Direct response design is all about getting people to READ the text. If no one reads the words, why bother running the ad?
While flipping through some magazines recently, I came across this ad for a laser sighting device. I know what the ad is about because of the photo, but certainly not because of the text. This ad ignores virtually every convention for designing readable copy.
Notice that it wants to be a direct response ad. There’s an offer for a DVD at the bottom, but the Web address and phone number are tiny and hard to read. There is no headline. The text is “justified,” meaning it’s stretched to line up with both margins. Copy is set in all caps. The background is dark. And the main text is framed as if it’s artwork.
If you want to design an ad no one will read, this is how it’s done. I’m writing a blog post about it and I’ve still not read it!
Now here’s another ad from the same magazine. The product is grass plugs. It’s not going to win any design awards, but notice the difference.
Here you have an ad that IS designed to be read. Not only is there a headline, there’s a headline with benefits. The text is a bit small, but it’s legible and set in three columns, which makes text lines short and scannable. Subheads spell out benefits and organize the copy. There’s a clear, highlighted call to action and an order form. The designer was even smart enough to use black type on a yellow background, which is a high-contrast combination in print.
If you want people to read an ad, you must follow the conventions of readable type. If nothing else, look at a newspaper or high-circulation magazine for ideas. There’s a reason popular publications are popular: people READ them.