`Toon It Up

Tired of the same old ad? Draw on cartoons to add some character.
Magazine Contributor
2 min read

This story appears in the January 2000 issue of Business Start-Ups magazine. Subscribe »

When the time came for Erik Sundquist, a second-generation custom-home builder in Redwood City, California, to take over the company reins from his father, he took a hard look at the firm's advertising--and decided it was time for a new generation of ads. He couldn't be more right. The current ad is a good start on a Sundquist family coat-of-arms, but it's missing the salesmanship that elevates it to an effective piece of advertising.

So what to do? How do you take a small-space ad and make it a head-turner for a home builder? And to make the project even more challenging, how can we give it enough noise for its first appearance: the game-day program for a Stanford University football game, a medium that converts from advertising vehicle to impromptu megaphone within 30 minutes of being purchased?

My idea is to appeal to the short attention span of the spectator (as well as any periodical reader) with cartoon characters conversing on the subject at hand. It's a respite from traditional advertising formats and therefore draws attention. Once pulled in, the reader continues into the short body copy that offers some elaboration.

As many readers know, I'm a big believer in cartooning as a way to attract the eye to an advertising message. It's fun to look at. It breaks the mold. It can make an impression. And it doesn't have to be expensive. The cartoon used here cost about $125--a small sum nowadays to flag down a prospect.


Although the big "S" gets your attention, it's more a great monogram than a great advertisement.

1. Avoid stacking the letters of words; doing so makes the ad harder to read.

2. "The Tradition is Building" is clever, but will it make people lunge for the phone?


Cartoons are easy on the eye and are likely to draw readers in.

1. Even the most disinterested person can't resist reading captions on cartoons.

2. Make sure you pick a cartoon style that is both fun and fits your product.

Jerry Fisher is a freelance advertising copywriter in the San Francisco Bay area and author of Creating Successful Small Business Advertising(available through Bookmasters, 800-247-6553). If you'd like Jerry to consider your materials for a makeover in this column, write to him c/o Entrepreneur or e-mail him at jerry228@aol.com

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