Should I buy print advertising?

Should I buy print advertising?

In my day job as a marketing manager, I regularly take calls from a variety of publications – the majority of them trade press – offering me a ‘great’ last minute deal because another advertiser has cancelled, or because they’re on deadline and “have to close the issue today”.  There’s nothing wrong with the good ol’ scarcity tactics – it’s tried and tested.  And after all, you don’t want to risk missing out, right?  Well, having worked on both sides of this particular fence, I have to admit I’m a sceptic… and I’m going to tell you why.

Is print advertising worthwhile?

This is far and away the most important and fundamental question you need to ask yourself.  But you can only answer this question if you’re truthful with yourself about what success looks like.  If you’re hoping for the phone to ring off the hook in response to your advert, that’s fine.  But to some, success may simply be the appearance of the advert to increase awareness of your brand in your target market.  Understand what your goal is, and you’ll be better able to judge whether something has been successful later on.

Targeting is vital.  If you’re a barber and a sales rep from the local rag calls you offering last minute space in their Horse & Country supplement going out next week, you might well be tempted if the price is good, but ask yourself this: are the customers you want to see your advert likely to be reading the supplement?  You might get one or two, but the chances are your advert won’t resonate with many.  There’s definitely a place for print advertising, even though doomsayers have long been predicting the death of the newspaper since the advent of the Internet.  We’ve seen many a newspaper or magazine decline, but they’ll never truly die and for a good number of people, they remain the primary way they prefer to consume information.  But making sure the publication is the right fit for the audience you’re trying to reach is vital.

Even if the publication is a good fit, ask yourself this: would you get a better response from advertising on, say, Facebook, or Google?  Online advertising enables you to be far more targeted than print advertising ever will, and that may yield better results if to you success equates to a load more page likes on Facebook or e-mail enquiries about your products or services.

Buying print advertising effectively

Let’s assume that you’ve satisfied yourself that the publication is a great fit for you and your target audience.  Now you want to make sure you get as much return on your investment as possible to give yourself the best chance of being able to say in hindsight it was a worthwhile exercise.  Again, if enquiries, leads or sales are tied into your idea of success (and let’s face it, they probably should be even if they’re not the number one priority) then you should have an idea in percentage terms of what return on your investment represents a fruitful campaign.

There’s a couple of approaches you can take to buying print:

Buying well in advance

Doing this gives you a significantly higher chance of securing better placement within the publication.  Prime spots include the back cover, inside front and back covers, possibly the centre spread (if the publication offers this as advertising space) and then top right corners for smaller quarter page adverts.  The problem with booking your advertising well in advance is that you’ll be paying much closer to the rate card for these spaces – demand a bargain basement price and the publication will likely refuse because they have plenty of other advertisers to approach who may be happier to pay the asking price.  However, you might get a decent discount if you are…

Buying print advertising in bulk

Depending on your budget, this can be a win-win situation for both you and the publication.  The publication is happy because it has sold that slot in multiple issues, meaning there’s less to sell next time around.  It saves them time, but more importantly it saves them money – from the sales reps making calls and visits to sell space, to the finance teams chasing up payment of invoices, bulk buying makes their lives easier.  You are happy because you’ve secured your desired (hopefully prime) position for multiple issues, giving you sustained exposure to your audience to build brand awareness and drive sales.  And because you’ve bought in bulk, you should have negotiated a healthy discount (citing how much time, energy and money you’re saving them in the process!).  But even if you’ve negotiated a healthy discount, you’re probably still looking at a sizeable outlay.

Buying last minute print advertising

This is by far the cheapest option because the publication HAS to go to print and they’d sooner sell space at a heavily discounted rate than it go unsold.  You’ve seen those adverts in magazines or newspapers saying “Advertise here and reach 123,456 readers every week/month”, right?  In almost every instance, that is space the publication has been unable to sell, and so rather than go to print with an empty white box where an advert should have been, they stick what’s called a ‘house advert’ in there to sell the benefits of advertising in the publication.  Trust me though, they’d much rather have sold the space to an advertiser, even for next to nothing – they’re making no money on a house ad.

So, with this in mind, the later you leave it before the deadline, the better the deal you’re going to get.  You do risk the space being taken by someone else holding out for a cheap deal, but if your advertising budget is tight, this can be a worthwhile furrow to plough.

Other things to consider when buying print advertising

So far I’ve talked mainly about cost.  This was deliberate, since most marketing decisions tend to come cost versus perceived benefit.  There are other factors to appreciate when buying print advertising though, and understanding these can be beneficial when it comes to negotiating on price.

Free advert design

Almost every publication who rings me up trying to flog me advertising space offers me free design.  Fair enough, they tend not to know that I’m also a graphic designer, or it would be a pretty daft service to offer.  But let’s think about this – if you’re taking last minute print advertising because the publication is about to go to print, where time does that leave their in-house design team to produce an advert of the sort of quality that’s going to deliver the results you expect?

I’ll give you a real example of something that happened to me when I was on the design team of a regional newspaper.  There were several editions of the newspaper printed daily, meaning there were strict print deadlines every day.  I regularly had colleagues from the sales department appear ten minutes before the paper was due to go to print, asking us to design an advert for a local dentist or a gardener, or whatever.  In those ten minutes we’d rattle out whatever half-reasonable design we could, and because we were on deadline it had to go to print without the client even seeing the design!  This was a regular occurrence for myself and my colleagues in the design team, and a cause of some frustration!

In this instance, was last minute print advertising worthwhile?  If the design wasn’t up to scratch, probably not.  It probably wasn’t on brand, probably didn’t include the client’s logo and probably didn’t even include the wording the client wanted – the sales rep might well have guessed because there was no time to ask and they were desperate to secure the sale and hit their target.

The smart alternative to free advert design

Get around quality issues by having pre-designed adverts ready to go.  Engage a designer (I can recommend one!) to design adverts in a variety of standard sizes based on A4 – full page, half page portrait and landscape, quarter page portrait.  These should be reasonably generic, so they’ll be good to go whenever you get offered a great deal.  This will cost you money however, for that expense you guarantee the design will be as you want it, with your brand and offer featuring prominently and in your corporate colours.

I would never question the quality of in-house designers at newspapers and magazines – I learnt more from my boss at that aforementioned paper than I could ever convey in 100 blogs and more – but they are often asked to produce miracles with one arm tied behind their back and barely any time to even open Photoshop or InDesign.  Your brand is incredibly important, and you need to protect it by ensuring it appears as you expect it to.

Having a suite of pre-designed adverts has further advantages too.  If a publication is offering free design, they still have to pay their design team.  So that overhead is built into the cost of what they’re asking you to pay for your print advertising.  But if you don’t need that service, why should you pay for it?  By supplying your own artwork you are again saving them time and money – so demand a further discount because you’re helping them out!

I’ve recently secured a full-page advert in a trade magazine for less than 10% of the rate card because I had the artwork ready to go and the publication was on deadline – big savings can be made, and the initial expense of having a professional designer put some adverts together for you will soon be recovered.

If what I’ve said is making sense, and you’d like to discuss the design of your own suite of adverts – which can of course be designed to be suitable for social media sharing as well – then I’m ready to chat, drop me a line!

Printing Glossary

All the jargon used in the printing world can be confusing. So here’s a breakdown of the most common terms you’ll need an appreciation of whether you’re a designer just starting out or a marketeer providing your agency with a job spec.

‘A Series’ Paper

The standard system for paper sizes (A5, A4, A3 etc), using these measurements always ensures that paper is cut proportionately and to industry standards.


The colours you have on your design literally bleed over an extra 3-10mm around your design layout to allow for cutting. This also makes sure no part of the design sits too dangerously close to the edges.  If you want a colour, or an image going right to the edge of your design, you use a bleed area so those elements ‘bleed off the page’.  If you don’t use a bleed area, you risk a thin white stripe running down an edge if the printer hasn’t quite lined up his cut accurately.  The bleed area is quite literally a margin for error!


Refers to the 4 basic colours used in colour printing; Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (black). Mixing CMY inks results in black but sometimes doesn’t result in true black, so K is added.

Foil Finish

Adds a metallic finish to a specified area of your finished work to help make your logo or design stand out.


There are many ways to fold your designs and these all have to be thought about before going to print. Go for a standard half fold or three fold where the paper is folded to sit on top of each other when closed. Or opt for the Z fold, which allows your document stand upright thanks to its ‘Z’ shape (like a menu). Remember – print area guides are needed for folds too.

Gloss Laminated Finish

A very shiny finish that can be added single or double sided.

Gloss Spot UV Finish

This option allows you to add shiny gloss to specific areas of your work like photos or logos.


Is the most commonly used file format for sending pictures. This option is ideal for saving pictures, as it creates the smallest file size for an image but it is known for being ‘lossy’, because it looses some of the original image information in this process.


Is the process in typography of adjusting the spacing between characters, so the spaces look even and closer together. In a well-kerned font, the two-dimensional blank spaces between each pair of characters all have a visually similar area.


Leading or ‘line spacing’ refers to the distance between sentences on a page. You can keep text quite close together or give it a little more space to allow for easier reading.

Lithographic (or Offset) Print

Sometimes abbreviated to ‘litho print’, this is the largescale printing press method ideal for high print quantities. The word comes from the lithographic limestone that was  originally used to print on by the Greeks.  Litho printing also enables you to use specific pantone colours (see below) and utilise gloss or matt finishes for added texture.

Matt Laminate

This finish adds a matte-like feel to your printed work to give that extra feel of quality.

Matt Spot UV

A matt finish card with selected areas highlighted with an additional UV gloss. This gloss look against the matt finish catches the eye and adds that little something extra to your design. It is applied using UV light, which seals the varnish into the card.


A system for matching colours, used in specifying printing inks. Always use a Pantone reference when specifying colours to your printer to prevent wrong ones being selected.


Pixels Per Inch. This is the resolution of your Pixel based image. A computer displays images at 72 pixels per inch but a printer requires much more to produce a high quality image, so printer settings are always higher.

Print area guide

When setting up your document you need to set a print area margin so that nothing is cut off & consistency remains strong. The standard margins are: A4 = 10mm from all sides, A5 = 8mm and A6 = 6mm.  That said, for jobs up to A3 in size, 5mm is generally fine.


The colours used on computer screens (Red, Green and Blue). This is why colours often look different on computers than what they do on paper (as paper uses CMYK). Bear this in mind when choosing colour palettes for your work.

Serif & Sans Serif

Sounds like something from another language but Sans Serif actually refers to fonts, which have little flicks (or extensions) at the end of each letter (like Times New Roman). Serif refers to fonts without that feature, just rounded off letters (like Arial).


A tiff allows you to save larger files without losing image information. You do still have the option to reduce size via LZW compression, which protects the image quality of your work.

Type Point

Type is measured in points (8, 9, 10 etc) the point is measured by the height of the capital ‘H’ letter.

Vector Format

Vector formatting is ideal for printing this is because it always retains the same crisp quality no matter how much it is resized.

Widows and Orphans

Avoid having these in your work. A widow is a paragraph ending line in your document that falls at the beginning of the following page or column. An Orphan is a word or a very short line that appears by itself at the end of a paragraph.

Planning a Brochure – What To Consider

Despite us living in an increasingly digital age, sometimes there’s no substitute for having a well-designed, professionally printed brochure to read at your leisure.  Your brochure reflects your business, so you’re gonna want it to look professional, right?  Well if you don’t plan it out correctly, your company brochure could just end up in the recycling bin.  You know the five P’s – Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance!

To avoid that fate, always think about:

Your Readers’ Needs

Always pre-plan by thinking about what your client wants. Look at your demographics and think logistically about what the reader would want to take away with them. What is the brochure’s purpose? Decide what would make them keen to read on.

Create an appealing front cover

The first page your reader will see is the front cover. Get it wrong and they loose interest. Think like the popular magazines do and make it interesting with promises of offers and promotions inside or exclusive insights.


The typical marketing brochure is comprised of an A4 sized sheet that measures 210mm x 297mm or 8.3″ x 11.7” that folds in three. Is that what you want? Or do you want to try something a little different? There are actually many options, but remember print bleeds and where the folds are will determine how much you can fit on. And very importantly make sure that your design all unfolds in the right order.

Keep it Concise

You can only fit so much onto a brochure so make sure all of your copy is not too wordy yet remains of value.


You have many options so go a little more luxe, if your budget can stretch to it, and create a glossy magazine style. Or go for a textured paper that matches your artistic client base. Tailor all design decisions to your demographic.

Colour and Pictures

Go colourful and incorporate some interesting pictures into your design. People are naturally drawn to pictures and colours help headings and logos stand out. But consistency is key to maintaining professionalism, so don’t get too carried away.

Make it a Keeper

Putting valued information in your brochure will encourage the reader to keep it, refer to it often or pass it on to other people. You don’t want your hard work to end up in the bin, so craft it with as much need-to-know information as you can.

Contact Details

May seem like an incredibly obvious one but your contact information needs to be crystal clear on this document. Do you want it on the front and back or at the top of every page? Make it as easy as you can for customers to contact you.


Check out CWDmedia’s previous blogs for further design tips.

5 Reasons Why Print Specifying is Important

Back in January, I gave you some tips for making your graphic designer’s job easier. Well, today the focus is all about making your printer’s job easier.

We’ve all been there – you have a big project that needs to go to print, maybe it’s a last minute job, it’s usually the most important job you’ve done in ages, and it’s the worst possible time for something to go wrong. But sod’s law says it will! Errors definitely occur when forward planning is ignored, so by taking these 5 points about the importance of print specifying on board, you can help ensure your end product turns out exactly as you want it to.


Think about how many copies you want of your prints and even if you are unsure of exact amounts when putting forward your estimate, try to provide a rough range. Then at least pricing can be broke down for you.


We mentioned the importance of your paper choice previously but you definitely should do a bit of research as to what kind of paper you would prefer. As you can imagine differences in weight and style vary greatly in price, in fact the options are almost endless. It may be worth considering that if your UK printer is FSC approved/registered, by association you can use the FSC logo on your own printed literature – a great big tick in the box in these days where Corporate Social Responsibility and, more specifically, environmental policy are scrutinised that much more closely!


A very similar idea with the finish of your product. You want to make sure you have seen samples of the finishes before you set a print date. Pick a style appropriates the message that you want to send across to your customers, luxurious, modern, quirky etc, and go for it.


Think about how many pages you want for your project. Now ‘pages’ to you and me probably equates to a page leaf (covering 2 sides), but to a printer 1 page equals one printed side. Bear this in mind when you get an estimate that states your 20 page booklet is quoted for 40pp instead. They are not trying to rip you off, so don’t worry.


Be super specific with your deadlines to the printers. If you need all your documents by a certain time, specify that. And if you can be flexible, explain that to your printer too, because you never know, that could even result in some savings.


I hope these tips are helpful, but there’s lots more to consider as well as these. You can take away this whole headache by letting CWDmedia handle your print requirements. Get in touch today, and see how I can help!
72dpi v 300dpi

What does ‘high res’ actually mean?

High res, or to put it properly, high resolution.  It’s one of those terms we all think we understand, isn’t it?  We’ve heard it often enough and seen it written plenty of times, but when it comes to actually finding high res images, do you really know what you need to look for?

Why DPI/PPI is important?

Checking an image’s DPI (Dots Per Inch) or PPI (Pixels Per Inch)* is the most important and easiest way to check your image’s quality. You can do this by going into the ‘image properties’ option on your image viewer.  In Photoshop, this is done by clicking ‘Image’ on the top menu and then selecting ‘Image Size’ from the drop-down menu.

If you’re designing for print, the optimum size you want to go for is 300 DPI for print images. By using that as a marker, you can rely on the fact that your image will be sharp and therefore suitable for print.

If you go lower than that, your picture will not look as great as you want it to. It will come out blurry and pixelated, like the example on the left in the image I’ve posted. This is because there won’t be enough pixels per inch to fill out the image frame, so the computer essentially smudges the image to fill the space.

To put it into context, web images are generally sized at 72 DPI, this is because this low resolution works well on screens and it’s small size helps web pages load faster. For printed images you need to go bigger so it can be bolder.
It’s no good thinking “My image looks big enough on screen, it should be fine” – this is the elementary mistake we’ve all made, and it just doesn’t ring true – the image appears large on screen because it needs considerably less pixels to make up the picture.

* Don’t be confused by the terms DPI and PPI – they essentially mean the same thing, it’s just that some designers or printers will use one term rather than the other.

Take High Quality Photos

The quality of cameras in smartphones is improving all the time.  But since the lens on your phone’s camera is generally pretty small, it will never take in as much information as a good old SLR camera will.  As a result, using a decent SLR camera for your project will always give you far superior photography results. The knock-on of this is it makes your designer’s job far easier, and your work is done quicker and for less cost – bonus!

When in doubt, take photos on your camera’s best quality setting as a result.  And if you’re buying stock photos, always get the largest version of the shots you want.  The smaller ones are cheaper, but the smaller they are, the more you’re limited with what you can do with them.

Changing Image Size

It’s also important to remember that even if you have a high resolution picture and you want to change it’s size, this will affect the image quality. Even if you have a perfect sized 300 DPI snap, if you decide to increase it by 300%, the resolution will actually fall to 100 DPI, so always bear that in mind.
Put your design needs in the hands of the experts – get in touch with CWDmedia today!