How To Tweak Your Next Newspaper Advert For Improved ROI


'Advertise or die' is a very popular cliché in the world of business. I'm a firm believer of this. Advertising is one area of business that entrepreneurs can't wish away. It's delicate, somehow complicated and could leave you broke before you pronounce 'John Doe' if not done with wisdom.

With the advent of social media, a lot of buzz have been created around social media advertising. Some social media marketers even went as far as claiming that traditional advertising is dead and buried by social media advertising. This is not true.

I've tested and still using both traditional and social media advertising. I have been on the editorial board of a newspaper here in Lagos and I've had to promote the newspaper offline and online. I've promoted eminent people online and offline and I can confirm to you that both traditional and new media advertising are still alive and thriving as supported by this Forbes article. Both have their pros and cons. But that's topic for another day.

My topic for discussion today is to share with you a proven strategy that you can use to tweak your newspaper adverts so that you can squeeze out more value from your advertising budget. Not too long ago, around 2012-2013 to be precise, I was gifted the opportunity to experiment with this idea which I've always known to be true, the outcome was awesome.

I had done my research long ago. I was sure my findings and solution were going to work. I had even tested my idea on a small scale. But I wanted a bigger platform to test it. SuccessDigest newspaper provided me that platform.

Truth be said, if you're like me, you're probably sick and tired of being advertised to. Most people are tired of seeing adverts. We see hundreds of them everyday. They're there in our inbox, on TV, in the newspapers, while surfing the web, on our phones as SMS or push notifications, on billboards, branded vehicles etc. Any corner you turn, you are bound to see an advert, especially if you live in Lagos like I do.

The summary of the outcome of the personal research I carried was that due to the ubiquity of adverts, people have become indifferent to anything that looks like advert. So to stand any chance of getting people's attention, your style of advert must be unique. Some advertisers try to do this by using eye-catching graphic designs. Some try to use half-nude girls. Some use popular faces. 

While big brands can get away with this style of advertising (they are already well-known and are not looking for direct response to their offers), same cannot be said of small and medium scale businesses who have to make every advert campaign count. So, trying to look like a big brand on the pages of newspaper is like sweet poison to many advertisers. 

What interests me the most is the fact that despite the many evidences supporting this advertising phenomenon, many Nigerian advertisers seem to be unaware as they keep pushing out adverts upon adverts on the pages of national dailies despite the fact that their ROI does not justify the amount of money invested in advertising. This is a pointer to another surprising view I've long held; many advertisers don't measure their adverts ROI. This also is discussion for another day. 

So back to my idea on how to tweak your newspaper adverts and shoot up your ROI from adverts. A time came when SuccessDigest newspaper was passing through a real tough patch financially. Advert revenue, the paper's main source of income as it is with all media houses, took a nosedive and was not showing any sign of coming up again despite all the efforts put in by the advert executives. Management got concerned and had to brainstorm on how to steady the ship or close shop.

Management set out to inquire from advertisers why they no longer patronize the, hitherto, booming SuccessDigest advertising platform. Our discovery was ground-shaking!

I'll summarize our discovery thus; SuccessDigest advertisers were smarter than we thought! We, the editorial team of SuccessDigest newspaper, have somehow forgotten that a good percentage of our regular advertisers are mostly the protégés of the publisher of SuccessDigest and Complete Sports newspaper, Dr. Sunny Obazu-Ojeagbase; the father of direct marketing in Nigeria as far as I'm concerned. 

We got the same response from all the advertisers we interviewed. I still remember my visit to Azemogbor Gregory, founder of BethelMendels, Ikeja, and one of SuccessDigest's leading advertiser at that time. Our photojournalist, Asije Matthew, volunteered to drive my official car that day as we set out from Okota to the Ikeja office of BethelMendels. He was confident that our presence in Greg's office would be enough to bring him back to continue advertising with SuccessDigest.

By the time I finished discussing with Greg, I discovered we have a big problem on our hands. Apparently, advertisers on SuccessDigest platform have been following the advice of their mentor. They've been monitoring their adverts ROI which has been gradually and consistently declining for a while. So, one after the other, they pulled out from advertising on SuccessDigest platform.

After brainstorming on our findings, management felt it knows what to do. Many agreed that increasing print-run so that the advertiser's adverts can reach more eyeballs will do the magic. Unfortunately, that option was not within management's reach as the paper was running on a very lean budget. To make matters worse, many agents and vendors were not making expected returns to the company. You see, in publishing, newspaper agents and vendors can conspire to frustrate you. For seven years, I watch this happen to different publications in different ways. Publishing is a difficult terrain where you can easily burn your life savings as a publisher. 

In SuccessDigest's case, some agents and vendors were simply not co-operating anymore. They collect the papers, sell and keep everything for themselves with a promise to pay up soon. The paper was handicapped. The only thing that could be done was to stop giving papers to such agents and vendors. This kept happening every now and then and over time this greatly affected the paper's circulation figures. Advertisers were not aware of this till later.

It was at this point that I offered my idea to management in one of our weekly editorial meetings. I told management that I was strongly of the opinion that even with the modest circulation figures, advertisers can still get decent return on investment if my idea was implemented.

What's that idea, you ask?

My idea was to help advertisers reconstruct and redesign their adverts such that it will not look like what the readers are already used to. I called it advertorial (advert in story form). It involves interviewing the advertisers, and crafting great stories around their offers. People love stories. Stories well-told. Weaving offers with a interesting stories will bring down readers guards and lure them into patronising the advertiser's offer, I reasoned.  I'd seen it in foreign newspapers. I'd tried it myself on my blog. I was sure it would work for SuccessDigest advertisers.

As it happened, the idea was a life-line! Immediately upon implementation, SuccessDigest was able to pay its staff full salaries after several months of paying its staff half salaries and sometimes a small percentage of their salaries because of sharp dip in advert revenue and withdrawal of subsidy by its publishers.

Come to think of it, this was the same SuccessDigest that loyal advertisers of many years had given up on. The same print-run (we couldn't afford increasing print run at that time). The same kind of offers. The only difference, new style of presenting adverts content. 

This true life story is not about me or SuccessDigest. It's about you, an advertiser or a prospective advertiser and how you can get maximum ROI from your advertising budget. It starts with doing things differently. Rather than create your advert to look like that of big brands with pictures, colours and lots of free space (aesthetic but hardly sells anything other than brand recognition), come up with a great advertorial to promote your offer. It works! It sells!! Reason? I can't put my finger on it yet. Maybe its because it doesn't look like the usual adverts readers are already used to and skip by intuition. Maybe its because advertorials offer you the flexibility to connect with your audience in more words. Whatever be the reason, advertorials in newspaper sell more than traditional newspaper advert formats. 

I remember an advertorial I wrote for Mr. Sunday Anjorin, an importer/exporter who exports timber and imports phones and tablets. The copy was so good that Mr. Anjorin had to order for another container of the android tablet we promoted in SuccessDigest from China to be able to meet up with orders coming from SuccessDigest readers alone.

READ ALSO: List Of Some Content Creation & Marketing Gigs Executed By OMS

If you're a good writer, you can write your advertorial yourself and buy advertising space in any newspaper of your choice. If you're not too good with written words, then go ahead and hire a freelance copywriter to interview you and then weave your interview into a well-crafted advertorial. 

I keep telling clients who consult me on content marketing that 'unless they're big brand with overflowing budget for adverts meant solely for brand recognition, then they have no business with those traditional 'pictures-and-beautiful-colors' kind of adverts. Such advert design impacts on small advertisers' ability to give their target audience enough reasons to open their wallets and patronize them.

Lastly, if you want the best from your advertorial, avoid 'salesy' copies. They can easily turn your readers off. Work on giving your readers something educative and full of benefits to them; a copy too good to be ignored.


Lordson Okpetu is the Managing Partner of Ogbonge Marketing Services (OMS). You can Whatsapp me privately for solution to your content creation and marketing challenges