What newspaper designer has not been approached by an editor or designer in the newsroom with a plea: “Please, do something about those ads. They look terrible. They spoil our pages with their use of colors. They don’t look like they belong with the rest.”
I am not sure anyone has ever succeeded in bringing the world of newspaper advertising design together, even for a moment, with that of the newspaper’s editorial side. And it shows, of course.
Newspapers get redesigned constantly, but the advertising department is seldom a part of the process.
And when it is, one must face the reality that advertising departments are hard-pressed to sell space — and they cannot, in all honesty, dictate too many rules of design and visual aesthetics to those buying the space.
If the ad comes from a national agency, chances are that it will be clean, attractive and will blend well with the rest. If, however, the ad is “homemade” — as in the case of so many local or regional newspapers that must cater to their home clients — then things may vary.
Here are a few tips that may help:
• Establish clarity for the ad by not crowding the space where the message is contained. If one has a space three inches of depth for the ad, plan to only occupy half of that with text, and either use a visual for the rest, or leave it blank, just adding the brand name of the product. Trying to fill all the space is what normally leads to so many unattractive or downright ugly ads.
• Use colors well: avoid mixing too many. Red and yellow are great colors for stand-out ads. Ads, too, can follow color palettes — though they may be be brighter than those of the newspaper as a whole.
• Don’t mix fonts: One or two typefaces should do the job. And one is better than two. Provide contrast within one typeface, as opposed to creating a font catalog in a small or medium sized ad.
• Find out where the ad will appear within the context of the newspaper. Try not to create an “advertising ghetto” of dozens of equally sized ads all thrown together.
• When in doubt, make sure that the message desired by the advertiser appears directly and clearly, and that the canvas of the ad is clean and easy to look at.
With these guidelines in mind, the process of integration between advertising and editorial can be well on its way.
–All or a portion of this column was originally published in the IFRA newsletter.