Thursday, January 12, 2012


Photo: Print ad by DDB Sydney for McDonald's

by Roger Pe
Philippine Daily Inquirer
January 13, 2011

Even Moses knew exactly how to use the power of print. He wrote the Ten Commandments in stone to make them eternally imprinted in our minds.

No print, no inscription of history. No print, no publishing. No print, no marketing. No print, what is advertising?

Early human beings used symbols and carved their own alphabets in caves to communicate.

In ancient times, Filipinos printed a rich tale of culture on bamboos, leaves and bark of trees. With the invention of printing press by Johannes Gutenberg, lithography, rotogravure, offset and other forms of printing, advertising exploded.

And we thought print advertising would fade away when digital age beckoned. No. As new media and technology appeared and permutated in different exciting forms, print still lorded it over. And how.

“Print advertising is still king even when online version of newspapers made us new-media savvy,” a top advertising media director said.

“While some newspapers’ circulation declined, new media offered advertisers a wider avenue for their products to be seen,” he said.

“If you missed the hardcopy, you can see the online version anywhere you go where there is wifi and on smartphones,” he emphasized.

Imagine a book without words, a newspaper without typography, a resto without photographs on the menu, a website without softwares, a virtual page without links for us to browse and navigate on.

Imagine a world without the basics: pen and ink. Picture a billboard with nothing but a blank frame. Imagine if Rizal had not written his “Noli” and “Fili” manuscripts.

What good are androids and other sophisticated communication gadgets if we’re unable to read messages that give us information and brainpower?

Without print, life has no news, a brand is without identity and advertising is like a man without arms and two legs.

How far has print advertising taken us with the changing times? Let’s take a brief refresher course.

For the benefit of marketing freshmen, multi-media advertising and communication arts students, Business Friday gives you a little background on this most effective marketing tool – what it is and how it is created.


A print ad is a piece of advertising you see in a newspaper or magazine.

It is a primary medium (above-the-line) and has several sub-categories (below-the-line): Out-of-home (billboard, transit ads, ambient, etc), merchandising collaterals (brochures, leaflets, menus, annual reports, direct marketing, etc.)

Print ads come in different sizes: from small (one column (width) by “x” number of centimeters (height) to 9 columns by 53 centimeters – the full-page of a standard newspaper).

All of them have one goal -- sell a product, a service, or a brand.

The two main elements of a print ad are: Copy, the words you see, created by the copywriter, author of idea and messages in the ad, and Visuals (photographs, graphic designs or illustrations) laid out by the art director, the visual specialist who makes sure the ad is appealing to viewers.

The physical make-up of a standard print ad has:

Lead-in - a teaser that introduces the main message to create excitement, usually found on top of the ad.

Headline - the strongest element in the ad, always written in big, bold fonts like in newspapers, provocative, compelling, intriguing and attention getting.

Subhead – reinforces the main message, usually contains the reasons-to-believe for your consumer promise, slightly smaller than the headline.

Body - the whole informative content that carries all details about the product. It can be a one line or just a paragraph.

Tagline - a well-crafted catchphrase or slogan that encapsulizes either the following: brand persona, what the product promises to deliver, a distinct point of difference written in a few, memorable words.

Slogans are not cast in stone. Top brands change their slogans all the time. There are good and great slogans. The great ones can stand alone without qualifiers or visuals.

There are no hard and fast rules in doing a print ad, unless they offend. “Rules are what the creative mind or artist breaks,” so goes the Bernbach saying.

A print ad can sometimes have no need for words or pictures. A powerful photo can be a ‘headline’, and deliver the message without words, in the same manner as a picture can speak a thousand words.

An ad can be all-copy, with nary an image. It can be a great ad if the message breaks an existing belief and delivers a new truth or insight so overpowering it changes perceptions.


It goes without saying that a great headline deserves an equally great picture. One less, the other is a letdown.

Want a bigger impact? Use a picture that defies the ordinary. A visual that portrays what the headline is already saying is literally boring. One that strengthens the idea is remembered for a longer time.

Partner with a great art director who has ‘eye’ for excellent photography, illustration, graphics and appropriate typestyle.

The look of your ad tells people who you are and the kind of product you are advertising. Badly crafted ads give impression of low quality.

See the value of white space.

Many advertisers do not see this. Filling every available space in the ad can spell the difference between crass and good taste.

Just because you paid for that media space doesn’t mean every periphery of the ad must have your footprint. Know that the eye doesn’t want to look at clutter. An ‘overcrowded’ ad suffocates your reader.

Believe that size doesn’t matter. A sloppy, unoriginal big ad with nothing relevant to say is a bigger waste of client’s money down the drain.

Definitely know that the win-win situation is: Big Idea plus Big Media frequency, (and big size if you can afford it) can never go wrong.

Lastly, remember another Bernbach line: “One great print ad can do the power of ten.”