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What makes a “good” print ad? For many people, it’s a confounding and unanswerable question — like trying to determine what happens to disappearing socks. We’ll unravel the mystery for you.

To determine if a print ad is good, the first hurdle to overcome is the term itself. “Good” is relative to the person using it based on their personal perspective. But there are specific questions you can ask that will help you find the answer.

The next thing to understand is that there have been national, million dollar campaigns that were incredibly creative but had no impact on the client’s bottom line. And there have been small print ads in the local newspapers that may have not been the most creative or inspirational, but moved product like gangbusters.

The point is that “good” isn’t based on how much money your business pays an advertising agency for creative development or the amount spent on media placement. A media buy only determines who sees your message, when, and how often.

So what is “good” and how do you know if it is good? Look at creative work samples the ad agency, art director, copywriter, or graphic designer has created for other clients.

Note: The work samples do not need to be of the same product type or even from within the same industry. What you’ll be looking for is if the print advertising, 1) met the communication goals and objectives and, 2) the effectiveness of the print ad (did the advertising help the business make more money).

To know for sure, you need to know the “communication strategy” or “creative work plan” that guided the creation of the campaign. You usually won’t have access to those because it’s an internal document shared between the ad agency and their client. But that doesn’t mean you can’t ask the ad agency to talk through it. And I don’t know of a single creative that doesn’t love to talk about their work.

Here are seven questions to keep in mind you’re trying to figure out how well a print ad, billboard, or television commercial hit the mark.

How To Judge A Print Ad

1. Did the print ad grab your attention?

With the average consumer being bombarded by thousands of messages on a daily basis, the ad must do something to attract the reader’s/viewer’s attention. In some cases, you have less than a second to do so.

2. Did the print ad hold your interest?

Did the headline hold your interest long enough to even care about reading more?

3. Did the print ad communicate quickly?

Did it communicate the message quickly and directly without making you guess what was going on? Or was there so much information on the page that it gave you a headache just looking at it?

4. Could you relate to the message?

Did the ad communicate its point in a way that you could understand or relate to? Note: When considering this point, it’s important to keep in mind you may not be the intended target audience. So in order to be objective, first consider who the product or service is directed to, then try and put yourself in their shoes.

5. Did the message create a desire for the product or service?

Each ad, on some level, should create a desire for the product by revealing appealing features or positive qualities about the product or service.

6. Did it have a specific call to action?

Did the ad ask you to do something? The only time an ad should not include a call to action is… well, never. An ad must always contain some sort of instruction to the reader. It may be as simple as a website address or phone number tucked into a corner, but it needs to have something.

7. Was the print ad memorable?

Did the ad affect you such a way that you actually remembered the advertisement and the product it was selling? Or did you only remember it because the monkey in the picture was wearing a coonskin hat?

Hopefully, the above information will be helpful to you in determining what is “good”.

But remember, just because you may not understand something doesn’t mean it wasn’t good. It may only mean you weren’t the intended audience. A perfect example are Teletubbies. Personally, I don’t get it. But for some reason, kids LOVE them and the videos sell like hotcakes.

So next time you’re in the process of selecting an advertising agency to create your next print campaign, take a hard look at their advertising portfolio and ask yourself the above questions. If the creative work doesn’t meet the above criteria, you’ll know whether the work is “good”. More-so, you’ll know if the agency is a good fit for your business.