What makes a great b-to-b print ad?

Example 'borrowed interest' theme ad

by Marc Diebold, President & CEO

I’ve blogged about this before, but every time I flip through a stack of trade publications and see a plethora of bad ads, it prompts me to resurrect this topic and put a fresh spin on it.

A great business-to-business ad in my mind has a balance of three main elements: a dramatic execution, a persuasive buying idea, and an end-user perspective. That may sound like an oversimplification of what can often be a challenging task, especially when you have to create an ad for a complex product (which is what we most often deal with at dgs), but it’s a solid framework from our perspective.

To break down this formula even more, let’s look at the first element, a dramatic execution, in more detail. After all, if you don’t have this, people just flip the page and it won’t matter how good a job you did presenting a persuasive buying idea or an end-user perspective. There are different ways to accomplish the goal of having a dramatic execution, but one worth mentioning here is the idea of a ‘borrowed interest’ theme. This is where you use a photograph or an illustration unrelated to the subject matter of the ad in a way that suggests two interpretations. The example ad you see in this post is one we did for machine tool builder GF AgieCharmilles that uses this approach. You can’t read the copy of the ad on an image this small, so I’ve copied it here for your reference:

With one small step, a man became a hero and the impossible became a reality. The same heroic spirit that fueled the space race and placed the fi rst man on the moon still lives within the people who support NASA’s continued pursuit of innovation. Using GF AgieCharmilles HPM 800U machines, NASA experts manufacture the technology that continues to propel science beyond what we think possible. From that fi rst lunar landing to modern space exploration, the heroes behind these accomplishments take small steps every day that amount to giant leaps for mankind. Read more about how GF AgieCharmilles helps NASA achieve more at us.gfac.com/hero.

As for presenting a persuasive buying idea, what we’re looking for here is an idea that has the power to change the way a prospect thinks and feels about a product. This can often be the most difficult element to pull off.

Presenting an end-user perspective is the final piece. The ability to achieve this goal is based in the agency creative team’s insight about the end user and their relationship with, or understanding of, the product.

So, there you have it – the dgs perspective on how to make a great b-to-b ad. All comments welcome. Thanks for reading.

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