Best PracticesMay 9th, 2016

3 Ways to Create Better-Performing Print Ads


Newspapers, magazines, and sales booklets across the country are filled with advertisements for auto dealers, and it’s a strange fact that nearly all of the print ads look the same.

Do yourself a favor and pick up one of these print publications. If you don’t have a copy immediately available, go to Google Images and type in the phrase “auto dealer newspaper ad.” Then, think about one word that best describes the entirety of the ads you see. I have a word, and the word is clutter. I’m guessing you thought of a similar word. One of the most important concepts of advertising is to not be a lemming. If you do exactly what everyone else does, customers and prospects will not pay an extra second to your advertisement. Instead, think creatively. Put on a customer hat, and think to yourself, “If I were shopping for a family vehicle (or insert other category of auto), what type of information would get my attention?” The following are a few tips that will change your print ads for the better so that you can enjoy dramatically improved results.

1. Cut clutter, embrace white

Employing white space in print advertising is a key concept taught at advertising colleges around the country. When print designers get an auto dealership gig, however, they tend to throw their old textbooks out the window and insert 2,000 pictures of cars and trucks with prices into every square inch and centimeter. This may be an exaggeration, but often just barely. The truth is that white space is especially important in an industry that never uses it. Why? Simply imagine a large newspaper page filled with the cluttered ads, and then picture one that has a lot of white space. Where does your eye go first? My eye goes to the ad with the white space, because my brain tells me the advertiser is highlighting something more important than the clutter.

2. Fewer cars, more specifics

Ask yourself a key question: Are you selling cars, or are you selling prices? Ads with dozens of pictures of cars and their prices are selling price alone. These advertisers assume prospective customers already know what kind of vehicle they are going to purchase, and if the price is right, they will stop in immediately and sign on the dotted line. Although this is occasionally the case, you end up missing out on a very large percentage of buyers who haven’t narrowed their search down to a single model. Instead, take three or four vehicles that you’d like to highlight for that day, week, or month.

These could be overstocked inventory or new models. They could be your highest-margin autos. Whatever the case, list between three and seven bullet points about why each of them is an excellent choice. For example, a family sedan might tout “Front and side impact airbags for superior safety” or “Expanded rear seat legroom for maximum comfort.” Talk to your salespeople to find out what features customers ask for, or are impressed to find out about. Be sure to mention these at the top of the list of bullet points. Don’t assume everyone already knows about these features. Most won’t.

3. Call to action with a deadline

In a prominent space on the ad, tell customers exactly what they should do next. Many advertisers don’t do this because they think it should be obvious. After all, the contact information is listed at the bottom. All customers have to do is call the number or find the address and stop in, right? Not exactly. In the real world, lacking a call to action means that you are missing out on sales. Here is an example of one that works: “Call (555) 555-2225 or stop by our showroom on Diller Highway between Haggard and Tecumseh Roads in Bowerton. Hurry, because pricing is onlygood until Wednesday, May 3.”

The fact that you spell out the next step makes it one step easier for your prospects. Now they don’t have to search the bottom of your ad for contact info. They don’t have to wonder when to act to get the pricing listed. People do well with simple instructions, so don’t leave them out. Of course, you might get some push back when mentioning these tactics to your staff. If someone insists on listing dozens of vehicles with prices in the ad, you might suggest placing a list at the bottom with smaller wording minus the pictures.

This compromise leaves space for the real sales taking place in the majority of the ad space. It is also very important to assess the results by asking all new customers, “How did you hear about us?” and keeping track of this information in a database. By following these three steps, you’ll benefit from improved results from your print ads, and better differentiate your dealership from your competitors.

David Rodgers helps auto dealers maximize radio and television advertising results by providing memorable jingles, custom background music, full radio spot production, and on-hold music messages. Contact David through his company, Doctor Jingles, at [email protected] or (248) 291-7735. Hear demos at

Authored by

David Rodgers

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