We've all seen trade ads, and I think it's fair to say they'll never be confused with their more glamorous brand advertising cousins that appear in mainstream publications.
Glamorous or not, a lot of money is spent on trade advertising. And it can be argued that a lot of it is wasted. Ever notice how easy it is to flip through page after page of trade ads without every stopping to actually look at one? There's an explanation (of sorts) for this.
Trade ads are meant to sell, not increase brand awareness. So the content and design of the typical trade ad is geared to providing as much information about a product or service as possible. The result is that trade ads tend to be copy intensive, listing all the product features, benefits, and reasons to buy that can be crammed into the ad.
Trade ads also make liberal use of bullets, underlines, sub-headlines, etc., just to make sure the reader doesn't miss anything, and to make everything look important. All of this makes for pretty tough sledding for the reader (if they make the effort to read). But it doesn't have to be that way.
Trade ads can dramatically increase their readership, and the return on their cost, if you keep these three things in mind:
1. Don't overlook your brand
Trade ads are far more inviting and engaging for the reader when they incorporate a company's unique brand identity - logo, tagline, color scheme, etc. Trade advertising should be recognized as an opportunity to sell and reinforce brand identity at the same time.
Readers are much more easily drawn to advertising that communicates a unique brand personality. So incorporate a sense of brand in your trade advertising and see for yourself how your ad almost magically stands out in the clutter of other ads. And watch your readership and response increase.
2. Write for the reader
Have you ever noticed the tendency of trade ads to talk about the company, instead of the customer? Make sure your ad is focused on customer needs, not company credentials. Remember the old sales adage "if there's nothing in it for me (the customer), then there's nothing in it for you (the seller)" when you craft your copy.
3. Create "quick" ads
Make sure your ad is created to be "quick." Quick to be noticed, quick to scan or read and, most important, quick to connect with the reader's needs with your product or service. Whatever you're trying to sell, the reader has got to "get it" quickly or he likely won't get it at all.
Layout is critical to being quick. Keep your ad layout simple, clean and easy to look at, even when a lot of copy is involved. Large copy blocks are killers that discourage readership. So break it up into easily digestible bits.
Trade advertising and good creative work can, and should, peacefully co-exist. When they do, the dollars you invest in trade ads will yield bigger returns in readership and profits.
Paul Hughes is the founder of BEEKstreet.com, an online provider of advertising and branding services.