What are your print ad production options?

April 6, 2016, written by Kavita Kovvali

There are different ways to manage print ads and processes are always put in place to ensure a seamless flow from ad sale to print. However, many Production Managers agree that even with these systems, things don’t always run perfectly, especially in the run up to the print deadlines. They have to maintain high quality standards while managing the entire process within tight budgets. It can be challenging for small and medium Publishers to balance prices, deadlines, overheads, quality and client satisfaction.

With the rise of digital advertising, it’s getting even harder to fulfil print ad slots and manage production with decreasing budgets. The trend in print has been discussed for years now, and everyone knows how it’s declining; The Guardian reported that “Print advertising tipped to make up just 5% of total spend by 2019”. Tech Crunch stated that in the US, 2015, “Paper-based ads will be the only category to decline this year”.

Print advertising, however, isn’t going anywhere


Printed ads and publications are a strong and necessary part of many successful ad campaigns. There are clear benefits:

Specialist: with more niche and targeted audiences, placing an ad within a specialist magazine is a great way to communicate, and it may be easier than reaching those people online.

Tangible: printed publications stay  in houses, offices, waiting rooms for months and a client can benefit at any point from someone seeing that ad.

Credible: there is still a strong belief that a print ad legitimises a brand, even more than digital ads which can be for anything and do include spam.

First, let’s set the scene, in our example, we’re looking at a medium sized magazine publisher.


2 designers

2 production controllers

1 – 10 titles

Mag made up of 60% editorial and 40% advertising

Fixed overhead costs

Option 1: Advertiser gives you the creative

This is the best option. In an ideal scenario, you provide the technical specifications and deadlines and the client sends you perfect, ready-to-use ads. The client has full responsibility and your team just have to slot them in.

However, in a real-life production office, this never runs as smoothly as planned. Sales teams will be selling right up to the print deadline so planning the pages and content and house ads can become complicated. Also, your clients are all types of companies with their own resource challenges. Smaller clients may not have an in-house design team and the quality of their ads may not match what you want to show in your publication. You still may have to make the ads in this case, while also creating your magazine.

The truth is that, in terms of quality, this can be hit or miss and for cost, this is going to be your designer’s hourly rate.

Option 2: You make ads on behalf of the advertisers

There are lots of things to consider and whether this is the right option for you depends on your resources and deadlines. Use our production calculator to add on designers, production controllers and titles to plan your set costs.

The benefit is that you are in control. Your designers can react to new clients coming on-board, they can schedule in time to coincide with the print deadlines and you can be confident that your ads are going to be of a strong and consistent quality.

What you need: ad creation platform, templates, high-quality images, client logos, client colour schemes, client brand styles, designers.

However, keep in mind that there can be serious and on-going challenges with this method. If you’re a small team, then you are diverting your designers’ focus away from creating the magazine itself, so even though your ads look good, there may be implications for the publication overall. The Sales teams don’t always charge for the cost of creating the ad, they may have been too focused on selling the ad space, so this is going to reduce your margins – once you’ve accounted for designers’ time. Then, there are the deadlines. With your designers creating the magazine and the ads, there is increased pressure to meet production and therefore distribution deadlines. The consequences of missing these deadlines can be anything from having to negotiate a new print slot to printing late, being fined for not hitting the news-stands in time and angry subscribers and advertisers.


Option 3: Outsource ad production

This could be the most hassle-free option, especially if you are on a pay-per-ad option. You can agree a set rate and then dependent on your work that month, order more or less and not face any unforeseen charges. This is a very flexible and efficient option.

You can use:

Agencies: the quality will be incredible and the brands love them. The downside is they will ask for minimum budget commitments which are high and they won’t react to your requirements to the levels and speed you may need.

Freelancers: you can choose your price and they are usually very flexible. However, they may not have agreed quality levels and you will have to QC all the ads yourself. As they are independent, there is also always a risk that you can’t get hold of them exactly when you want.

Service provider: the quality will be agreed and consistent with full SLAs and all negotiations carried out beforehand so once it’s set up, you know exactly what you’re going to get. There are offices and teams so always someone at hand to address queries and they have multiple clients so they know how to meet expectations. Also, they will be pushing themselves to acquire new clients so expect to see updates in technology and more choices. The thing to watch out for here is the cost and that they will have to learn how you work and what you want to see, as they won’t have the in-house knowledge that you do.

Print is not going anywhere just yet and depending on your size, there are flexible options to choose from so that you can effectively manage your ad production.

To find out more about how we offer solutions tailored for all sizes of publishers and their requirements, get in touch.