5 Tips To Design Paper Ads for School Marketing

5 Tips To Design Paper Ads for School Marketing

To keep up with trends in independent school education, I get a few magazines delivered to my home each month. It’s a mix of independent school-specific and regional parent magazines.

Yes, I still like the feel of a good book or magazine. And I know I’m not alone.

So, while I’m a staunch advocate for digital marketing, make no mistake about it; there’s still a place for paper ads.

But you’ve got to get it right because it’s so difficult to measure the return on investment compared to digital.

So here are my five tips on how to do just that.

1. Where You At?

First, think about the publication in which you are advertising. The regional parent magazine’s private school issue was the stalwart ad spend for decades.

With so many ‘did ya think abouts’ and ‘you should definitely includes,’ coming from colleagues and board members, you were left with a hodgepodge of slogans and features that mirrored the same messages as the ad above, below, and next to yours.

Paper is now the place to go bold!

Whatever other schools are doing, do the opposite. Here’s a tip, show it to those same colleagues and board members who gave you their two cents for past ads. If one of them explodes with emotion, you’ve got it (avoid explosion of anger or sadness).

Next, placement.

If you want to stay conservative with your ad, ditch the typical publications and go bold again! Guns & Ammo or People, anyone? #maybe? #probablynot

The bolder you go, the more definite you’ll be in knowing where someone saw your ad and the content within that ad.

2. You Talkin’ To Me?

This is going to sound harsh, but nobody cares about your brand. No one cares that you have great teachers and a rigorous curriculum. They care about what you can do for their child.

So write with that in mind. Replace At Widget Academy… with Your child…

Your child will [verb] because [benefit(s)] at Widget Academy.

Make the reader the lead in your ad “story,” and let the parent be the story’s hero when they enroll.

3. Know Your Role

Thirty years ago, independent schools were en vogue, so you had to be in the know.

The parent magazine guides were to parents what the Sears Wish Book was to the kids.

While the Wish Book is no more, parents still read the paper publications. However, without an amazing offer or call-to-action, treat your ad as a brand awareness campaign and design it as such.

With so much information and resources online, rarely will you get the parent to pick up the phone and call the number in your ad.

4. No Posers

There’s nothing more disingenuous than a camera-facing, posed picture. Even worse is a stock photo of the same ilk. (I just had a chill run down my back).

When choosing a photo, think about what emotion you want to elicit from the reader. Remember, this will likely be their first brand impression of your school.

4.5 A few additional tips when choosing a visual.

4.5.1 – Choose an action photo. Action creates emotion.

5. How Does This Sound?

Some schools unwittingly do a great job pushing brand awareness because they are either stretched too thin or too budget-strapped to pay a designer for a new ad each month.

The other side of that coin is the school that changes the ad constantly because they do not see direct results.

These are usually the same people that create ads that look good to THEM and maybe a few people around the proverbial water cooler outside their office.

Find some of your best customers and show them a few variations to see how they FEEL about each one.

Wants some more tips? How about a partnership with the #1 digital marketing firm for schools? Reach out today.


by Trevor Waddington, Founder & Principal, Truth Tree

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