The Continuing Saga Of The Spec Ad Layout

Even in today’s amazing technology, there remains a classic, time-worn problem:  How are the advertising materials organized between the client and the salesperson and how does the salesperson present these materials to the graphic artist?  More importantly, how are spec layouts presented back to the client?

The answer: Usually not well organized.  But to solve the problem, let’s take a few steps back.

Salesperson’s Role

The salesperson has to become a trusted advisor to the client and have the ability not only to get the client involved in the planning and content of the ads, but to demonstrate that he or she is a marketing pro that knows layout design, can write good copy, knows type faces and can sell long range ad campaigns.  It is obvious that this type of salesperson has to have these skills when hired or to be trained by the sales manager to develop the skills.  The optimal word here is control. The salesperson has to take charge of the situation and work with the client . . . similar to an advertising agency approach

Organization Of Rough Layout

The contents have to be organized so that the client can see and approve the format.  This format includes selections of headlines, art work, suggested copy and overall ad design.  The idea here is to find the customer’s ego hot buttons and work them into the ad ideas.

The Next Critical Action

The final action before leaving the client is to say these words: “We want to tell the story of your business in our publication. But we can’t do this all in one ad. We need to know the reasons why people come to you, what benefits they can receive, and then we can create a succesful ad campaign.”

Using the reasons provided by the client, you can create several different ads as part of a campaign. Each of these ads will feature one of the reasons and make it the focus or heading of that individual ad. Thus, the advertiser will have a series of ads each with a different angle, but ultimately selling the same product.

Once the campaign or ads are discussed, tell the client that comprehensive layout ideas will be provided during your next visit. It is imperative that the customer fully agree to this and give permission to do so. Misunderstandings in this could delay the creative process.

Next Step: The Layout Artist

Keep in mind that the salesperson knows what image is to be projected, what hot buttons to be hit and how the campaign is to flow:   “Telling the story of their business,” is telling the reasons given which are to be the headings of the ads.  Any rough layouts done with the customer are given to the layout artist.  It should be clear to the artist what the customer and the salesperson have formulated to that point.  The layout artist proceeds to develop one kick off ad for a campaign or a series of ads to show how a campaign would look.  There may be an issue of overall ad design which will flag the readers eye.  There may be a logo which does not reflect the true image of the business.  A suggested new logo rough layout may be done, bearing in mind there would be an art fee for a final finished piece of logo art.  It is imperative that the artist and salesperson carefully go over the comprehensive spec layouts before taken to the customer.

The Layout Presentation To The Customer

The spec layouts are ready.  In some cases they might be mounted to give a more polished look.  The customer is called and informed that the layouts are done and the appointment set up to show them.  Obviously, there should be a plan to take to the customer which will present the advertising program customized to the customer’s needs.  It is important that the spec layouts are shown first before the plan.  This ties in with the adage, “You sell with emotion, and justify with facts.”  It is very important to show how the layouts tell the story of their business and are designed to get quick readership.  The reader’s scanning pattern for the ads is defined so that the customer understands that every attention has been given to that critical aspect.

Protecting Your Creativity

All creative spec layouts and artwork are copyrighted under copyright laws.  The idea is copyrighted the “instant it is expressed in a tangible form.”  This means the customer cannot take your ideas and hand them to your media competition.

Some publications even have a stamped form on their layouts which the customer signs to show they understand that the creativity being shown to them is copyrighted.  There are also publications that clearly state on their rate card that “Advertising layouts and copy prepared by paid employees of the publisher are the property of this newspaper and cannot be reproduced in other media without the expressed consent of the publisher.”

The Happy Ending

If all of the groundwork has been laid by the account salesperson, if the spec layouts really sizzle, and if the customer has complete trust and belief in the newspaper as the key player in their media mix . . . they will buy the advertising plan and authorize the spec layouts to be converted into a strong advertising campaign.  As a final word of caution – you can’t rush the process of creativity.  There might be more than one meeting with the customer to thoroughly understand their needs and hit their ego hot buttons.  If you have any questions about the procedures discussed in this article, feel free to call the author at 800-536-5408 or e-mail: