13 ways to create a winning print ad


Thanks to Jeremy Taylor Riley for this gem of an article from BRAND REPUBLIC about some extensive research from the Gunn Report (who reviewed 1,000 of the most awarded and admired ads and campaigns in the world from the past 15 years) to analyse how ideas are found for great press and outdoor ads. Have a read.

Click here for the original article on BRAND REPUBLIC


The ‘Power of Print’ study identified 13 different basic dramatic formats used to engage consumers creatively and effectively.

A valuable tool for students and young creatives alike wanting to delve deeper into what makes a print ad stand out or for seasoned industry professionals looking for a spark of inspiration, The ‘Power of Print’ is an insight of best practice used in brand communications.

We’ve done the hard work for you, so here are the 13 basic Dramatic Formats identified, each with a great example. Enjoy.

1. Information/Facts

Newspapers and magazines are the media we spend time with for the express purpose of gathering news and information. So when we have compelling information or facts strong enough to carry the sale, it would seem a shame – possibly even a crime – not to go this route.

Example: Moms for Gunn Sense, “little red riding hood” (pictured above)

2. Fresh Thought/Insight

When lacking unique product news or information, a fresh thought or insight we can dig up out of the product can actually be just as powerful.

It feels like proprietary news because our product is the one that has brought it to the light of day, thus providing a fresh point-of-view on the product’s value and usefulness in life.

Axe Deodorant

Example: Axe Deodorant “get a girlfriend – scout”

3. Demo In Print

With movement, time, visuals and sound, demonstration is clearly the trump suit of television. But a single static picture can provide visual proof too. Sometimes factual authenticity is key. But with an extra charming idea, a soupçon of creative licence will be granted.

Example: Tide-to-go stain remover pen,

Example: Tide-to-go stain remover pen, “pocket”     

4. Dramatise The Need/Problem

The process is to turn our creative spotlight full beam onto the Need the product meets, the Problem it solves. Problems, from a dramatic perspective, can be more entertaining and more arresting than solutions.

So the sale is achieved by exploiting the dramatic potential of the Need/Problem… as the build-up to bringing on the Client’s product (or message) as the answer.

Granny's Fries,

Example: Granny’s Fries, “Ida”

5. Exaggerated Graphic for The Need/Problem

Format 5 is Dramatise the Need/Problem continued. But now we leave the realms of reality and exaggeration takes over. To enhance the impact, as we put the Need or Problem centre stage, our job is to create a larger-than-life, indeed other-than-life, visual metaphor and hyperbole.

Example: Imodium D,

Example: Imodium D, “bus seat”

6. Comparison

The advertising idea is to juxtapose the benefit as provided by our product versus the inferior alternative supplied by others. It can even take the form of mocking the plight of the silly person who has chosen the wrong product.


Example: Harley-Davidson, “thighs”

7. Tell a Story

Ever since The Bible and Aesop’s Fables, a truly great way to get a message across is to wrap it up in a story. People like stories, people listen to stories. And if they are very good stories, people sometimes even pass them on. One route is to come up with stories that exemplify the product’s role and usefulness in life. The other route is to dream up consequences that the benefit could cause.

CNN Turkey,

Example: CNN Turkey, “cameraman”

8. Exaggerated Graphic for The Benefit

Testimony to the power of a knockout visual – one that translates the benefit arrestingly, surprisingly and perfectly – is to stop customers in their tracks and win mind space for the brand.

Example: Heineken,

Example: Heineken, “builder’s bum”

9. Associated or Used Imagery Lifestyle/Attitude Reflect The Benefit

The Benefit is reflected contextually, in terms of where it lives and what it lives with. The most potent association of all tends to be with people. These are the people with whom you identify and with whom you are identified when you buy, carry and use a brand.


Example: Diesel, “smart/stupid – brains-balls”

10. Media-Driven Idea

Nowadays the ‘Outdoor’ category has extended to anything that happens out of the home, inc. stunts and happenings which are filmed for virals, as well as for the 10 O’clock News. Our examples here are all billboard or poster-led.

They have resulted from pondering the creative brief and the selling message in conjunction with the outdoor Media we could choose to use and how we could use it.

Example: The Zimbabwean,

Example: The Zimbabwean, “cheaper than money”

11. Product Provides The Graphic

A brilliant solution whenever we can pull it off, so it is worth think-about time on every brief. Can we harness the visual characteristics/the look of the product to provide a personalised graphic idea for the advertising? If so, i) impact, ii) uniqueness and iii) outstanding branding will all three have been achieved.

Example: Havaianas,

Example: Havaianas, “rainbow”

12. Borrowed Format or Parody

This is harnessing a vehicle that’s already familiar as a unique way to burn home our message. It could be a movie, or art, or an iconic image, or something from showbiz, or from history, or from fiction, or even a famous ad campaign.

There is a whole wealth of material out there with potential, if we can make it relevant to our selling message, for borrowing or parodying.

Example: Czech National Library,

Example: Czech National Library, “the old man and the sea”

13. Participation

Originating from the coupon ad, adventurous creative brands have taken it much further. The basic principle is that the reader/viewer has to participate with the ad on the printed page, in order to complete the circle.

BBC World,

Example: BBC World, “citizens/criminals”

Donald Gunn is the founder of The Gunn Report. To view the full ‘Power of Print’ analysis and all 140 supporting examples, visit http://www.gunnreport.com

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk





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