The shop owner had obviously been pressured into buying an ad that was being delivered far out of his effective neighborhood. And even worse than that, it was buried in a booklet that is mostly read by housewives looking for household deals at local businesses. The shop’s ad didn’t even have a coupon that might have gotten at least a couple of people to notice it. The odds of the shop getting a single job out of this ad were probably as remote as the chance of winning the Publisher’s Sweepstakes.
Unfortunately, even if this ad had appeared in a newspaper or other widely read publication, it was still unlikely to get many people reading it. There were several reasons for this. First of all, most of the print was too tiny for mature readers to read without a magnifying glass. In a space three and a half inches wide by one-inch deep, fifty-two words were crammed closely together. The shop owner had probably provided the advertiser with a list of services he wanted included in the ad. Ad sales people just want to sell the ad. They’re practically never professional ad design people, so they’ll cram anything into the ad the buyer says he wants.
There could have been more space for showing the shop’s many services if half the ad hadn’t consisted of a huge photo of a late model new car.
A quick glance at the ad (which is all most people would give it) would suggest the ad was selling a late model vehicle. There was not even a slight indication that this car needed or had ever had collision repair. In the space allocated to this vehicle, there could have been two photos of the same vehicle showing it before and after repairs. Given the brief attention span of most people today, any photo has to tell the desired story very quickly. A good choice of photos might actually have compensated for the poor quality of the print message.
The next problem with the ad was the choice of colors. The lettering spelling out the shop’s services was red on a blue-black background. Reverse type can be very effective, but unless the type is huge, only white or yellow or some tint in-between will stand out enough to be easy to read. Blue type would have been almost invisible and the red wasn’t much better.
Ad composition has to take into account the wide variety of people who will read it. Older people will generally have a problem with small print. Men are often slightly color-blind. The colored type would be doubly difficult to read for an older man who might be a likely prospect with an expensive vehicle to repair. One modification could make red, blue or green stand out on a dark background: That would be a slightly larger outline type in white or yellow behind the darker lettering putting a bright outline around each letter. But this is a fairly complex type process, probably not even known to this advertiser. Publications always send a copy of an ad before printing it for the buyer to proofread. But shop owners are often rushed and would probably not take much more than a quick look at it. It’s unlikely this shop owner gave this ad much thought or looked it over at all.
Print advertising, whether on paper or displayed in a website, must be instantly readable and provide a compelling reason for the reader to respond to the ad and come in for a service. A restaurant can send out a menu listing all of the selections they offer, but a list of a shop’s services isn’t an ad—it’s a menu and belongs in a brochure, not an ad. Ad readers are motivated by price, speed of service or quality. For a body shop, price is only relevant for self-pay services, but speed of service can be very important. The quality of a collision repair is assumed to be good if one’s insurance company is paying for it. When quality is mentioned, the reader’s question will be, “Compared to what?”
To establish quality, an ad could refer to on-line reviews, prior customer comments or even just the length of the shop’s warranty, but these would require a much larger ad than one-by-three inches. When it comes to print ads, less is more. If someone can be enticed to read an ad with fifty words or less (and that is already doubtful), those words had better convince the reader that this is a unique shop, so significantly better than the competition that he or she would be a fool to go anyplace else.