Is It Worth Paying for Color in Print Ads?

What’s the value of color for a print ad?  For most publications, color is an up-charge from as low as $2 per inch to sometimes more than double the base charge. How can you determine if it’s worth the additional investment?

In general, research consistently shows that color ads out pull black and white ads of the same size with the same message. One 2009 study on color ads in US Newspapers conducted by Research and Analysis of Media found the following:

Color helps readers remember ads.

  • Full color increased ad recall (readers who remembered seeing an ad) by 23%.
  • Spot color increased ad recall by 15%.

Color helps ads of all sizes, but has the most impact  on full page ads.

  • Recall went up by 6% in quarter page ads, 8% in half page ads, and 23% in full page ads.

Color makes an advertiser appear interesting and fresh.

  • 15% found the ads more interesting and 29% said the ads communicated a fresh approach.

Color drives traffic and a reader’s potential to buy from the advertiser.

  • When compared with the same ad in black and white, 6% more said they would seek more information,while 8% more said they would visit the advertiser.
  • 12 % more said they either have bought or plan to buy from the advertiser.

These are compelling reasons to consider color, but as with all ad techniques, there are no hard and fast rules. If you’re a high-end, luxury retailer advertising in an artsy magazine, you could make the case that a glossy black and white ad makes the statement you need.  It this case, the black and white choice is not about budget, but a desired image. For most small to mid-sized businesses, the  data on color indicates you should try to present your message through rose, if not multi-colored glasses.

The Walk-away: Color in print helps readers see you more clearly. It generally makes them more willing to engage with you rather than stepping aside and letting you pass  by.


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