There’s an old saying that goes…”You can’t make silk purses out of sow’s
ears.” The same is true for ads. Attention-grabbing ad copy requires “good
ingredients” and planning if it’s going to draw and keep reader interest. Just
filling white space with black ink will, by itself, usually not get the job done.
Entire courses are devoted to the science and psychology of effective
advertising. Fortunately, you do not have to study these courses in order to
understand the precepts of good advertising. It really boils down to two
Ad Copy Rule #1: Hold down the amount of text and graphics!
The more cluttered an ad is…particularly with a bunch of fine print or
cumbersome graphics…the less likely it is to be read. Readers scan ads.
Their eyes instinctively are drawn to contrasts. A little bit of text and
graphics surrounded by lots of white space provides that contrast and
draws reader attention. Isn’t that, after all, what you are trying to
get…reader attention? So why blow getting their attention with a bunch of
superfluous ink? Scrutinize the text for pertinence. Keep the copy short and
As a rule of thumb, for our 1/10th half page width ad, we suggest no more
than six lines of regular size text. For the 1/10th full page width ad, we
suggest three lines of text maximum.
Ad Copy Rule #2: Provide the best copy available!
Photocopies and other reproductions should be provided only as a last
resort and only if no other alternative is available.
In a black and white printing environment, black and white original copy is
always the best. If only color copy is available, either dark red & white or
dark (navy) blue & white is best. Pastel backgrounds and metallic foil
lettering do not reproduce well and should be avoided if at all possible.
Typed or type-set text is best, but if text must be hand-written, it should be
printed clearly and plainly so the typesetter can read it.
Likewise, black and white glossy photographs are best…though current
technology allows reasonably good reproduction from original color glossy
photographs as well. The key words here are “glossy” and “original”. The
“photographic” image commonly seen on business cards and in
advertisements is not a photograph at all but, rather, a “screen”…a grid of
microdots that reproduces a facsimile image. Original photographs can be
scanned and screened into ad copy…screens cannot. When a “screen” is
scanned a second time, the image becomes dark and smudgy. This is
because it is impossible to line up the microdots of the scanning device with
the microdots of the screened image. As a result, what was once white
becomes gray; what was gray becomes charcoal; and what was charcoal
As a rule of thumb, photographs should only be considered in our 2/10th
page ads or larger. There just isn’t enough room in 1/10th page ads for a
company name, address and contact information and a picture large enough
to be recognizable.
While on the topic of photography, photographs should require no more
than a 50% reduction to fit the purchased space. In other words, do not
provide an 8×10, 5×7 or even 3×5 photo for a space intended for smaller
than wallet size. Instead provide a wallet size photo. Legibility suffers
significantly when reductions of greater than 50% are required. The same is
true for regular ad copy text, by the way.
It is important to note as well that photographic enlargement and reduction
(and scanning to a lesser degree) is a proportional, two-dimensional process.
Increase or decrease height by 25% and width will increase or decrease the
same percentage and vice-versa. Instructions to take ad copy of a particular
height-to-width ratio and “make it fit” a significantly different height-to-width
ratio space cannot be accomplished by photographic or scanning means.
The ad copy must be completely reworked to fit the purchased space.
A particularly troublesome form of ad copy is one that has background
artwork overlaid with text. Typically these are business logos featuring
“ghosted” or “phantom” images in the background with the company name
printed over it. For a printer, shooting these ads is a two-step
(“double-pass”) process: first the background, then the text.
Sponsors wanting this type of ad copy, in order for it to appear as crisp as
it was in its first production, must provide both the original background
artwork and foreground text. Without these two separate items, all a printer
can do is shoot the aggregate ad in a single pass. The usual result,
particularly if the background and foreground are both dark, is a black
smudge where the background and foreground overlay one another. The
resulting image is usually not readable.
There you have it. Be discerning in the amount and type of text/
graphics supplied and supply only original text, photos and graphics
whenever possible. If that is not possible…“We’ll do the best we can
with what we get.”
Text, photographs and graphics should be mailed to:
The Lutheran Digest
6160 Carmen Ave East
Inver Grove Heights, MN 55076
It is helpful if “Ad Copy” is written in the lower left-hand corner of the