How Bad Ads Can Undermine Good Practices: Get Your Message in Print Properly and New Patients Will Follow
Written by Sherry Weinstein, MA Tuesday, 31 August 2004 19:00
"No Pain, No Gain!” the headline bellows. If the clichéd message in this ad were plugging a local gym or fitness center, we certainly wouldn’t think ill of it, as it seems a perfectly appropriate appeal from a muscle-manufacturing venue. But when that same headline is used to lure the reader to—of all places—an orthodontic practice, it takes on quite a different aura.
Above All, Do No Harm
WHAT MAKES A GOOD PRACTICE AD?
First of all, make sure you are in compliance with your state’s ad-vertising regulations, then consider the following components when constructing an ad:
(1) A clever headline that promises the reader a benefit or contains news. Five times as many people read the headline than those who read body copy, so make it irresistible.
(2) An interesting visual, either graphic, illustration, or photo. Some headlines can stand alone with no visual needed. For example: Nothing Lights Up a Room Like a Beautiful Smile.
(3) A subhead that kindles the reader’s interest and eagerness for more information.
(4) Body copy that leads readers to the precise action you want them to take.
(5) Design or copy should never overpower your message. Make sure your ad’s copy and graphic elements are clean, well-designed, and orderly, leaving plenty of white space (breathing room).
(6) Practice logo and tagline.
(7) Location (ie, corner of 5th and Main) followed by complete address.
(8) Contact information—phone number, Web site, e-mail address.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD AD GREAT?
Use humor, surprise, desire, or fear to involve the reader instantly. Some dentists have gotten rave reviews on ads showing a photo of a gopher next to a photo of a beautiful smile. The trick here is to know your target market.
MAKING YOUR TYPE READER-FRIENDLY
Good typography will help your reader grasp what you’re trying to say. Bad typography can foil the chance of your reader getting your message. Here are some guidelines to keep bad typography at bay and avoid making your ad one of those bad ones that happens to good practices:
- All caps can impede reading. Save the all-caps mode for small areas of copy, like headlines. The same goes for all italics.
- Don’t confuse your reader with too many different fonts.
- Don’t put a period at the end of a headline. It’s like a full stop that will obstruct your reader from going further. A question mark where applicable, on the other hand, encourages the reader to go on to find the answer.
- Serif typefaces, like Times New Roman, are generally easier to read than sans-serif typefaces, like Gill Sans. The serifs help the eye distinguish the shape of the letter.
- Use bold face or italic for key words or ideas.
- For long body copy, use a drop cap on the first word of the first paragraph to increase interest and readership.
- Another option for long body copy is the use of 2 or more columns.
Increase readership with the use of leading (line spacing) between paragraphs. It gives the eye a much-needed break and makes copy less tedious to read.
- Reverse type—white type on a black background—is far more difficult to read than black type on a white background. Use it in moderation, if at all.
- Make sure that the type size you use is not too big or too small.
Remember that you want to make it as easy as possible for your reader to read and be motivated by your intended message. Prospective patients can’t be influenced by ads they don’t notice. Worse yet, ads they find confusing or boring will leave them with a poor impression of you. No pain, no gain doesn’t work here either.
WHO ARE YOU TRYING TO REACH? WHERE WILL YOU FIND THEM?
THE FATAL 8 POINTS TO KEEP IN MIND
(1) Don’t ever use an awful headline like “Are You a Dental Chicken?” or “We Cater to Cowards.” If you’re really sold on that concept, use something that’s not so demeaning, like “Afraid of Going to the Dentist?”
(2) Don’t ever consider using the old smiley tooth icon. It has been laid to rest, as has the animated toothbrush. Yours is a professional practice, and although hu-mor may be used to give life to an ad, corny symbols of dentistry will never be up to the task.
(3) Don’t ever let the headline repeat what’s in the visual (graphic, illustration, or photo). The two must tell the story together, but in different ways.
(4) Don’t ever allow your creative team to mistake a bright idea for the right idea.
(5) Don’t ever forget that when an ad using logic and an ad using emotion are put head to head, emotion will win out, hands down.
(6) Don’t ever be caught short. Always have a current ad on hand—either a camera-ready slick or an electron-ic file—for those times when you get approached by your child’s teacher on Friday for an ad journal going to print on Monday.
(7) Don’t ever allow a publication to do your ad layout and design. It’s true that you get what you pay for.
(8) Don’t ever let your patient write your ad. That can be as big a mistake as your patient extracting your tooth. With a wave of his or her magic wand, a good copywriter can make the difference between an awful ad and awesome one. Isn’t that worth the price of admission?
ONE LAST THOUGHT
Advertising should be viewed as an investment, not an expense. As such, it must ultimately generate more than it costs. The truth is this: you can probably afford not to advertise. But you surely cannot afford not to advertise wisely. Keep in mind, therefore, that the wise man lowers a ladder before he jumps into the pit.
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