The 1st 7 Seconds Rule for Newspaper Ads

by TedV

Newspaper ads can be a gamble for small businesses because of the expense. General consensus is that you need an ongoing budget for news ads, because you must advertise on some sort of regular basis to build and fuel consumer awareness. This is for the most part true, and the larger the ad (that is, more expensive) the better the chances of it being noticed and read.

Only the Principles of Relevance Marketing can help you succeed with smaller ads and less frequent ad placements, though you do need to advertise consistently to some degree.

One-time ads or short duration ad campaigns can work. For a one-time ad to succeed, it needs to be very large, instantly attention grabbing, and visually compelling. This usually only works for an event, such as a big sale. (Advertising big sales events grates on me. You spend a lot of money to get people to come and give you less money for your products than they normally would.) One-time ads should also follow the Principles of Relevance Marketing, because after you gain the reader’s attention, there is no guarantee that he or she will read any further or decide to take favorable action.

In spite of this, every day in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel I find a lot of ads that are a waste of money – and a few real gems. I read a few news articles each day if that many, but I examine every ad in the paper.

A Great Local Ad Series Example

Most lawyers that advertise in newspapers or elsewhere fit the ambulance chaser profile. The television ads for these firms here in Milwaukee are viciously competitive, even going to the length of attacking each other’s advertising styles. And don’t get me started on the TV and radio ads for mesothelioma class action suits.

Traditionally attorneys have used personal contacts to garner clients. They were perhaps the original networkers, calling it rainmaking. My brother Jeff Vinzani is a lawyer in Charleston, SC. He concentrates on general business law primarily dealing with complex real estate and finance transactions. He’s been an outstanding rainmaker for decades, and he’s developing quite a Rainmaking 2.0 reputation for himself on LinkedIn and Twitter.

That being said, I want to point to a great series of local newspaper ads by a law firm in Milwaukee that specializes in tax law. Here’s their first ad that caught my eye:

First Tax Attorney Ad


Right to the point and the header asks as a question – questions always make people think. Carefully used white text knocked out of a black background catches the eye and takes you right to their main point:

If you have tax issues read on. If not, go to the next ad.

Their ad continues with objective proof that the firm is worthy of your trust by mentioning their Martindale-Hubbell rating.

Here are two other ads this firm runs in the paper. Both follow the Principles of Relevance Marketing:

Second Tax Attorney Ad

Third Tax Attorney Ad

Ad Two starts with a quote from a Milwaukee Magazine survey of other attorneys. Other Milwaukee attorneys say this firm is tops. Notice the phrase “trouble with the IRS” figures prominently in the ad headline.

Their last ad I’ve placed here has a great headline also asked in the form of a question. If you don’t have tax problems, don’t call these guys – go to another law firm. This third ad also includes a list, not of services they offer, but of tax problems they solve. If you have these problems, call them.

They have run these ads and a few more for at least several years in Milwaukee. Over a year ago, another law firm started advertising in the paper with similar sized ads on the same page as this firm. Those ads ran for a month or two and then stopped. Some ambitious ad sales rep probably went to these other attorneys and pointed to the success of my example tax law firm with newspaper advertising.

The new law firm decided they would advertise about all of the different services they offered, so the ad was all about them. Their ad listed these services:

Estate Planning
T-19 Medicaid
Real Estate
and more

They talked all about their firm and what they do – not about the problems their potential clients might have. As I said this firm advertised for a while and quit. Specificity, targeting prospective clients, and talking about the client problems serves my example tax law firm very well, and probably explains the waste in advertising dollars for the other.

This is a good place to point out one of the chief aids to help you determine if an advertisement is effective or not. I’m not talking about businesses such as grocery stores that have to advertise in the newspapers regularly because all of their competitors do. But for businesses not forced to, successful advertising is advertising that keeps on showing up in the paper. It’s too expensive to keep doing it if it doesn’t produce.

A Top Notch Medical Newspaper Ad

I hold mixed feelings about hospitals and pharmaceutical companies advertising. I think most of it wastes money that drives up costs needlessly. Press releases and good public relations should create enough public awareness, but I won’t say these businesses shouldn’t advertise at all. I wrote earlier about good and bad pharmaceutical advertising.

Announcement ads are a good idea for hospitals and medical practices. I especially like such ads when they offer free services as in the seminar ad example below:

The knocked-out text identifies those the ad addresses – seizure sufferers. The title of the seminar is the next large text block, and let me say it is a great ad headline as well as a terrific seminar title from a marketing point of view. The intention of both is to cause people to want to come to the seminar.

A Nationally Developed and Locally Run Ad

This ad proves itself as effective because it has been run all over the country in local newspapers only with address and event date changes. For the most part, these seminar ads are it’s sole means of bringing new customers for the business. So they have been refined over time to the brilliant piece of marketing you see.

Their whole message is all given in the 1st 7 seconds – the prospects’ problem, their solution, their guarantee, and the cost. They have supporting evidence that follows, but a person determined to stop smoking could go straight to the phone with the toll free number listed.

Now, hypnosis has been proven to help people with a number of other types of problems. The ad could be all about hypnosis or the hypnotist himself, but this ad was about the prospects and one problem they want to solve – brilliant Relevance Marketing.

There’s Gold in Them There Ads

My final ad example shows how a small company can compete with a big advertising flurry. This coin dealer has been advertising for years with ads about like this one.

There seems to be a rage around the country now for hotel shows where people come to sell their gold and silver coins and jewelry. In Milwaukee there have been times when these travelling groups have advertised with full, double page spreads each day for a week before the actual show starts. CAUTION – Most of these operations pay you a fraction of what you could get from even the shadier pawnshops. Go to a good local pawnshop or jeweler to make your sales, or go to this coin shop.

They advertise regularly as I’ve mentioned, but they also run these ads in the same section of the paper with the big ads when one of these operations comes to town. Very wise and good business.

The large ads for gold buying shows arouse a lot of attention, but they also create a wariness in many. If people want to sell their precious metal items but don’t trust the “circus” approach, here is another ad for a local shop that has been here in Milwaukee for years – good stuff.

Local newspaper advertising can be very effective if you use an easy to see, attention grabbing header title all about your prospects. Then you have to say something to readers that is all about solving their problems in a believable way. These companies shown above have succeeded.

You can too, using the Principles of Relevance Marketing.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

physician assistant April 26, 2010 at 11:22 pm

Terrific work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the web. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this post higher!

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