Print Advertising: What It Is, Uses, and Costs

What Is Print Advertising and How Much Does It Cost?

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Any advertisement that's printed on paper—newspapers, magazines, newsletters, booklets, flyers, or direct mailers—falls into the category of print advertising. Publications can be local or have national circulation, and some national magazines dedicate sections to local advertising. The costs of these various print options can vary considerably.

Magazine Ads

Magazine advertising costs depend on the publication, its circulation, the number of insertions, quantities, and a host of other factors. Every publication has what's known as an "advertising rate card." The card deals with everything from costs to specs for print.

A mass-circulated magazine such as Vogue or Vanity Fair charges many thousands of dollars for just one insertion. The price escalates if it's a front or back cover ad, a double-page spread, or a center-spread. The cost of running a full-page, four-color ad in Vogue is $180,324 as of 2019.

Newspaper Advertising

You should be able to find something to fit your wallet here even if your budget is limited, but you get what you pay for. You won't be getting widespread exposure if you run an ad in your local newspaper in a town with 1,000 residents.

Direct Mail

You're not just dealing with large volume printing costs with direct mail advertising, but also with purchasing targeted qualified mailing lists. You'd want to send your mailer to people who own older cars if you're advertising for an auto repair shop.

This information can cost you anywhere from $2,500 to $20,000 as of 2019, including marketing materials and fulfillment. You can usually get a simple consumer mailing list for $50 to $200, however.

Look for a good return on investment, anticipating a response rate of 1% to 2%, which is typical. Expect around three calls for every 100 pieces you send out.

You'll have to send hundreds of thousands of mailers to get the kind of conversion rate you'll need to be successful. For example, your product might cost $70 and you want to sell $20,000 worth of that product. You might get a 2% response rate if you send out a well-written, well-conceived piece. You might close the sale on 33% of those who respond if you have good salespeople.

You'll need around 44,000 mailings to get your $20,000: $70 times 33% times 2% comes out to 0.46, and $20,000 divided by 0.46 equals 43,478.

But remember, these mailings cost money, and these figures don't include profit. Overhead involved in making or stocking the product isn't accounted for. You'll have to send out many more mailings to absorb these factors and still make money.

Direct mail is nonetheless an effective way to reach consumers because it's targeted and can be done easily. It can help sell a product if you make your direct mail exciting and fun to open rather than a tacky piece of junk mail.

Outdoor Billboards

Outdoor advertising is usually used to support advertisements placed in other media. One of its greatest strengths is that it's a directional marker to point consumers toward your business.

Your prospective customer typically has only fleeting exposure to the billboard, so copy written for this type of media should be brief and communicate ideas quickly. Advertisers should use impactful graphics and compelling headings, all melded together in an artful way.

The cost of running billboard ads varies considerably by location and "impressions," the level of traffic that regularly travels a given roadway. You might get away with about $250 a month on a rural Nebraska highway, but a billboard in Boston or Los Angeles will run you from $10,000 to $13,000 a month as of 2019.

You'll also have to absorb the cost of printing the ad on vinyl as well, which runs about 50 cents per square foot. Designing the billboard will probably set you back $500 to $1,000.

Yellow Pages for Businesses

A yellow page ad is also often used to complement or extend the effects of advertising placed in other media. The benefit is that it has some level of permanence, and it can be used to target a specific geographic area or community. It gives the consumer all the information necessary to make a purchase.

Key information should include your products and services, your location, phone numbers, hours of operation, available parking, and acceptable forms of payment. You'll want to mention wheelchair accessibility and delivery policies, if any. Arrange this information in a list format so consumers can quickly scan the ad for the information they're looking for.

A major consideration with a yellow page ad is where to place it, which depends on the category into which your businesses falls. Choose your biggest or most profitable category if you're diversified.

This type of print advertising costs anywhere from $250 to $400 for a business-card-sized ad, but keep in mind that returns from Yellow Page ads have been steadily and significantly decreasing since 2008 or so. This is hardly surprising given the proliferation of the internet and smartphones. You might be hard-pressed to find a home these days with a telephone book in it.