Make Sure Your Print Ad Passes the 2-Second Test

By Rebecca Geier | CEO and Co-Founder

While there continues to be a shift in marketing dollars to “new media” in the digital realm, where impressions, clickthroughs, and other metrics are easily tracked, there is still a place for traditional print advertising. But it has to pass the 2-second test - the time a reader will give to your ad before turning the page!

Here are a few tips to make your print ad dollars really count, and increase your chance that readers won't turn the page after 2 seconds. I’ll reference a recent ad we did for client Geotest to illustrate the points.

One message…say it and show it

With this ad, the key message was "semiconductor test", and we said that nearly 10 different ways, such as "SoC", "digital I/O with per-pin PMU", and "digital and mixed-signal test"

  • This message represents 41% of all the words in the entire ad (32 words out of 78 total).
  • We visually communicate this message through a large, eye-catching, colorful feature image of packaged ICs sitting atop a diced wafer.


Headlines - where it all stops or starts

Ad research, and common sense, tells us that headlines - in ads, articles, billboards, you name it - are what our eyes go to first. People spend about 2 seconds to decide if they'll read more or move on, and that decision is almost solely based on their interest from reading the headline

  • You only have 2 seconds - so keep headlines very short and interesting
  • There is no silver bullet to the perfect headline. It can be creative. Straightforward. A play on words. One word. A spec. The key is to know your readership in the magazine where your ad will be placed, know the specific key and 2nd tier messaging of the ad, and then tailor the headline to best engage that readership to communicate that message.
  • In this ad, the headline communicates credibility - adoption of "Big Industry" - and a key product benefit - the small size of the module, "Small Footprint".
  • It also communicates a product, via the model number, "GX5295", another key message that a new product was being announced.

Clean, consistent branding

I often find myself looking at ads and trying to figure out who the actual company is who is spending this money trying to get my attention. If I have to look more than 1-2 seconds to find the advertising company, the money is totally wasted.

  • As shown below, cleanly and clearly present the company logo, easy to find and read contact information, and ensure the ad is consistent with other company offline and online marketing.
  • Make sure to have a relevant, targeted call-to-action with the company URL or customized landing page to direct readers to take the next step.

Stay on-message, prioritize with cues

The total word count in this ad, from headline to call-to-action (CTA), is 78 words. Total.

  • Readers of this ad can learn every important message with 30 words total – headline and sub-heads, and treated copy in bullets.
  • This copy is prioritized for readers through font treatment - bold, blue, all caps - to bring emphasis to words.

Creatively communicate 2nd tier messages

One of the biggest mistakes in advertising is trying to communicate too much. For every word or message you ad, you dilute the other words or messages that much more. Prioritze your messages – know what the most important message is and lead with that visually and in copy. Then, identify your 2nd tier messages and find creative ways to communicate those.

  • In this ad, one 2nd tier message is the industries the new product is ideally suited for. To keep the word count low, subtle icons were used to visually communicate this aspect of the product.
  • Another 2nd tier message was the announcement of a new product - the GX5295 - for digital test. This was done both in the headline, subhead and also in the smaller feature image of the module.

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Rebecca Geier

CEO and Co-Founder