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Denise Meyer: Eye Catchers

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The trick is to catch people’s attention, without offending them. Denise Meyer shows you how.

WHEN TRYING TO ATTRACT customers to your print ads, offend is a risky word. But, then again, so is bore. To stop readers from skimming past your advertisements, you need to dare to push the limits. 

A diet of co-op and price-point ads won’t do it. True, manufacturer ads stretch your budget. They also promote the brands you carry, but not the most important one ? your own. Price-point ads are also effective, helping consumers ?pre-shop? before they come into your store. However, if you crowd in too many items, they lose focus, blending into surrounding newspaper articles and other advertising. 

To give your newspaper ads fresh impact: 

? Measure the area devoted to photos and copy. If it’s more than half your ad, start slashing. At least 40 percent should be negative (empty) space-colored white or black. White space draws the eye toward the photo or headline. Black turns an entire ad into a bull’s-eye amidst gray newsprint. 

? Make just one thing your focus; it’s all most people will see or read. One strong photo, a clever headline and your logo can say a great deal. 

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? Don’t assume people will read everything you write … or want to. Remember War and Peace? The novel’s size stops many readers from opening the cover. Your ad isn’t assigned reading, so shorter is better. 

? Touch someone. P. T. Barnum said, ?There are two reasons people buy something. The right reason, logic. The real reason, emotion.? A customer may say he’s buying that expensive watch because it’s precision-made. But he’d never spend the money if it didn’t make him feel special. Great ads make a personal connection. Do yours? 

? Occasionally target a specific group. If your name was printed on top of an ad, you’d read it, wouldn’t you? The same is true when you speak directly to one occupation, age, gender, etc. 

This is called niche marketing. It takes research and sometimes a little daring. First, investigate the media in your area. You’ll find many specialty publications. Communities with large African-American, Hispanic, Asian, or other ethnic populations have newspapers just for them. Jewish communities typically have their own religious publications. Parents Without Partners and singles groups sponsor newsletters ? many of which allow advertising. Is there a military base nearby? Perhaps, there’s a base paper. And don’t forget alternative lifestyle groups. Gay communities, too, sponsor magazines. Next, gather information about these publications. You’ll find most are less expensive than your citywide paper, have respectable circulations, and provide a desirable upscale demographic. 

What do you say in these ads? Niche groups are looking for the same things all consumers want, so if you have ads that work in mass-circulation daily newspapers, they’ll do the job. However, for extra impact, try speaking to these readers as a group. Tell them they are welcome in your store because of who they are, not who they are not; and that you have products suited to their tastes. Try being direct about gay relationships or a woman’s second ?Prince Charming?. Address the fears of military families with loved ones on active duty. Or take a lighthearted look at Jewish mothers. The key is to stay ?real?. Never be condescending and don’t overplay stereotypes, except in gentle, fun-loving ways. Ask yourself, ?If I were a member of this group, would this ad make me angry?? If in doubt, ask a member of the target audience for their opinion. Remember, though, these ads are not conservative. They walk the line between political correctness and ?Did they really say that?? You are risking a little discomfort among a few readers to attract the attention of many more. You are trying to get noticed ?and in the advertising game, that’s half the battle.

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