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The two most common print media are newspapers and magazines, but print media also include outdoor billboards, transit posters, the yellow pages, and direct mail. Print media is important because it can reach such a large audience, and the great number of specialized publications on the market enable businesses to focus on a target audience with a specific set of characteristics. Print media are allowed to advertise most anything, other than products intended for children and sold to children. All other publications may advertise most anything sold legally like cigarettes, liquor, and contraceptives; however, many publications will not accept what they consider to be controversial ads.
When deciding upon a newspaper in which to advertise, there are three physical criteria to consider: distribution, size, and audience. Newspapers are either daily or weekly, come in a standard or tabloid size, and reach a large percentage of the reading public. Because of the broad demographic reach of most newspapers it is difficult to target a specific audience; however, newspapers are effective in increasing awareness of a business' products and services in a specific geographical area.
Types of ads placed in newspapers include: display ads, classified ads, public notes, and preprinted inserts. Newspaper ads have some flexibility in their size. For instance, some are small boxes that take up only a small portion of a page, while others might span one or two full pages (the latter, however, are typically only bought by larger corporations). Regardless of this flexibility, newspaper ads can only use limited special effects, such as font size and color. These limitations lead to advertising "clutter" in newspapers because all the ads look very similar. Therefore, advertisers must use original copy and headings to differentiate their ads from those of their competitors. The quick turnover of newspapers also allows the advertiser to adjust ads to meet new market conditions; however, this turnover means that the same ad may need to be inserted over a significant period of time in order to reach its target audience.
With magazines an advertiser can focus on a specific target audience. As the Small Business Administration pointed out in Advertising Your Business: "Audiences can be reached by placing ads in magazines which have [a] well-defined geographic, demographic, or lifestyle focus." An attractive option for many small businesses may be placing an ad in the localized edition of a national magazine. But magazine advertisements often have a lag time of a couple of months between the purchase of ad space and the publication of the issue in question. Magazines, then, are sometimes not the optimum option for businesses seeking to target fast-changing market trends.
In addition to the above factors, it is also important to consider the nature of the magazine ad copy. Magazines allow elaborate graphics and colors, which give advertisers more creative options than do newspapers. Also, recent surveys have indicated that informative ads are the most persuasive. Therefore, it is important to include copy and art work that are direct and that present important product information to the consumer, such as how the product works, how it benefits the consumer, and where it can be purchased.
Many consultants feel that direct mail is the best way for a small business to begin developing awareness in its target consumers. Mailing lists can be generated (even though they are often difficult to maintain) with the names of those people most likely to purchase the advertiser's products or services. However, direct mail is not always cost effective. A direct mailing campaign can cost as much as $1,000 to reach 1,000 people, whereas television can reach a similar number of potential customers at a fraction of that cost. But business experts indicate that direct mail does tend to generate more purchasing responses than does television, and they observe that the products of many small businesses are often more suited to a direct mailing campaign than to indirect, image advertising.
The Small Business Administration stated in "Advertising Your Business" that a yellow page ad is often used to "complement or extend the effects of advertising placed in other media." Such an ad has permanence and can be used to target a specific geographic area or community. Essentially, a yellow page ad gives the consumer information needed to make a purchase. Therefore the key information to include in such an ad includes: the products and services available; location; phone number; business hours; special features, such as the acceptable kinds of payment (i.e., credit cards, checks); parking availability; discounts; and delivery policies and emergency services. The best way to arrange this information is in a list, so that the consumer will be able to scan the ad for the desired information.
A major consideration with a yellow page ad is where to place it, which primarily depends on the directory (or category) under which businesses choose to locate their ads. Central to this choice are the products or services that the company wishes to emphasize. The ad copy should compliment the directory, indicating the main products and services for sale, so that the ad will emerge from the similar looking ads that surround it.
Outdoor advertising usually comes in two forms: billboards and transit posters. Like yellow page ads, outdoor advertising is usually used to support advertisements placed in other media. One of the greatest strengths of outdoor advertising is as a directional marker to point customers toward your business. Since the prospective consumer often has only fleeting exposure to billboards and transit posters, the advertising copy written for these media needs to be brief with the ability to communicate ideas at a glance. To do this well one must use graphics and headings efficiently and artfully.
SEE ALSO Advertising Media—Internet; Advertising Budget
Addis, Jim. "How the Net and Print Media Can Help Each Other." Marketing. November 1999.
Gordon, Kim T. "Selecting the Best Media for Your Ad." Entrepreneur. September 2003.
Ries, Al, and Laura Ries. The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR. HarperCollins, May 2004.
Stafford, Marla R., and Ronald J. Faber. Advertising, Promotion, and New Media. M.E. Sharpe, October 2004.
United States Small Business Administration. Advertising Your Business, n.d.
Hillstrom, Northern Lights
updated by Magee, ECDI