Improve your ad

I’m including here a short guide to better advertising design. Although I’ve focussed on real estate, the same principles apply to all design. Remember though, rules are meant to be broken. The instruction here is not hard-and-fast. If you find something better that works for you – go for it!

Gather your information

Decide what content you would like to present the reader. Remember that with limited space all you elements compete for attention. This means that if you have a large amount of text describing a property, it will eat into areas that might have been used for pictures.

After you have gathered your information, prioritise the importance of each element in a numbered list. For example:

  1. Suburb
  2. Price
  3. Address
  4. Contact details
  5. Description

Get your pictures

Remember the principles of photography and design. There area many good books on photography available. From a publishing point of view the photos have to have a good light distribution, or dynamic range. That means the black should look black, the whites white, and all other shades should be distributed evenly.

There are a number of other important facts to remember:

  • Papers such as newsprint tend to darken any image slightly
  • Night-photos look better on-screen because monitors are “back-lit” and must be lightened substantially for printing.
  • You can crop an image down in size, or reduce the resolution of a picture, but you cannot get more in your picture or increase your resolution.

Always use well lit, well copped and high resolution images. It is also woth learning to use Adobe Photoshop’s Levels and Curves tools.

Cropping is used to make minor adjustments to an image along the top, bottom and sides of an image. I can be used for little corrections such as removing light poles from the edges of photos. Because we can crop, it is always useful when taking a photo, to take a step backwards and get a little more in the photo. This way important elements will not be missed out, but unimportant elements can be removed.

For example, group photos wont have arms removed, and properties will display the full size of their frontage. Cropping an image also allows for images to be centred property to attract attention to the most important elements.

Remember the principles of good design

Good design requires a creativity, but certain guiding principles will make you ad better from the outset:

Understand the eye – In western society our eyes enter the page at the top left and exit at the bottom right. The information should roughly follow that line in order of size. For example, suburbs and pictures go at the top of the page and property write-ups go lower. A customer will make a faster judgement on a pictures appearance than a verbose walk-through. Finally, the lower right hand corner is a strong position as people are used to seeing company information in that location.

Group important and similar information – Contact and company details should be kept together. Likewise, important information should be kept together.

Pay attention to convention – People are accustomed to certain ad designs. If everyone else’s logos is at the bottom of the page, place yours there as well.

When in doubt, justify left – Avoid centre justification and only use right justification to balance an advertisement.

Avoid clichés – Avoid them like the plague. Space is better used to describe a property accurately then using non-descriptive text, or text the mind simply passes over. For example, “Location, location, location, would be better dedicated to saying, “Solar hot-water system.”

Check your copy – Copy is the text of an advertisement. Poor grammar and spelling, for many people, are the hallmarks of a person unconcerned with their work and presentation. Your advertisement is your first point of contact with a client and you need to make a good impression. Use a word-processors with spelling and grammar. Desktop publishing software is usually not on par with word processing software and it also helps to get other peoples’ opinions.

A quick workshop

We’ll start with an average advertisement –

  1. All capital letters makes text less readable due to it’s lack of kerning
  2. A strong picture is central but lacking size. If the picture/attention getter is good the reader will look for more information.
  3. This text and heading are uninformative and loaded with clichés. Purchasers often have certain features they are looking for.
  4. The contact information is larger than the body text which should receive more attention. Also, the dinkus competes with the corporate logo.
  5. Corporate logos are more recognisable than people and by convention should be at the page exit. Purchasers often have certain features they are looking for, so those take precedent over logos.

And now we’ll fix the mistakes –

  1. The strong picture becomes the locus of the advertisement and a power tool.
  2. The most important information if highlighted and located in our picture for quickest cognitive access.
  3. Our copy is informative and clear, providing a concise overview.
  4. A reader who gets this far knows where to go for more information and the logo is in a strong position.