so they are finding out more about something they are obviously interested in.
Designers vs marketers
Many entrepreneurs and graphic designers don’t realize that if you have gone through all this work and spent the money to make the ad happen, you don’t want to leave them hanging and wondering what to do next. Make the next step easy to understand, in a large font, with a big phone number and contact information.
Contact me
Giving your readers at least two alternate ways to contact you will generate more responses than having just one contact.
Different people like different mediums of communication, so by giving both a phone number and an e-mail address you will capture different market segments.
Ultimately the most important question you should be asking yourself is: What is more important to your goals, an elegant ad that wins awards for creativity and style... or an ad that generates new business for you and your company? When you can answer that question head on, it may be a bitter pill for the graphic designers with visions of awards dancing in their eyes, but the resulting ad will be much more musical to the entrepreneur’s ears.
Show this column to your graphic designer. While their future ads might be a little less pretty, understanding and applying these concepts will ultimately give them clients who get better responses – and more money to spend on using them for more work in the future.
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Issamar Ginzberg is a rabbi, businessman, public speaker and marketer. He travels extensively between New York and Jerusalem and has been published in more than 30 national business publications, including Inc. Magazine, which honored him with its Top 10 Entrepreneurs of the Year designation.