The Visual Appeal of Large Print Ads

By Kevin Miller

I’m an “online” kind of person. While I’ll admit to subscribing to one mainstream print auto magazine and receiving the printed bi-monthly magazines of the Volvo Club North America and Saab Club North America, that’s the extent of my print reading. Now in my mid-30s, I’ve never subscribed to a daily newspaper, preferring to get my news online. I even write for this online media site. Consequently, that’s the way I typically see advertisement- online.

I was on the road all week last week, staying at a hotel oriented to business travelers. Every day the hotel staff dutifully left the Wall Street Journal outside of my door, and every day I picked it up, carried it around in my briefcase all day, and then put it in the recycling bin the next morning when I picked up the next day’s paper.

On Friday afternoon, I was thrilled to find myself traveling home at the end of what had been a long week. On the airplane, I pulled out that morning’s WSJ that I’d shoved into my bag earlier in the day. In the paper’s first section were two ads I found riveting. Page A7 featured a full-page Porsche ad, the top half of which featured a huge color photo of a white 911 parked at a curb at night in an urban setting, with a 30-something woman approaching the car carrying a bag of takeout food. The copy in the largely-empty lower half of the page stated “The things you do everyday cease to be everyday things.” Smaller print waxed poetically, while a bold figure to the right announced 1.9% financing for 60 months. The Porsche crest and disclaimer text anchored the page at the bottom.

The full-page ad certainly drew my attention, especially juxtaposed against the opposite page, with tightly-packed text and a heart-rending photo showing globs of spilled crude oil floating in a Louisiana marsh. As I’m conditioned by reading smaller-scale buff books and online banner ads, I’m unaccustomed to holding such a large, nicely-composed advertisement in my hands. It looked really good to me, and I lingered on the Porsche ad for a long time, giving it a great deal of attention.

Just one page-turn later, the bottom of page A9 featured a half-page ad for the 2011 Jaguar XJ. I’ve been in love with the XJ since I first saw it at the LA Auto Show last December, and this ad rekindled my interest, with a rear ¾ view of the XJ and the text “The Ownership Experience is Just as Stunning”. It’s a very nicely composed advertisement, highlighting Jaguar’s 5 year/50,000 mile warranty/maintenance coverage rather than providing any details about the stunning new XJ. Again, I spent a few minutes studying the ad, both the text and the curves of the XJ (whose rear overhang length is accentuated by the angle at which the photo was taken).

Of course, the point of these newspaper advertisements isn’t to convey the technical specs of any particular car; instead they are intended to be visually arresting, causing the reader to linger and consider the benefits of buying the car or brand advertised. In that regard, I’d consider each of these ads successful. Five years of free maintenance on a Jaguar sounds appealing, and I found myself thinking about both the beautifully-crafted 2008 XJ Super V8 and the amazing handling, gorgeous 2010 XF I reviewed, both of which were beautifully crafted, enjoyable cars to drive. The Porsche ad reminded me of the 2009 Cayman I reviewed earlier this year, and the perceived glamour of owning one- the beautiful imagery made me temporarily forget how confining and expensive the Cayman is. In each case, the large-scale print adverts caught my eye, highlighted appealing facets of potential ownership, and got me daydreaming about the brands they were selling- in a way that online and small-scale ads cannot.

Note: As in online advertising, it is difficult to convey the large scale of these ads in this online post. That said, close-ups of the ads are below.

Author: Kevin Miller

As Autosavant’s resident Swedophile, Kevin has an acute affinity for Saabs, with a mild case of Volvo-itis as well. Aside from covering most Saab-related news for Autosavant, Kevin also reviews cars and covers industry news. His “Great Drive” series, with maps and directions included, is a reader favorite.

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1 Comment

  1. These display ads demonstrate a niche in online advertising that is not be well exploited. Online ads are typically both small and rich in distracting colour and movement. Worse they often try an employ the latest widget or software. There’s a reason these classic print techniques work…there’s no reason why they wouldn’t even online – it’s just a simple low bandwidth image! The question is where in this interweb would such a thing work to the best effect?

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