Print Advertising: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

In print advertising, artwork is the initial impression that consumers have of your business or product. It’s the first step in gaining the attention of the buyer you are trying to sell to. That visual typically is the difference between if the person decides to pay attention to the pieces of your advertising- the verbiage, the product or service itself, and the offer, or moves along to what captures their attention next.

Almost every day I have conversations with business owners and decision makers who ask about how their artwork should look. It’s an important question and comes up so often because many people just aren’t sure how to go about it. Most people (including me) know what they like when they see it but don’t know how to express that verbally or artistically. That’s ok though, and the reason why my company employs very talented and artistic designers. I trust them implicitly because they’ve proven their professionalism with our clients consistently through the years. And they’re not just artists, they know what works and what consumers like.

With that being said, I have learned from many years of experience the difference between good and bad artwork:



– Simple clear message

– Holds interest

– Stong call to action



– Requires the reader to work hard

– Missing attention-getting elements

– Can’t tell what you are really trying to offer



– Full of clutter

– Low-quality images

– Overuse of color and fonts

(Graphic Designers nightmare)


Avoid the temptation to include every product or service line you offer in your ad. Don’t make the prospect have to think about or evaluate everything and the kitchen sink you threw in there. They don’t want to think and they’ll ultimately move past your ad and forget all about you. Tell your prospect we are Acme Company, we make your life better, and do it for 40% off. That’s it.

If you’re worried about leaving out something you think might be important then include your website address. If the prospect wants or needs more information they will gladly take the time to visit your website and learn more about everything you do and why it’s important to them. Your website is your encyclopedia, your print advertisement is not.


Contributed by Jeff Vice

What my clients taught me about advertising

There’s an abundance of articles on the internet that will discuss the top 5, 10, or 12 mistakes businesses make with their advertising.  With this article I’m going to take on some of those “mistakes” from the perspective of actual clients that I’ve worked with for many years.

No Commitment

A common attitude of small business owners about advertising is that because they don’t know ahead of time if a particular advertising vehicle will work for them, they want to “try it out”.  They want the opportunity to pull the plug on their advertising quickly and save money if they perceive it’s not working for them in a very short amount of time.  I get it, most business owners are allergic to not wasting money and can’t blame them for feeling that way.

Of all the clients I’ve had in advertising the ones that commit to a long term vision of advertising are almost always more satisfied with their advertising than those who take the short term outlook.  Clients with the long term outlook will talk about how their advertising efforts grew in a positive way and consistently over time.  Clients who “try it out” have come and gone before their prospects even knew they were there and become severely skeptical of advertising their businesses.

By the way, the same concept applies when I talk with prospects. I can always tell when they say they’ve tried everything or think advertising doesn’t work, it’s because they always just dipped their toe in and never reaped the rewards.

When the phone rings

One of the ways that advertising can be tracked is with a dedicated tracking phone number.  With this tool business owners can definitively know from which advertisement the call came from.

An interesting thing my clients taught me about the value of a tracking phone number is that it went way beyond being able to see which ad the call came from.  Neither one of us knew in the beginning a tracking number would turn out to be more than a tracking tool.

We learned that many times (more than they might like to admit) that the initial call was handled badly and likely gave a bad impression of the business as well.  Most owners have one person dedicated to answering incoming calls.  After setting up this system the business owner makes no effort at monitoring those calls or overseeing how those calls are handled.  Even I was surprised at how aloof, un-friendly, or unhelpful those who answer phones can be.  It can be a very awkward conversation at the time to point out how badly their calls are being handled, but ironically it helps solidify the value of the ad in the first place.

Get used to talking

Small business owners typically wear many hats in running their businesses.  In many cases the owners’ business is based upon a talent the owner has to offer their clients.  On the flip side owners are not always good at the business side of the business.  That means that they may not be very good at selling their product or service or may not be comfortable in working with other people.

This usually shows up in communicating with their clients after the initial sale.  Their clients have an expectation of how things should go after the sale.  Communicating with their client is essential, and keeping them in the loop will go a long way in handling expectations when the unexpected occurs.

In the owners mind the project is going good and will look fabulous when it’s finished but the client is thinking something different.  I’ve learned those that communicate well have much happier clients than those who don’t.

Keep it simple

Clients whose message is short and sweet typically express more satisfaction in their marketing.  They have trained their prospects to focus on a small number of products or services they have to offer and in turn prospects will do just that. There’s a nice side effect to this too.  Most of the time those few products or services offered allow the business owner to showcase his or her highest quality and typically have higher margins. On the other hand, it’s unnecessary to throw everything and the kitchen sink in an advertisement.  It confuses the message and leads the prospect to believe that the business is just a jack of all trades and master of none.

Once the business has the attention of the prospect and has generated the initial call, that’s when the business owner will have the opportunity discuss additional options or services.  It turns out talking about other options or services you have to offer at that time usually goes really well.  I’ve even had clients tell me that their clients will add on services after the job has started because of the open communication, which not only led to more revenue but better client relationships.

Know your limits

One last thing my clients taught me about advertising.  Leave the artwork and design up to the professional designers.  I learned that one the hard way.  I am not good at the layout and design aspect and that is the case for many business owners as well.

Submitted by Jeff Vice


This Week in Advertising: Mar. 8 – Mar. 14

Welcome back to RSVP’s This Week in Advertising feature! This regular series includes the news tidbits from the advertising world that interested, excited, or amused us this week. We’re glad you’ve joined us – let’s see what happened This Week in Advertising:

  • You may remember that we highlighted McDonald’s response to recent trials and tribulations in this very feature just last month, but in case you’ve forgotten: Ronald & Co. launched an ad campaign that touted their food’s dedication to being absolutely terrible for your health in response to the (frankly, legitimate) concerns consumers & experts alike have about eating french fries with 19 ingredients in them. In what seems to be a bewildering about-face, McDonald’s recently announced its plans to add kale to its menu via some to-be-announced item(s) in select markets this year. This development also seems to fly in the face of the chain’s promise to cut back on its sprawling menu offerings, and only serves to confirm what the rest of us have suspected for years & what The New York Times put into words earlier this week: McDonald’s is suffering a crisis of identity (is it too late for a mid-life crisis? After all, the brand is making its first appearance at the über-hip SXSW festival, where it will likely stick out like dads at a One Direction concert).
  • Speaking of dads, remember how horrified you were when your parents found your diary? Remember the epic speech you made about privacy and how you’re “twelve years old now and can like boys and stuff!”? No? Just me? Well, anyway, Facebook wants to continue the creeping tradition parents everywhere started all those years ago, and will soon launch a feature called “Topic Data” that enables advertisers to see what users are saying about brands, products, and events on their personal pages. There is no word yet on whether it will also track mentions of how dreamy Seth in 4th period chem looks when he smiles.
  • Even though parents can be, like, totally annoying and stuff, we absolutely love and appreciate them…granted, we may not realize it until we’re 20 and living in our own apartment for the first time ever and finally realizing how much work it is keeping ourselves fed, housed and clothed. It is in the spirit of parental appreciation that American Greetings unveiled their #worldstoughestjob ad last year, in which the company posted a fake ad & interviewed applicants for what sounded like indentured servitude, but actually turned out to be mothering. While American Greetings put the salary for being a mom at $0, British florist Interflora has released a “Mum Salary Calculator” that allows parents to put in the amount of time they spend acting as their child’s/children’s teacher, caregiver, chef, etc., and calculates what their salary should be, if parents were, you know, compensated in money instead of love.  The calculator operates in pounds, but you can convert your salary to dollars here.
  • Let’s end things on a feel-good note! Microsoft is famous for its support of charities & innovative thinkers, and launched the #CollectiveProject to highlight innovative thinkers whose ideas could make the world a better place. One #CollectiveProject student, Albert Manero, founded Limbitless, which focuses on creating bionic limbs for children in need. This week, Manero joined forces with Tony Stark himself (actor Robert Downey Jr.) to present a young boy with his very own Iron Man-esque bionic arm. Watch it here, and have a great weekend!

    Contributed by RSVP Staff.


This Week in Advertising: Mar. 1 – 7

Welcome back to RSVP’s This Week in Advertising feature! Apologies for last week’s hiatus; a nasty flu bug made its way around the office, but now we’re back & better than ever! This regular series includes the news tidbits from the advertising world that interested, excited, or amused us this week. We’re glad you’ve joined us – let’s see what happened This Week in Advertising:

  •  The millennial generation has proven a difficult audience for advertisers to capture, as these post-Gen X-ers are less inclined to watch television shows traditionally, subscribe to print magazines and newspapers, and listen to radio. The key to reaching this up & coming (and highly idealistic) demographic may be in the message, not the medium: brands like Coke, Dove, and McDonald’s are targeting Millennials with positive, uplifting messages, in hopes of generating new business & continued loyalty. Could your business benefit from a similar approach?
  • March is Women’s History Month, and many companies are focusing their attention on common issues facing women in our world today. A striking example comes from across the pond, where British charity Women’s Aid created an interactive billboard featuring a battered woman’s face (WARNING: the link includes an auto-play video, so proceed with caution in quiet spaces). As more people look at the billboard, her cuts, bruises and other injuries disappear and heal; this is achieved using facial recognition software to register the number of people who have looked at the ad. The message is clear and powerful:the best way to combat domestic violence is to pay attention to those abused.
  • Oreos may be the most fun cookie to eat: you can dunk them, twist them, pull them apart, and if you’re my younger sister, you can eat the creme from the middle & stick the bald cookies back in the package to be discovered later by someone else who just wanted a snack before bed (…not that I’m bitter about that, all these years later). ANYWAY. Oreo is embracing their cookie’s playful history by inviting several artists to illustrate words commonly associated with the iconic snack, including “dunk,” “twist,” and “dream.” The colorful, creative ads are part of the brand’s “Play With Oreo” campaign.
  • Remember when travelling by plane was a delightful, luxurious experience? Well, OK, neither do we, but ask your grandparents about it! Before airlines were faced with the Airline Deregulation Act in 1978, they competed not on price, but on service, food, and passenger experience – and they sold the heck out of it, with colorful ads depicting exotic locations in whimsical & lush detail. You may be stuck in coach (don’t worry – most of us are), but you can get a look at the good ol’ days with German artist Matthias C. Hühne’s upcoming book, Airline Visual Identity: 1945-1975. The massive book, which includes full-color depictions of ads from the golden days of air travel, isn’t due out until April (and costs a whopping $300+), but you can whet your appetite with some classic airline ads courtesy of AdWeek.
  • Finally, Business Insider set the record straight this week when the popular publication shared a video on Facebook, correcting common mispronunciations of 15 popular brands. Think you know how to say “Adidas” properly? Watch the video to find out!

    Contributed by RSVP Staff.

This Week in Advertising: Feb. 15 – Feb. 21

Welcome back to RSVP’s This Week in Advertising feature! This regular series includes the news tidbits from the advertising world that interested, excited, or amused us this week. We’re glad you’ve joined us – let’s see what happened This Week in Advertising:

  • Let’s kick off with a quick lesson in what NOT to do when your company is on the receiving end of some backlash: Seasalt & Co., a company specializing in Photoshop tools, posted a bizarre ad featuring an ominous-looking tree with an even more sinister noose dangling from one of the branches, ostensibly to promote their latest line of graphic design tools…somehow. When the responses they received were less than flattering, the company began threatening legal action against those who complained, then eventually deleted their social media accounts, only to resurface later, with their Facebook page scrubbed clean of the ad, the responses to the ad, and any reference to the ad. A halfhearted and confusing apology (predictably) soon followed, and we suspect the clean-up will continue in coming months. The moral of the story? Think before you advertise, and take criticisms to heart – preferably without unnecessary legal threats.
  • At the other end of the tact spectrum, online retailer ModCloth is known not only for selling high-quality clothes in kitschy cuts & prints at affordable prices, but also for promoting realism & body diversity in their advertising – they were the first company to join a pledge against using Photoshop on their advertisements to create “unattainable body images,” and the company frequently uses images of everyday customers wearing their clothes in catalogs. They continue this tradition with their 2015 swimwear campaign, which features actual ModCloth employees instead of models. The ads include women of various heights & shapes, and have generated quite the social media buzz on Facebook, Twitter & Tumblr.
  • ModCloth may not care much for Photoshop, but millions of graphic designers the world over do, and use the program to design & create the eye-catching ads we see in our daily lives. Adobe is celebrating its iconic design program’s 25th anniversary with a vibrant 60-second ad set to Aerosmith’s “Dream On”, which will air during the Oscar Awards this Sunday evening.
  • Oh, did we mention the Oscars are on this Sunday? You can prepare for the big night by watching the stirring, emotional ads the Academy developed to promote Sunday’s show – just have some tissues ready.
  • Oscar-night ad spots are as coveted as those nestled in between plays on the Super Bowl, and American Express alone will be airing four ads, each costing the credit card company around $2 million dollars. These commercials will feature various celebrities – who are also AmEx clients – talking about their rises to fame & overcoming the obstacles that stood in the way of their dreams…dreams that are now worth $2 million dollars.
  • We know this isn’t *technically* advertising-related, but we can’t help but be fans of Mad Men, the hit AMC show that has transfixed millions over its seven-season run. The show, set in the dog-eat-dog world of 1960s advertising firms, begins its final season on April 5th, and the first trailer indicates that the swinging-sixties have given away to a very sideburn-ed & plaid seventies. Catch the spot here, and be sure to tune in to AMC on April 5th – it’s certain to be memorable.

    Contributed by the RSVP Staff

This Week in Advertising: Feb. 8 – Feb. 14

Welcome back to RSVP’s This Week in Advertising feature! This regular series includes the news tidbits from the advertising world that interested, excited, or amused us this week. We’re glad you’ve joined us – let’s see what happened This Week in Advertising:

  • Fast food behemoth McDonald’s has had some recent advertising struggles. From the ire over their “Signs” commercial (which led to a very NSFW parody on YouTube), to their on-going “Pay With Lovin'” promotion that gives the socially awkward among us heart palpitations, the burger giant just can’t seem to catch a break. Not to mention, McDonald’s continues to face scrutiny over the ingredients & healthfulness of their food – concerns they attempted to address in their “Our Food, Your Questions” series. That move only led to more headaches for the company, as people began to worry about eating a french fry made with 19 ingredients. Despite being at the top of the fast food chain, McDonald’s faces falling profits & and a tarnished image – what to do? Embrace it – McDonald’s most recent ad campaign features its signature Big Mac sandwich, and boasts that it is not a healthy food, with one ad proudly proclaiming “NOT GREEK YOGURT” over a juicy image of the legendary burger. Will this once again bring customers back to the Golden Arches? Or is America no longer lovin’ it?
  • One Kansas ad agency was on fire this week after unveiling a creative & all too realistic billboard in which Kansas City Royals’ outfielder Jarrod Dyson’s feet appear to be burning a path as he runs between bases. The ad included rope lighting along the “fiery” path that caused it to look a little too real, and the billboard sparked (pun intended) multiple phone calls from concerned citizens to the local fire department.
  • A company’s logo is arguably the most important part of its brand & image, and a successful logo transcends cultures & language barriers, as Turkish artist Mehmet Gozetlik demonstrates in his “Chinatown” series. This collection takes famous & recognizable logos, from Pepsi-Cola to NASA, and translates their English names to Chinese. See the full series on his website here – and find out how many famous logos do you can recognize.
  • Finally (and sadly), longtime Fortune 500 graphic designer, Stu Samuels, lost his battle with cancer in August of last year at the age of 82. Friends, family and colleagues will remember the graphic design great in a memorial service next week in Delray Beach, Fla.

    Contributed by the RSVP Staff

This Week in Advertising: Feb. 2 – Feb. 6

Welcome to what we hope is the first installment in our new series, “This Week in Advertising”! This is where we will recap notable advertising moments & news from the past week, and occasionally offer our own insights into what these stories mean for local business owners in our area.

This past week, all eyes were on the Super Bowl, where commercials have become as important as the game & halftime show themselves. The offerings ranged from inspiring & heartwarming:

to absurd:

and of course, to celebrity cameo-stuffed pop culture send-ups:

Not every commercial was a touchdown – see Nationwide’s Debbie Downer of an ad below, if you feel like starting your weekend off on a depressing note:


What does this teach us? Well, the most successful ads this year were either clever (like the Loctite, Snickers & BMW ads), or uplifting (like Always & Dove’s offerings), and the ads most likely to hit a sour note were depressing (Nationwide), or gross (the toe fungus commercial that we, frankly, refuse to link to because, ick). When working on your advertising, you need to not only know your target audience, but also the general atmosphere – what mood do you want to evoke in your ad’s audience, and what environment will your ad be presented in? Nationwide flubbed by inserting a grim commercial in the middle of what is essentially an enormous nationally-televised party, while Always & Dove gave us hope & warm-fuzzies during a broadcast in which many gather with friends and family to watch the game and celebrate. And never underestimate the power of clever, well-executed humor – it will make your company seem hip, laid-back, and friendly.

Thank you again for joining us in our first edition of This Week in Advertising, and join us next time  – who knows what the coming week will bring!

Contributed by the RSVP Staff


Just Stop.

I’m always trying to bring unusual content to a different audience – a non-art-world audience.Jenny Holzer.

I decided to write this blogpost on another one of my favorite female artists, Jenny Holzer.  Advertising is about making the viewer stop. Stop at that one postcard, or stop at that one page in the magazine. I believe that Jenny’s work makes people stop.

I first learned about Holzer’s work in an Art History class I took at UD. What I found fascinating about Jenny’s work was her meaningful phrases and the way that she displays them. Holzer is mostly known for her large-scale public displays that include billboard advertisements, projections on buildings and other architectural structures, as well as illuminated electronic displays. From big to small, Holzer’s work has also been shown on monuments, small posters and T-Shirts. Wikipedia says, “Her main concern is to enlighten, bringing into light something thought in silence and meant to remain hidden.”

Holzer was born in Gallipolis, Ohio and attended Duke University, the University of Chicago and Ohio University where she completed a Bachelors of Fine Arts Degree. She moved to New York City in 1976. In Manhattan, Holzer participated in an independent study at the Whitney Museum and that is where she first started working with language, installation and public art. Some of her contemporaries include Barbara Kruger, Cindy Sherman, Sarah Charlesworth, and Louise Lawler.


Holzer has done many series, but two in particular made me stop. She has a series called“For the Capitol” that she completed in 2007. Projected on the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C, this piece was made specifically for nighttime projection using quotes from John F. Kennedy and Theodore Roosevelt.

I also appreciated her project from 2006 titled “For 7 World Trade” which is one of her permanent LED light installations. It hangs in the lobby of the 7 World Trade Center in New York City. The WTC’s website mentions Holzer’s piece saying, “Holzer, a conceptual artist, created an animated-text installation of prose and poetry that scrolls across a glowing 65-foot-wide, 14-foot-high glass wall behind the reception desk. The work features pieces written by numerous authors – from Elizabeth Bishop and Allen Ginsberg to Langston Hughes and Walt Whitman – whose work evokes the history and spirit of New York City.”

That’s the test of street art – to see if anybody stops. People would cross out ones they didn’t like and would star others. I liked that people would engage with them.Jenny Holzer

Jenny Holzer is currently living upstate New York with her husband and daughter. Her art has been shown all over the world and has won many awards. Her work is controversial but I also think it has a way of pulling people in and enticing them. Her displays are in your face and make you think. I find that is needed in good advertising whether it is advertising for businesses or advertising your own thoughts and ideas. If you enjoy Jenny Holzer’s work I also recommend checking out the other artists I mentioned earlier.

Contributed by Crista Kling.








For all the pictures and information in this blog, please utilize the sources below:


Say What? Part 2

What do you mean it’s lo-res?lo res

Resolution for print images and web images are extremely different! Resolution in basic terms is the size of an image. It’s the density of dots that make up the image when printing. The bigger the resolution, the more detailed it is. The lower the resolution, the less detailed. Web images have a resolution of 72 dpi (dpi – dots per inch), while print images require a resolution of 300 dpi.

The goal of an image on a website is to get it to load fast. It’s useless to have massive images on your website when it takes forever to load.

So by using a 72 dpi image from a website and then trying to enlarge the image for print will not work. Photoshop will have to guess what pixels to fill in the gaps with extra color, which is why your image will print out fuzzy. Unfortunately the only real solution if you want a professional look is to get a different picture. Resizing a document down is okay however, as we’ve already got more than the amount of pixels we need.

Don’t try to trick the system. A lot of magic can happen in Photoshop, but creating pixels out of thin air isn’t one of them.

Click here to learn how to check the dpi of your picture.

Submitted by Caitlin Tuohy.


History of the Postcard


noun \ˈpōs(t)-ˌkärd\: a card on which a message may be sent by mail without an envelope and that often has a picture on one side


The United States Postal Service first began issuing pre-stamped postal cards in 1873.  They were introduced to the public as an easy way to send quick notes. Until May 19, 1898 the USPS was the only establishment allowed to print postcards. The monopoly ended when Congress passed the Private Mailing Card Act which allowed private publishers and printers to produce and mail their own postcards.


 Private Mailing Cards Period, 1898 – 1901:


During the Private Mailing Card period, messages were not allowed on the back of the card. The only area where notes from the sender were permitted was a small space on the front of the card. The postcards required a 1 cent stamp.

postcard1 postcard2

Post Card Period, 1901-1907:

In December of 1901, the USPS issued Post Office Order Number 1447 which allowed the words “Post Card” to be on the card instead of the longer “Postal Mailing Card.”  Messages were still not allowed on the back of the post cards during this period.

postcard4 postcard3



Divided Back Period, 1907-1914:

A major change took place on March 1, 1907 with the way the backs of postcards looked. The left side of the back of the card was now allowed to have message written in that space. The right side of the card was for the address.

postcard5 postcard6


White Border Period, 1915-1930:

Up until this period German printers dominated the market in postcard printing. With the start of World War I, postcards were supplied mostly by printers in the United States. During this period, printers saved ink by not printing to the edge of the card leaving the white border around the image.

postcard7 postcard8


Linen Period, 1930-1944:

As time went on, new printing processes were developed. During this period, postcards could be printed with high rag content, which gave them a look of being printed on linen or cloth. Bright colors were also introduced during this period.

postcard9 postcard10


Modern Photochrome-style Period, 1939 – to date:

This style of postcards first appeared in 1939. The Union Oil Company carried them in their western service stations. Production of the postcards slowed during World War II because of supply shortages, but after the war, this type of postcards dominated the market. The photochrome postcards are in color and are the closest to real photographs and are the ones most familiar to us today.

postcard11 postcard12

At RSVP we love the postcard (obviously!). It’s not just a nostalgic piece of every family vacation we ever took – it’s a modern, upscale advertising tool that has proven itself to be as diverse as the pictures on the front. Long live the postcard!

Contributed by Marcella Gillespie.








A quick thank you to our sources for this awesome information: