Looks Good on Paper

Your business deserves an ad that's just begging for attention.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the May 2002 issue of Entrepreneurs Start-Ups magazine. Subscribe »

Charitable still has an air of special currency and poignancy since last year's terrorist attacks. And United Way hopes to touch on those feelings in the ad shown here.

Besides the thought-provoking message in the copy (which I'll get to in a moment), the overall look of the ad deserves commendation. It's quiet and minimal, yet graphically arresting. This makes it stand out in the typically busy bazaar of a monthly magazine.

Notice how the paper dolls have been given a background shadow to "lift" them off the page for added realism. Such effects add much to the ad's impact. But what exactly do the paper dolls mean? And why is the middle doll in a different color? These questions just might cause readers to pause for a second to find out the answers. And that earns the ad an A+ in "stop-ability." Indeed, if you can get prospects to put on the brakes-even for a moment-and give your ad a glance, you've achieved a lot in a world that's a blur of advertising images.

Remember that readers are typically on the way to somewhere else when they're flipping--or clicking--past your ad. So if you think of your competition as simply the other advertisers, think again. It's the editorial matter that's your biggest rival, along with that old bugaboo, indifference. Thus, you need to ask yourself: Does my ad truly interrupt readers enough that they'll stop before going on to the movie review they're after on page 43? In truth, the majority of ads are so instantly forgettable that they give short attention span a good name.

As for the body copy of the United Way ad, these are the words: "While you're thinking about whether to give this year, here's something else to think about. Sooner or later, the United Way helps one in three people in our community. And you never know when you or someone you love might be . . . the one." Here, the phrase "the one" drops down a bit over the blue-hued paper doll-a small touch that helps draw the eye.

Will this ad, timed to coincide with other outreach efforts, spur contributions? Maybe. But I'd bolster it with a list of some of the organizations that get support and funding from United Way. That way, if readers have empathy toward a particular organization, they'll be more motivated to contribute.

Jerry Fisher is a freelance advertising copywriter and author of Creating Successful Small Business Advertising.

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