Originally Published January 22, 2006

Vintage Newspaper Ad

Classic Newspaper Ad

I’ve had the privilege of working with a few select clients who are willing to invest the time and resources to make their companies very good very quickly.

These are the business people who understand that their marketing deserves as much attention as their merchandising. They know that a shopper’s first personal experience in their store must be consistant with the image created in their advertising.

They have the discipline to track the results of every advertising campaign.

And for many of them, eighth-page newspaper ads turn out to be the most cost-effective investment1.

I was reminded of this when I came across a study by business-to-business magazine publisher Cahners Publishing (now Reed Business Information) to determine the average number of inquiries about products that were generated by various sized ads in their publications. Cahners Research looked at 86,002 ads in 34 of their publications. They analyzed nearly nine million inquiries for more information.

They concluded that the average number of responses increase as the size of the ad increases.2 Without intending to, it appears that they also make a case for smaller ads.

The Cahners Study shows that, much like the Starch “noting factors,” response falls off with decreases in ad size, but not on a one-to-one ratio. A full-page ad gets an average of 76 responses, but a half-page ad, which costs half as much, gets an average of 56 responses. And a quarter-page ad, which costs one-forth as much as a full page, gets an average of 52 responses.

Remember, we are not trying to reach the largest possible audience with this analysis. We’re trying to achieve the largest possible return on our advertising investment. The evidence is that smaller ads are more cost effective.

When compared on a cost per “sale” basis, the chart looks like this:

A full page ad returns 76 responses. A half page ad returns 56. When the ad cost is compared to the ad response, it becomes obvious that each “sale” resulting from the half-page ad cost only 21% as much as each sale which resulted from the full-page ad. Each quarter-page “sale” costs only 10% as much.

Let me repeat that: The cost per sale from a quarter-page ad is one tenth the cost per sale of a full-page ad.

Now, granted, the Cahners Study looked at technical magazines, and not at newspapers, but it’s conclusions reinforce what several of my clients have observed from their own advertising tracking.

This doesn’t mean that you now only need to spend one-forth or one-eighth as much. What it means is running smaller ads at a greatly reduced cost will now allow you to run those smaller ads more often.

Finally, these observations should only be used as guidelines. In addition to frequency of exposure, response to your advertising will be affected by several other factors, including:

The impact quotient of your advertising copy.  If you say nothing of interest to shoppers, don’t be surprised when they respond with disinterest.

Your share of voice. Think of this as the size of your ad budget when compared to the budgets of all of your competitors.

Your professional reputation, which is based on Customer Experience. How good are you at what you do, when compared to each of your competitors?

The market’s potential. The number of dollars in your trade area isn’t something that you’re likely to change.

And finally, your choice of medium. There is evidence that products with short purchase cycles will sell better when advertised in visual media, and auditory media will provide better results when used to promote products with long purchase cycles.

All of these factors become less guesswork if you’re willing to keep accurate records. Record the number of customers who buy from you each day. Record the times they return to purchase again each week, each month, each year. Calculate your largest selling items. Calculate the average ticket price. Track these averages and compare them to yesterday, to last week, last month, last year.

This will take fanatical dedication.

It’s too easy to say “I’ll bring those records up to speed tomorrow.” This is far too important to delegate the responsibility to an employee. And it’s all too much a reality that most business owners just do not have enough hours to handle the rest of their responsibilities and this as well.

What about you?  Will you find the time to go fishing for customers?

Your Guide,
Chuck McKay

Marketing consultant Chuck McKayYour Fishing for Customers guide, Chuck McKay, gets people to buy more of what you sell.

Questions about tracking the results of your advertising may be directed to ChuckMcKay@ChuckMcKayOnLine.com. Or call Chuck at 304-208-7654.

If you know someone who would find this article useful, please share it.


1 Please do not assume that I’ve just endorsed eighth-page ads at the exclusion of all other possibilites. As I pointed out in Is Bigger Really Better the only way to truthfully know your most cost effective ad size is to track responses to your business’ advertising.

2 Cahner’s Conclusion: “Inquiries, on the average will increase as the size of the advertisement increases. The type of audience reached and the content of the advertisement play a major role in the number of inquiries generated, as well. Certain audiences do not inquire at all. This data sheet makes no attempt at analyzing the qualitative aspects of audience or advertisement.