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The Life of an Automotive Print Ad


Published on - Tier10Lab strives to be these three things: a thought leader in automotive social media marketing, a clarifier of online/tech news, and an ambassador for automotive-related creative design. Here, Tier10 Marketing designer, Jason Kress, muses on the lifespan of an automotive print ad. [...]

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The Life of an Automotive Print Ad

  1. 1. The Life of an Automotive Print Ad 12, 2012By Jason KressTier10Lab strives to be these three things: a thought leader in automotive social media marketing, aclarifier of online/tech news, and an ambassador for automotive-related creative design. Here, Tier10Marketing designer, Jason Kress, muses on the lifespan of an automotive print ad. His experience ingraphic design spans nearly 15 years. Leave comments/questions for Jason in the comments spacebelow.Ok, close your eyes. Try to think of the last automotive print ad you saw...Kind of stumped, eh? Now, think of the last automotive TV spot you saw. A little easier, right? I mean,come on, its a car. How the heck are you supposed to sell a car with a photo when you can spend 30seconds on TV having some tall, dark and handsome guy beating the living hell out of a 5-series while acamera swiftly pans around the cabin showing off rare, double-stitched leather seats, then zooms out toshow the car drift an S-turn with ease and finally fades to black and fades that blue and white logo in?A print ad is tougher. If youre lucky, you have a suitcase of photos that a team of photographers tookeither in a studio or possibly on top of a hill with the Pacific Coast Highway in the background right at themagic hour. Then, those photos went off to someone like me, probably in a dark office, dimly lit by a 27"color-corrected studio monitor to then spend countless hours retouching those photos so everything isbeyond perfect. So perfect that if given a million dollars, youd never be able to reproduce a car thatperfect. Reflections are removed and then better ones added back in. Angles are changed so you cansee that perfect combo of the front clip, wheels and vehicle midline. The cabin is darkened as to notdistract from the outer shell. Chrome becomes flawless. Headlight glass becomes transparent.  
  2. 2. Then you have a choice. Do you show off this vehicle on seamless black or white and have the car speakfor itself or do you take it and put it in front of some obscure Frank Gehry-esque building that accentuatesthe vehicle by adding an appealing backdrop right to the point of becoming distracting and then pulling itback just a touch?Ok, great, we have a photo to use. Then comes an equally tricky part. Heck, this part is almost—if notmore—important than the photo. Copy. Do you go short and sweet or do you sell the car a little more? Isthis going to be an abstract ad where the Creative Director is going for a Gold Pencil award or is it beingmandated by the OEM to sell sell sell? The former is what fills portfolios, the latter, well, not so much.I want to touch on the "smart" and creative ad first. These are every designers dream because thereis usually one line of copy and that copy is simply brilliant. It was penned by a copywriter after two days ofpure suffering. It happened after four whiteboards were filled up and erased. It probably happened in theshower, but trust me, this is the kind of line that when you see it all come together in print and you read it,you get goose bumps, look around to show the other designers around you, and say "Damn, thatsGREAT." This is the type of ad that wins awards and the copywriter is the NBA All Star that brings it to theagency award shelf. The best part is that the ad literally designs itself. Nine-tenths of the page gets thephoto, then you add the perfectly kerned type in just the right position, make sure its at just the right pointsize, and finally slap the OEMlogo and tagline in the top leftor bottom right. Done. Awardcity.Now onto the "selling" ad.This ones tough. Its just likethe "smart" ad, but instead of aline of 8pt copy, you have tosomehow fit a photo of a car (orsix, eek!), some sort ofcampaign logo that isannouncing to the world thatyes, you too can now buy thiscar at no money down, or at0.9% APR, or theres a holidaysoon so *insert holiday here*sales event and come on down.Each car will have to give thegory details of the sale and howmuch youll pay a month, thedozen or so niceties the carhas for you built right in andthen that asterisk. Oof. Thatsfor the two paragraphs of legalthat gets buried down at thebottom in 4pt at a -45 kern and4pt leading. Youll never read itbut its there for that one guy who does and its needed on every sales ad.I know Ive painted a grim picture of the selling ad so Ill try to stand up for it a bit here.It gets a bad rap because out of all the sales ads, 99.999% are utter crap. Those are the ones with 119cars crammed in on a full-page Times ad in black and white literally screaming at you to come in and buya car or the world will end (See Fig. 1). Theyre made by designers who hate their jobs, I imagine,because when I look at them, Im glad I dont make those ads. I am proud to say that I am of the .0001%. I  
  3. 3. am a classically trained artist, as are all of my peers in the room who all take this sort of work veryseriously. At the end of the day its a car ad sure, but we know what works and we know what doesnt.Theres a lot that goes into a smart "selling" ad. A tight, crisp and ultimately smart event logo. Thevehicles are displayed in a pleasing way, usually stacked with enough breathing room to give them theirown presence on the page. The copy and selling points for each car are presented in a manner that isexciting. By that, I mean, the main message (total price, APR, per month price, etc) is big and bold but not overpowering (See Fig. 2). Lesser copy is smaller and in a thinner font yet still readable. The kerning is tight as is the leading so it all becomes a "block" of information on the page keeping negative space in check the entire time. Pleasing colors are used, avoiding reds and yellows because not only do they not print well, they turn away a potential sale. Margins are nice and tasty so nothing is too close to the edge and everything is spaced out evenly—both mathematically and visually as well. Logos are small yet still readable. Social icons and URLS (and even QR codes) are added where space allows, to maximize the ads "salability". If you can get the buyer to a website while looking at a print ad, that is all the better because it gets them to learn more about the wares you are trying to sell in a limited space. Now you have them on an entire website to browse. Its all in the details and how everything falls together properly. Its not a glamorous job, but for a car guy such as myself (and many more who sit around me), getting to work with photos of your dream cars every day is a gift. I thinkthat once a layman can understand what goes into producing these ads, he/she can better appreciatewhat, and most importantly how, its being sold to them.http://www.Tier10Lab.com