When I wrote “How To Make Your Yellow Pages Ads Pull More Leads” (The News, July 24), I had no idea we had ignited a powder keg! Readers responded in droves, faxing in their ads for a free critique.

After reviewing ads from readers across the country, a few trends in unprofitable ad design emerged. Here they are.

Mistake #1: No headline

Eighty percent of your ad’s effectiveness is in its headline. A headline is “the ad for the ad” and commands an importance not approached by any other element.

Your company name isn’t a headline. A cartoon of a guy in a truck is not a headline. The “oldest, biggest, smallest, newest, fastest, mostest” anything is not a headline.

A headline is a strong, clearly stated benefit for the customer. Without one, your ad suffers miserably. With one, you stand out, get read, and get called. Isn’t this why you’re advertising?

Mistake #2: Bad layout

The Yellow Pages’ reps love to center vast blocks of text and change typestyles about every third word. Here are three words of advice: Don’t do it!

Experts in human comprehension have outlined many “don’ts” in ad copy layout:

  • Don’t exceed seven to 10 words to a line.

  • Don’t center more than three lines in a row.

  • Don’t put smaller-than-14-point type in a reverse block.

  • Don’t have more than eight to 10 words in a headline.

  • Mistake #3: Dull, pointless copy

    Most of what I saw were mere “menu listings” of services, generally laid out in some nonsensical fashion that leads absolutely nowhere. A staggering 86% of the ads I reviewed did not contain one complete sentence.

    Mistake #4: No call to action

    If you’re not going to ask people to call you in some compelling way, pull your ad and save your money. There is no need, at any time, anywhere, to pay for an ad that has no call to action.

    Mistake #5: Bad and costly waste of space

    Simply put, bad use of space means bad return on investment. Pictures of condensing units, oversized multiple logos, and absurd clusters of pointless phrases mean your ad is just too much trouble to wade through.

    There is a logical order to all things. Your most expensive, year-long ad should certainly be among them.


    Create a powerful headline. Punch up your copy. Get a compelling call to action, and lay it out so normal human beings can actually follow it. Then and only then will your Yellow Pages ad reach its potential.

    You may also have your ad critiqued and/or designed by a professional. You can then use this lead-generating ad for the Yellow Pages or newspaper, or many other ways. The small investment in getting this important image and sales enhancer done right, will pay significant dividends for years.

    Due to the response, I have agreed to review more ads for possible inclusion in future News articles. Please fax them to the number below.

    Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a marketing company for contractors. For more information, call 800-489-9099; 334-262-1115 (fax).

    Publication date: 09/04/2000