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We've recently been creating a lot of ads for clients. So much so, in fact, that I thought it would be a good time to revisit the subject of advertising, a marketing activity I rarely recommend because of the cost. Most everyone is aware that to be effective advertisements need to appear frequently, a fact that can quickly run up costs to tens of thousands of dollars. It's why advertising is regarded as out of reach for all but the big-budget players.

Lately, however, we've been seeing some pretty enticing deals being offered by daily newspapers, trade publications, and even outdoor advertising companies. While prices may have come down a bit, advertising can still be expensive, so it shouldn't be undertaken without careful planning.


Since I've written about the importance of brand strategy often over the past year, I'll be brief. Start with research to define your market, then develop a clearly articulated brand platform to define your visual and verbal message. The research doesn't have to be extensive or expensive, but it should at minimum include surveys of at least 40 customers and prospects to be statistically viable. It's always a good idea to include employees in the assessment, too, since they are the ones most intimately involved with your brand.

Your brand strategy document should include your core brand principle (no more than four or five words that define your company's raison d'etre), functional and emotional benefits you provide, value propositions for each audience segment, and a positioning statement vis a vis competitors. It's also very helpful to have gleaned from the research three or four words that customers and prospects most frequently use to describe your company's personality and attributes. Those are the words that will resonate strongly with your audiences.


At a time when most printing companies are in bare-bones maintenance mode, now is a great time to raise your visibility and position your brand as a "thriver not a survivor" to use a phrase coined by our local PIA affiliate. If you have the resources, advertising can be the perfect medium to achieve this.

We all know too well that the advertising world was one of the hardest hit sectors of the economy following 9/11 and the dot-com bust. Today, newspapers and magazines are a shadow of themselves in the boom years. As a result, many are selling ad space at bargain basement rates.

We just launched a fun campaign for a client, a San Mateo, CA, reprographer with large- and small-format color and b/w digital print capabilities, as well as an online asset management system. It was a series of ads in a local newspaper appearing every Wednesday with front-page placement in the business section.

To contain design costs, we created a total of fourteen ads that would run in a sequential loop. Each of the ads played on the headline idea, with each promoting a specific capability. "Smart" and "clever" are two of our client's key brand attributes, so we created ads that were, too. Examples: "Woman startles masked intruder" was one headline, with "Burglar stunned by full-color employee handbook" as the subhead. "Technology experts praise 'intelligent data'" was another headline, with "Archiving solution revolutionizes information storage and retrieval" as the subhead. Another headline screamed "Interstate investigation ends in San Mateo," with "Search identifies Bay Area firm as premier digital imaging resource" as the subhead. You get the idea. Our client's logo and a tagline appear to the right of the headline. If you'd like a PDF of the entire series, send an email to

Placement is a critical factor in ensuring advertising results. Generally, the following placements are considered the best: Inside front cover, inside back cover, and back cover; opposite the TOC (Table of Contents); the right page of an open spread; and FOB (front-of-book).

There are always exceptions. For the same client above, the San Francisco Business Times presented an attractive offer, a small ad (unfortunately it was too small) that would run directly under a column known to be widely read by our client's customer base of architects, contractors, and real estate developers.


Another innovative advertising campaign we just launched involved the design and production of a series of well-designed posters (150) for a high-end espresso house here in San Francisco to be posted on lamp posts for three months in a three block radius of the store, a la political campaign posters. The concept is to direct foot traffic from key public transport stops along main downtown arteries to the store. We found a company that prints, hangs, and takes down the signs, all for $4,500. Not only were we blown away by the affordability of the program, we've successfully leveraged the innovative campaign to get feature coverage for the firm.

So, don't discount advertising in your marketing plans, and don't be shy to ask us for help.

Charlotte Mills Seligman is president of Traversant Marketing Communications. The firm specializes in planning and executing integrated marketing programs for printing and allied graphic arts companies, with nearly two decades of expertise in the industry. Previous columns and issues of the company's Ti Monthly e-newsletter are posted on Inquiries should be directed to (415) 357-2929 or charlotte

© 2004 Charlotte Mills Seligman

January 20, 2004
Print & Graphics
Col. #59, 1/04
Printing Journal
Col #59, 1/04
Creative Advertising
By Charlotte Mills Seligman

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