The best book I have ever read on the subject of advertising has a title that’s brief and to the point — How to Advertise.

Originally published in 1976, the book is a slim volume and a quick read, but each chapter is filled with concise, numbered points that provide solid nuggets of information on how to produce the best ads. Written by Kenneth Roman and Jane Maas, two veterans of the major ad agency Ogilvy & Mather, the publication is subtitled: “A professional guide for the advertiser. What works. What doesn’t. And why.” And that’s precisely the valuable advice that it supplies.

The following are some of the 22 tips from the chapter called “What Works Best in Print.”

GET IT IN THE HEADLINE

Of the recommended ways to get more effective print advertising, No. 1 is “Get your message in the headline.” Too many advertisers use bland, generic headlines that really don’t say anything. “The headline should tell the whole story — including the brand name and key consumer promise,” say Roman and Maas. “Research shows that four out of five readers do not get further than the headline.” So if you’re waiting for your ad’s body copy to tell your story, “you are wasting 80 percent of your money.”

Another imperative is, “Offer a benefit in the headline.” Make it clear to the prospect that you provide an important benefit and exactly what that is. “Headlines that promise a benefit sell more than those that don’t,” note Roman and Maas.

YOU NEED STORY APPEAL

“Look for story appeal in your illustration,” state the authors. “Next to the headline, an illustration is the most effective way to get a reader’s attention.” You want an “illustration that makes the reader ask: ‘What’s going on here?’”

Next, “Photographs are better than drawings.” Advertising research “says that photography increases recall an average of 26 percent over artwork.”

One more essential: “Use simple layouts.” Avoid the inclination to stuff a bunch of product photos into your ad. “One big picture works better than several small pictures.”

“Don’t be afraid of long copy,” Roman and Maas advise. Sometimes being brief just won’t work for you. “Consider long copy if you have a complex story to tell, many different product points to make, or an expensive product or service to sell.” Since high-quality HVAC systems and comprehensive service certainly aren’t inexpensive, give your prospect the information they need to select you.

“Don’t nitpick the body copy.” Once you have a strong headline and a good photo, you don’t need to rewrite and revise the copy over and over. “Just make sure the copy is clear and accurate. Look for facts, not adjectives. Specifics, not generalizations.”

GOT A TESTIMONIAL?

Something that may seem obvious but should always be kept in mind is, “Testimonials add believability.” Can you talk about a very happy, pleased customer? “The endorsements of real people are memorable and persuasive.”

“Avoid manufacturer talk,” declare the authors. Don’t use jargon in your ads. Advertising should be “written the way people talk.”

Finally, “Make each advertisement a complete sale.” Every individual ad “must stand on its own.” Assume it will be the only ad from your company your prospect will ever see and make sure it does a total and effective selling job.

Note: A second edition of this book, updated and expanded, was published in December 1997 by St. Martin’s Press and can be purchased on the Web at Amazon.com.

Mazurkiewicz is news and legislation editor. He can be reached at 248-244-6459; 248-362-0317 (fax); gregmazurkiewicz@achrnews.com (e-mail).

Publication date: 09/02/2002