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How to Create Effective Direct Response Newspaper Ads

By Jenna Bruce on Tue, Jul 15, 2014 @ 11:23 AM |


One of the smartest ways local businesses can create a new customer base is to design a compelling newspaper ad. Sadly, many local advertisers are greatly confused by what makes a newspaper ad compelling in the first place. Open any local paper and take a look at the ads. Most of them will be nothing more than a larger version of the company’s business card; you know – company name, what they do, contact information.

The late and great advertising executive David Ogilvy once said, “Ninety-nine percent of advertising doesn't sell much of anything.” It’s not enough to put your company information in the paper, and it’s not enough to have an image of your product front and center. What advertisers need to be focusing on is creating messaging that elicits a direct response from prospects. The business-card-as-advertisement method will do nothing in the way of compelling people to buy what you’re selling.

How to Create Effective Direct Response Newspaper Ads

Direct Response Advertising to the Rescue

The sole purpose of direct response advertising is to get the reader’s attention, interest, and desire immediately, and then get them to take some form of action. Effective direct response ads get the reader’s attention through a compelling headline. They create interest by manipulating human emotions (in a good way) and touching on the reader’s problems. Desire is then created by offering solutions to those problems and the call-to-action follows through by making that solution highly desirable and an absolute no-brainer.

Direct Response Ad Breakdown

There are various components to an effective direct response ad, but for the purpose of this post, let’s focus on the big three: the headline, the offer and the call-to-action.


Extra! Extra! What makes a compelling headline? Well, let’s first discuss what doesn’t make a compelling headline. We’ve already discussed that a company name does not a compelling headline make. The reader (A.K.A. prospect) could care less what you call yourself; all they want to know is what can you do for them.

The reader will use your headline to decide if they want to read further and know more about your offer. In a way, you could say your headline is an ad for the ad itself and will communicate clearly to the reader that reading the rest of the ad will benefit them in some way. So make sure to craft your headlines with the reader’s problems and ambitions in mind. Don’t know your prospects’ pain and ambitions? Then you need to do more research on your market and come back to the headline when you know more about your audience.


Your offer will never be effective unless the body copy of your ad makes an incredibly convincing case as to why someone should want your product or service. Then and only then should you offer to sell the reader a solution to their problem and at a specific price.

Compelling offers are simple and don’t confuse the reader with too many choices of pricing or components. In order for your offer to be effective, simply state what benefits the buyer receives when they purchase the product or service, what results they can expect because of this purchase, and finally, mention the price at the end.

How to Create Effective Direct Response Newspaper Ads - CTACall-to-Action

This is the RESPONSE in direct response advertising. Your call-to-action must force the reader to respond to your compelling and appealing offer. More often than not an advertiser will create copy that has given all the information necessary to make a buying decision, but in the end, the ad failed to tell the reader exactly how they needed to respond. The call-to-action puts the “How” in “Howdy!” Tell your prospect exactly what you want them to do and be as clear as possible. If you’ve written the rest of your ad right, then you’ve earned your right to sell and a good many of your prospects will buy.

In advertising, nothing else matters but results. Creating a brand may be okay for the big shots with the big ad spend, but for local businesses with tighter budgets, it is more beneficial to create reactions and get responses.

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Image credit: Instant Income

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