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Convincing print advertisements and messages

Author: Dr Simon Moss


Print advertisements in newspapers, brochures, and other paraphernalia could be more effective if some minor factors were understood more widely.

Physical features


Step 1. Whenever possible, organizations should describe themselves and their products towards the top of pages--especially if morality is vital in their industry. For example, their print advertisements should appear at the top. Furthermore, during longer excerpts, they should criticize their rivals towards the bottom of pages.

Any object that appears elevated, such as a name that appears towards the top of a screen or page, is usually assumed to be more moral (Meier, Sellbom, & Wygant, 2007). This connection between morality and the upwards direction might evolve in childhood & children tend to regard parents as the source of morality and they tend to be positioned above their head (see Embodied mode of cognition).


Step 1. To enhance the credibility of written sentences, most of the document, essay, or advertisement should be written in an inconspicuous font. Only the key sentences--sentences that present controversial but vital assertions--should be more striking in appearance.

A written sentence seems more credible if the words are written in a font colour that differs appreciably, not marginally, from the background--especially if the previous sentence is not as conspicuous (Hansen, Dechene, & Wanke, 2008). In particular, a sentence that can be comprehended or recognized more rapidly than expected is assumed to be truthful. That is, sentences that can be comprehended rapidly confer a sense of resonance, congruity, or familiarity--all of which affect credibility. Sentences written in a bright, conspicuous font are comprehended more rapidly than previous sentences. As a consequence, individuals experience an unexpected sense of resonance when they read these bright sentences (see Fluency and the hedonic marking hypothesis).

Step 2. In addition, the font should be large. A large font is read more fluently, enhancing credibility (McCarthy & Mothersbaugh, 2002).

Step 3. Ideally, the font should be light on a dark background, not dark on a light background. That is, individuals tend to associate light stimuli with positive concepts (Meier, Robinson, & Clore, 2004). Indeed, individuals represent the concept of desirability as light, rather than dark, in color (see Embodied mode of cognition).

Step 4. Ideally, the font should be a serif-- a font with tails, such as Times New Roman--rather than a sans serif font--a font without tails, such as Arial. In addition, ensure the letters are large enough to prevent overlapping characters (McCarthy & Mothersbaugh, 2002). Again, these features ensure the words can be read fluently, enhancing credibility.


Frequency of words

Step 1. Short, simple, and precise words should be used& even words that are spelled phonetically are preferred, because they are read more rapidly.

Arguments or messages that are written with short, rather than long, words tend to be perceived as more credible and insightful (Oppenheimer, 2006). Longer words are understood less fluently or rapidly. Passages that can be read fluently, however, feel more familiar and thus seem as though they are widely accepted, improving credibility. Consequently, arguments should also be summarized earlier--which increases fluency of the subsequent passage.

Use of words

Step 2. These messages should includes words like "we", "our", or "us". These words represent a sense of cohesion or connection. When individuals are exposed to these words, subsequent logos or messages seem more familiar and thus desirable (Housley, Claypool, Garcia-Marques, & Mackie, 2010 & see also Social identity and self categorization).

Related objectives

See also articles on:


Hansen, J., Dechene, A., & Wanke, M. (2008). Discrepant fluency increases subjective truth. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 4, 687-691.

Housley, M., Claypool, H. M., Garcia-Marques, T., & Mackie, D. M. (2010). "We" are familiar but "it" is not: Ingroup pronouns trigger feelings of familiarity. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46, 114-119.

McCarthy, M. S., & Mothersbaugh, D. L. (2002). Effects of typographic factors in advertising-based persuasion: A general model and initial empirical tests. Psychology & Marketing, 19, 663-691.

Meier, B. P., Robinson, M. D., & Clore, G. L. (2004). Why good guys wear white: Automatic inferences about stimulus valence based on brightness. Psychological Science, 15, 82-87.

Meier, B. P., Sellbom, M., & Wygant, D. B. (2007). Failing to take the moral high ground: Psychpathy and the vertical representation of morality. Personality and Individual Differences, 43, 757-767.

Oppenheimer, D. M. (2006). Consequences of erudite vernacular utilized irrespective of necessity: Problems with using long words needlessly. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 20, 239-156.

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Last Update: 5/11/2016