Print Advertising Explained

What Is It and How Much Does It Cost?

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If an advertisement is printed on paper—whether it's newspapers, magazines, newsletters, booklets, flyers, direct mailers, or anything else that's considered a portable printed medium—it comes under the banner of print advertising.

Magazine Ads

Costs vary greatly depending on the publication, circulation, the number of insertions, quantities, and a host of other factors. Every publication you deal with has what is known as an Advertising Rate Card. You'll need to become familiar with this format if you're considering magazines because it deals with everything from costs to specs for print.

If you have a low budget, you'll be able to find something to fit it, but you won't be getting widespread exposure if you run an ad in your local newspaper in a town with1,000 residents. A mass-circulated magazine, such as Vogue or Vanity Fair, will charge thousands of dollars for just one insertion. And, the price escalates if it's a front or back cover ad, a double-page spread, or a center-spread. The estimated cost for running an ad in Vogue is $84,420—which is for a full-page, black and white ad).

Direct Mail

For direct mail, you are dealing with not just large volume printing costs, but also purchasing qualified lists. For instance, if you are advertising for a new auto-repair shop, you want to send your mailer to people who own older cars. Getting this information will cost you, anywhere from $2,000–$20,000.

With direct mail, you want to look for a good ROI (Return On Investment), and you'll have to accept that a response rate of 1-2 percent is typical. That means you can only expect around 3 calls for every 100 pieces. And that's not a conversion rate, Therefore, you'll have to send out hundreds of thousands of mailers to get the kind of conversion rate you need to be successful.


Your product costs $70. You want to sell $20,000 worth of that product.

If you send out a well-written, well-conceived piece, you may get a 2 percent response rate.

With good salespeople, you will close the sale on 33 percent of those who respond.

$70 x 33 percent x 2 percent = 0.46

$20,000 divided by 0.46 = 43,478

That means you will need around 44,000 mailings to get your $20,000. But remember, those mailings cost money, and that figure doesn't include a profit. The overheads involved in making the product are also not accounted for. You'll need to send out many more mailings to absorb the costs of printing and mailing and still make money. But, direct mail is still an effective way to reach a consumer because it's targeted and can be done easily. If you make your direct mail exciting and fun to open, rather than a tacky piece of junk mail, it can help sell a product.

Outdoor Billboards

Like yellow page ads, outdoor advertising is usually used to support advertisements placed in other media. One of the greatest strengths of outdoor advertising is that it's a directional marker to point customers toward your business. Because the prospective consumer often has only fleeting exposure to billboards, the advertising copy written for these kinds of media needs to be brief with the ability to communicate ideas quickly. To do this, advertisers must use impactful graphics and compelling headings all melded together in an artful way.

The cost of running billboard ads, again, varies by location. For example, in New York City it ranges from $3,000–$20,000 a month, in Los Angeles it ranges from $2,000–$15,000 a month, and in San Francisco, it ranges from $2,000–$12,000 a month. You'll also have to absorb the cost of printing the ad on vinyl which will cost anywhere from $300–$1,300 for an ad that is 14' by 48' (or almost 700 square feet).

Yellow Pages for Business

A yellow page ad is often used to complement or extend the effects of advertising that is placed in other media. The benefit of a yellow pages ad is that it has permanence and can be used to target a specific geographic area or community. Essentially, a yellow page ad gives the consumer information needed to make a purchase. Therefore, the key information includes the products and services available, location, phone number(s), hours of operation, available parking, acceptable forms of payment (especially if there are qualifiers such as no checks allowed), wheelchair accessibility, and delivery policies.

The best way to arrange this information is in a list format so the consumer will be able to quickly scan the ad for the desired information.

A major consideration with a yellow page ad is where to place it, which depends on the category into which your businesses falls, especially if you are diversified. If that's the case, choose your biggest or most profitable category.

If you want to advertise in the Yellow Pages for Business, you can get a low-cost listing ad with just a few lines of text for $7.00 a month or, if you want maximum visibility and space you can purchase a specialty ad with graphics for $45.00.

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