Ad-libs: Take control of continuity

Ad-libs: Take control of continuity

By John Foust
Raleigh, NC

N082253KMovie production crews include continuity staff members who make sure things are consistent within each scene. Even with their trained eyes, mistakes happen. If you look closely, you may notice a clock in the background that changes time dramatically during the same two minute scene. Or you’ll see changes in the liquid level in a glass.

Not long ago, I noticed a goof in a James Bond movie I was watching on TV. After Bond’s blue mask was torn off in the underwater fight scene, he replaced it with a black mask he swiped from one of the bad guys. I distinctly saw him put on the black mask, but for the remainder of the sequence he was wearing the blue one again. Oops.

Continuity is important in advertising, too. All iPhone advertising has the same look and feel. All Coca-Cola advertising communicates the same image. And all Walmart messages project the same brand attributes. Even on a local level, with consumers bombarded by thousands of marketing impressions every day, it is crucial for advertisers to have a sharp eye for consistency. Here are a few continuity points to consider:

  1. Logo: This is the most obvious continuity factor. Too many times, I’ve seen businesses make the mistake of using one logo in newspaper ads and a different logo elsewhere. If your graphic department creates a logo for one of your advertisers, make sure the logo will be used everywhere – on the printed page, on the web, on mobile devices and on business cards.
  1. Typography: Type has been called the visual voice of advertising. There’s a big difference between Gill Sans Ultra and Goudy Old Style. Make your font choices – for headlines and body copy – and use them everywhere.
  1. Color: A number of companies have theme colors. Target uses red, Home Depot features orange and UPS uses brown. The connection is so strong that it’s difficult to think of those companies without thinking of their colors. If one of your advertisers adopts a color, make sure it will (1) reproduce well on newsprint and (2) be different from the theme colors of main competitors.
  1. Overall theme: It’s nearly impossible for a merchant to gain a foothold in the marketplace if consumers don’t know what the company represents. In other words, an advertiser shouldn’t sell itself as a high-end retailer on Monday and a bargain basement store on Tuesday. Find a theme and stick with it. And make sure it reflects the advertiser’s true identity.
  1. Offers: There are two types of advertising – image and response. Image advertising is designed to build long-term identity, and response advertising is designed to generate immediate results. The best campaigns feature some overlap. For example, while Michelin emphasizes safety (image), they offer special deals on tires (response).

Merchants in your hometown can do the same thing. Help them strengthen their themes by making relevant offers to make their cash registers ring. If they don’t give consumers compelling reasons to buy, those people will take their business elsewhere.


John Foust has conducted training programs for thousands of newspaper advertising professionals. Many ad departments are using his training videos to save time and get quick results from in-house training. E-mail for information:

(c) Copyright 2014 by John Foust. All rights reserved.