Are you paying attention? How about now? How long will this post be able to hold your attention? Especially when you have so many other demands on your attention both in the digital realm and the real world. Is your attention starting to wander now? Are you considering clicking away? It’s okay if the answer’s yes. We’re trying to prove a point.
Remember… You chose to click on this post!
If your attention is starting to wander now, imagine the limited window of attention your printed advertising copy has. The unpalatable (but unavoidable) truth is that your target market is veritably swimming in advertising copy. They see such an abundance of it in the real world and on the screen of every digital device they open. It gets to the point where they tune it out and it becomes part of the background noise of their daily life.
How will you cut through that noise and make your call to action heard?
Let’s look at some attention-grabbing tips for printed ads…
Know your medium
Before you sit down to design your printed copy, think about the medium upon which it will be printed. Will your copy appear on leaflets? Business card style ads? Roller banners, wide roller banners or double sided roller banners? The size and dimensions of your canvas will have an impact on the style and content of your copy.
If your canvas is smaller (like a leaflet) you have less room with which to work which means you will need to write copy with brevity. However, a larger canvas like a roller banner, doesn’t mean that you get to be a blabbermouth.
We are conditioned to avert our attention when we see large chunks of text. It just feels too much like hard work. With this in mind, your copy should…
Let your images do the talking
We human beings have been communicating with one another through images long before we started assigning meaning to the little scribbles we now call letters. Our eyes enjoy images. We find them aesthetically pleasing and (whether we know it or not) we’re highly adept at deriving meaning from images.
Using your original, unique artwork in your copy can help you to tell a story with your advertising copy. Choose colours and iconography that recall and complement your brand. Choose images which will grab the viewer’s attention. Our eyes are naturally drawn to familiar images which is why most advertising copy tends to contain other people, animals, trees, clouds, plants etc.
Experiment with the interplay between text and image to communicate your message in a way that is visually engaging and narratively intriguing for the viewer.
Illustration or photography?
While, in the digital world, it’s easier than ever to create virtually photorealistic illustrations, it’s worth considering whether your message would be more succinctly conveyed by illustration or photography.
Both have their merits, but both are interpreted slightly differently by viewers. Illustrations lend your copy a sense of whimsy, but because we tend to associate illustrations with picture books they can be infantalising. Photography on the other hand can look quotidian but it’s a great way to capture nuances of texture which make the image more vivid for viewers (especially useful when advertising food).
Colours have enormous semiotic value and looking at colours tends to trigger subconscious associations for the viewer. As such, you can’t afford to make decisions about colour arbitrarily.
It’s likely that you’ll want to use colours which are copacetic with your branding. After all, you chose the colours for your logo and other branded materials because they were eye-catching and visually engaging, right? Your first instinct may be to use brighter and bolder colours. These are the colours to which the eye is most readily drawn, and this is absolutely fine… just as long as these colours are congruous with your message. If you have a serious message to get across, you may wish to use more sombre colours for the bulk of your copy and introduce flashes of colour in sections pertaining to your branding.
Become a font of knowledge
Your choice in fonts is very important. You may have commissioned a designer to create a font just for your brand. If so, use this sparingly. Use it in sections that contain a call to action or a direct reference to your brand, but using it throughout the copy can detract from your message and the impact of the font.
Your choice in font will depend largely on the kind of tone you want to strike with your copy. There’s no way anyone will take you seriously, for example, if you use Comic Sans or Papyrus. You should also consider how decipherable your text is on your canvas size and shape using different fonts. If you’re using a larger canvas like a roller banner, it’s useful if your copy is legible even from a distance. If your copy is only legible when the reader is right up close, the window in which you can engage them becomes more limited.
The shape of your message
Whether your copy is on a leaflet, a poster or a wide roller banner, the shape of your canvas will have a knock-on effect on your copy. If the message you need to get across is heavily reliant on text, you may find that a portrait shaped medium is best. This is because most text-heavy media tend to be this shape. We expect it from books, newspapers and magazines and so it is simply more palatable when displayed in a portrait format.
Landscape formats, on the other hand, are great for photography or illustration heavy copy as it gives the images plenty of room to breathe and is a format in which we traditionally tend to expect artwork.
Address the reader
We’re conditioned to pay attention when someone (or something addresses us directly). As such, there’s value in grabbing the viewer’s attention with a punch headline that uses direct reader address. It helps viewers to form a relationship with your brand and stands a better chance of grabbing their increasingly fickle attention.
Once you have a reader’s attention, they will be much more amenable to learning about how your business, services and products can benefit them.