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Elements of Design

Sue Weinman Comments
Posted in Articles, Archive
Every display ad you use to promote your self-storage business should be designed to maximize customer response—that’s a given. Unfortunately, few operators understand and use the design elements that best attract prospects’ attention. Following are some tips to make winners of your Yellow Pages and other display ads.

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Take a look at the accompanying ad for The Storage Center of Coopersville. It embodies the aspects of display-ad design every operator should master.


Since location is often your customer’s first priority, make it prominent and easy to decipher. Our example uses the facility location as its headline.
  • Always include a map, and make your map large enough to read. Include landmarks if possible; for example, the Storage Center ad notes its location as “Across from Burger King.”
  • Call to Action

    Make a special offer, but don’t make it too specific in case you want to change it. An offer like “Wow! A Free Month’s Rent!” still leaves options in terms of particulars. (And notice how the example uses reverse color type to attract attention.)
  • Use starbursts or boxes like the one that says “Call Manager for Details” to draw the eye and drive inquiries.
  • Graphics

    Use graphics to differentiate your ad from those of the competition. The photo in our example not only draws attention, it illustrates excitement about the special offer—with humor.
  • Always use photos rather than line drawings, which are old-fashioned. No clip art!
  • Only use a picture of your facility if it’s unique or necessary for drive-by recognition.
  • Use credit-card logos instead of listing the cards you accept by name.
  • Copy Points

    First and foremost, you want to emphasize the features that separate you from competition. For the Storage Center, those things are security, service and convenience, with details listed in bullet points. Know your competitive advantages and list them in order of importance to customers. Don’t assume prospects will automatically understand your offerings.
  • Always include your web address in your ad.
  • Always let customers know what’s in it for them, such as any special offers or giveaways.
  • Include your hours of operation or access.
  • Thumbs Down

    Now let’s look at some things you should never do in your ad. Take a look at how the Storage Center ad looks on a page with competitors. Note how it stands out as well as why this ad should get a much greater response than the others. All three of the competing ads have made the same major error: There are no maps or directions to help customers locate the facility. What else have they handled incorrectly?

    Westview Enterprises

    The facility name should not be the headline.
  • It’s not necessary to list all unit sizes. The ad should simply say, “Unit sizes available to fit your needs.”
  • Line drawings are outdated. If you want to show the convenience of drive-up units, use a photo.
  • Storage ‘R Us

    Text overlaid on graphics is very difficult to read.
  • Photos of unit doors are a waste of space, since every storage facility has them!
  • Again, the name shouldn’t be the headline. The name is only important so customers can find you after making their decision—it isn’t critical at first. Furthermore, the name should be graphically represented to match the facility signage (a logo).
  • Main Street Storage

    Font sizes and types need to be varied. Don’t make the mistake of thinking copy in all bold or color will stand out. When it’s all the same, nothing pops.
  • Avoid green copy on yellow paper—it’s too bland. If you need to use green (perhaps it’s an important part of your logo), restrict it to the graphic or use white knockout.
  • In Summary

    • So let’s go over what we’ve learned about display-ad design:
    • Make it easy for customers to find your facility.
    • Make your “call to action” or unique features stand out above everything else.
    • Use copy points to differentiate your facility from competitors.
    • Use eye-catching graphics, and remember that humor sells.
    • When in doubt, hire a professional graphic designer with Yellow Pages experience.

    Sue Weinman, senior account executive, represents the Yellow Pages Division of The Michaels/Wilder Group, an advertising agency that specializes in Yellow Pages, Internet and recruitment advertising. Based in Phoenix, the award-winning firm is celebrating its 16th year of business thanks to a loyal client base that includes hundreds of self-storage owners and managers. For more information, call 800.423.6468; visit

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