How to design a press advert

In this article we will look at the process to go through to design an effective press advertisement for your wet leisure business.

What, who and why before how.

You might have decided that you should run a press advert because your marketing plan says it’s time to do so or because there is a specific need or a specific opportunity.

In any event, the first things to ask yourself are, ‘what do we want to say, who do we want to say it to and why might they be interested?’

The advert might be brand advertising; that is, promoting your company in general by keeping it visible and familiar to people and by giving it a personality that appeals to them.

On the other hand you might want to advertise a particular product or promotion.

Whichever is the case, stick to trying to solve that one task. It’s always tempting to try and squeeze as much as you can into an advert but ‘simple’ is always the best solution.

The next question is ‘who are we talking to?’ Who is your target audience?

Once again, try and keep it simple and focussed. It’s easy to say to yourself, ‘anyone and everyone would be interested in this’, but that’s not really true, is it?

Your marketing strategy should have defined your target audience; the sort of people that you most want to appeal to, but if you haven’t done that yet or if you think this advert should be talking to a slightly different group, then try and picture those people in your mind.

What are they like? How old are they? What are their lives like?

Once you have those answers in your mind then it’s easier to imagine why this message that you are about to send out should appeal to them.

But see that from their point of view.

The benefits of your company or a particular product may be clear as day to you, but what is the benefit from your customers point of view?

There is an old saying that goes, ‘you might be selling a drill, but your customer is buying a hole.’

Above all, give yourself plenty of time on this stage. If you get these questions wrong no matter how clever or well designed your advert is, you’ll be wasting money.

Get them right and you are more than half way there.

Put pen to paper.

Get a big bit of paper and write down the what, who and the why.

Try and use as few words as possible and make it as accurate as possible. The paper isn’t big so that you can get a lot on it; it’s big so that you can have a big idea.

Get your sales people in and show them what you have written. If you or your sales team were having a conversation with one of your target audience, what would you say to make that sale?

Write those sentences down. (Yep, on a big piece of paper.)

Now you might have two or three persuasive messages that will work for this advert when aimed at that potential customer.

The next stage is to translate that into the design for an advert.

And it is ‘translation’. The best adverts simply say what the best salesperson would say in those circumstances but in a way that uses printed words and pictures rather than a smile and a handshake.

Designing the advert.

A good advert attracts people’s attention, it arouses their interest, it makes them desire the product and it calls them to action.

Grabbing their attention is usually the job of the headline or the picture or a combination of both.

And this is the stage that things can go wrong. In an effort to grab people’s attention it’s all too easy to choose a picture or write a headline that stands out but isn’t relevant to the message that you are trying to send or the people that you are talking to.

Any ideas that come up, check them against those two big pieces of paper pinned to your wall.

Remember that your advert needs to stand out when it is in a particular publication and at a specific size. Have a look through the magazine or newspaper that it’s going to appear in. How can you be different from everyone else in that environment?

Then draw a box on a piece of paper that is the actual size of your finished advert. Whatever you decide to say and show has to fit in there.

At some point, your advert will have to be designed on the computer but putting your ideas down with pen and paper makes you think more creatively. Doodling and scribbling help you think in a different way and it’s all too easy to get seduced by a stylish typeface or attractive picture when you see it on screen.

Words and pictures.

Most people will think up a headline first. The sentence that will be set in the biggest type and catch the readers attention.

Those words might need a picture to go with them or they might not. A good picture is, they say, worth a thousand words so a visual image is probably a good idea.

Pictures can be found in stock-shot libraries on the web, they might come from your suppliers in promotional material or you might want to hire a local photographer to take a particular shot for you.

Pictures are subject to copyright laws so make sure you have permission to use whatever images you choose.

You will also want to write some more words for your advert, the smaller text that is called ‘body copy’. That can explain your offer in greater detail and should end with a call to action; something that gets the reader to pick up the phone or drive around to your showroom.


Now that you have all your words and images, you can take them to the computer.

You might be doing the final layout of the advert yourself or you might be using a designer or the publication might have offered to design the advert for you.

Whatever the case, make sure the finished advert is as clear and un-cluttered as possible.

Don’t feel the need to fill all the space that you are buying. ‘White space’ in an advert can help it stand out on a busy page layout.

Try to use just one font or typeface. It makes the advert hang together better and look classier.

Don’t judge your design on the computer screen. Print off a copy that is the same size as the final advert and judge that.

Inspiration v. perspiration.

Looking at some adverts it’s easy to think that just ‘being wacky’ is the secret, but it isn’t.

Yes, you need to think creatively but as you can see a far larger part of the process comes down to knowing your customers and knowing your business.

Thinking up and designing a great advert takes time. Time to think and also time to leave it for a while and come back with fresh eyes. Time to change what isn’t quite right.

All that time will be time well spent. A powerful advert in the right publication can do wonders for your business.