Anatomy and Elements of a Print Advertisement

Zatarain's advert in the Old Quarter of New Orleans
Atlantide Phototravel / Getty Images

Ads come in all shapes and sizes but they have a common goal — to sell a product, a service, a brand. Text, visuals or a combination of the two are the main elements of any print ad.

The Main Elements of an Advertisement

Photographs, drawings, and graphic embellishments are a key visual element of many types of ads. Some ads may have only a single visual while others might have several pictures. Even text-only ads might have some graphics in the form of decorative bullets or borders. When included with visuals the caption is one of the first things most readers look at after the visual. It's not in all ads but it is an option that gives the advertiser one more chance to grab the reader.

The main headline may be the strongest element of the ad or it may be secondary to a strong visual. Some ads may have subheads and other title elements as well. Just making it larger isn't enough, headlines should be well-written to get the readers' attention.

The copy is the main text of the ad. Some ads may take a minimalist approach, a line or two or a single paragraph. Other ads may be quite text-heavy with paragraphs of information, possibly arranged in columns newspaper style. While the words are the most important part of the copy, visual elements such as indentation, pull-quotes, bullet lists, and creative kerning and tracking can help to organize and emphasize the message of the body of the ad.

The contact form of an ad may appear anywhere in the ad although it is usually near the bottom. It consists of one or more of:

  • Logo
  • Advertiser Name
  • Address
  • Phone Number
  • Map or Driving Directions
  • Web Site Address

Some print ads may have additional special elements such as an attached business reply envelope, tear-out portion with a coupon, tip sheet, product sample.

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