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How Often Do I Change My Print Ad?

Three questions to ask before making any adjustments

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Q: Is there a rule of thumb for how long you should run a new print ad in a magazine? My client wants to change ads every two months, and I have advised him to let the ads run for three to four months before we change them. We will maintain a similar look and feel, just change copy and colors (blue and yellow, blue and green, etc.).

A: As with most questions about advertising, the answer starts with "it depends." Ask yourself the following three questions:

1. How often is the magazine published-weekly, monthly or quarterly? If the magazine is published on a monthly or quarterly basis, there is a real lag time between issues. Publications "hang around" until the next issue shows up (weekly publications stay put for a week; monthly publications stay for a month) but that does not necessarily mean they get read more often than a newspaper that gets tossed daily. Certainly less than a publication like TV Guide that tends to get picked up constantly.

There's no guide to help you make this decision as there is in radio and TV, where you have "numbers" that indicate where your audience can be found. Instead, publications offer "circulation" figures, which only reveal how many copies are delivered to homes or purchased on the stand, not how many people read each copy.

2. What geographical territory does the magazine cover? How many locations do you have, and where do they fit in to the magazine's circulation areas? Many national magazines have "local" sections, which means you can run your ad in, say, the Northeast or Southwest section of the country instead of paying for unnecessary nationwide coverage. This allows you to narrow the focus of your advertising dollars and still use a publication that can bring instant credibility to your business, whether you have one or several locations within that region. You may have flipped through a copy of Time or Newsweek and found an ad for a jeweler or clothier in your town and thought, "Wow!" It's impressive, and worth the money even for a single location.

3. What are you trying to accomplish? Are you a brand-new business that needs to build name awareness from ground zero? Or are you well-known in the territory the magazine covers? If you're new, you should not switch the copy with every ad before you give readers a chance to get a general sense of your overall business, where an established business can successfully run new body text in each issue. In either case, you need to develop a design template for your print ads that will be easily recognized and recalled, and then continually work within that structure for maximum impact.

Change colors only where it will not take away from the overall recognition factor of the ad. Consistent use of color can be an effective way to make your design memorable, so if color is an integral part of your logo or background, I wouldn't mess with that. I would only recommend that you vary them if the integrity of your original design does not depend on color. You can do that perhaps by changing colored flags in the upper left corner of the ads to signal a new product or "deal," or in a coupon section of the ad.

So the answer to your question "depends" on your answers to these questions. Know what they are before you buy.

Kathy Kobliski is the founder and president of Silent Partner Advertising, where she oversees multimedia advertising budgets for retail and service clients. Her book, Advertising Without an Agency, was written for businesses owners who are working with small advertising budgets and can't afford professional help. You can reach Kathy via her website at www.silentpartneradvertising.com.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.