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Marketing Tips for Dentists
Published by Galen Stilson
Direct Response Copywriter/Consultant
Dental Marketing a specialty

Design Elements Than Can Help Improve
The Response To Your Printed Advertising
Part 2


Text printed in black enjoys a higher comprehension level than text printed in any other color. Text printed in black on white has the highest comprehension level versus all other color combinations.  That holds true for headlines also. However, judicious use of color can be extremely effective in direct response advertising if not overused.


Next to black on white, the best color combinations (for ease of reading) would be dark green on white, dark blue on white, and brown on white. The brighter the color, the more difficult it is to read and the less the reader comprehension will be. If you do print body copy in color, it is recommended that you increase the type size, shorten lines, and add leading between lines. Again, however, judicious use of bright colors can be an effective attention-drawing tactic. And drawing attention to key points can boost response. (Plus, use of certain paper/ink colors can reflect a specific style and/or image that one might want to portray ... particularly when using direct mail.)


Although color can be used effectively to draw initial attention to the headline (and subheads), one must be selective with the choice of colors. If you use very bright colors (high chroma colors like hot red or orange) not only does headline comprehension drop drastically (by about 86%), so does comprehension of the associated body text (by about 75%). The reason. It's distracting. The bright colors keep drawing the reader's attention from the body copy.


Indenting of paragraphs (and/or double spacing between paragraphs) can increase readership by up to 12%.


Widows (a single word at the end of a paragraph on a line by itself) seem to slightly increase rather than decrease readership as was once thought. If you always format your ads/letters/publications to intentionally avoid widows, you can comfortably cease and desist from the habit.


Justified copy enjoys the highest comprehension level. Switching from justified to flush-left-ragged-right reduces comprehension by about 44%. Switching from justified to flush-right-ragged-left cuts comprehension by about 85%. (However, one study showed that those individuals who do not read well find justified copy more difficult to read than flush-left-ragged-right copy.) As a rule, justify ad copy when using equally sized, multiple columns in your ads.


Readership usually drops off substantially after the first 50 words, so make sure your first 50 words get to the key points. For example, in one study of advertisements there was a 30% drop-off in readership from 50 words to 100 words. Between 100 and 150 words there was an additional 17% drop-off. From 150 to 200 words, an additional 10% drop-off. And from 200 to 250, another 9% drop. (I'll go into more detail on this "First 50 Words" concept in a future issue.)


Body copy typeset in 11 point with 2 point leading ("leading" -- pronounced "led-ing" -- is the size of the white space between lines of type) is easiest to read. Don't vary much from the 10-12 point type size with 2 point leading ... except when targeting older adults. Because many older adults have difficulty reading, you should increase the point size to the 12-14 point range.

Please keep in mind that ease of reading and comprehension only make up a part of what goes into creating successful response advertisements.  Attracting the attention of the reader is so critical in newspaper and magazine ads that often one must give up some of the less important comprehension in order to do it.

If you have questions about any of the above tips, email me.

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Copyright 2006 by Galen Stilson. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.