July 10, 2009 / Advertising / Design

Pay heed to personal ads

Written by Idea File Staff

Focusing on the personal or senior ad section of your yearbook can improve the overall look of the yearbook and make your customers happy.

Two yearbook advisers in different parts of the country came to that conclusion about the same time – Olga Martinez-Pagnussat at Our Lady of Lourdes Academy in Miami, Fla., and Jai Tanner at Franklin High School in El Paso, Texas. Previously, parents and students had great influence in how their personal ads would look in the book. At Our Lady of Lourdes, an all-girls school, the seniors would create their own collages, with photos that were scanned, grainy and too small.

Both advisers set out to make improvements to the total yearbook in 2007, and the senior ads were a part of that improvement process.

“I wanted the ads to be consistent with the overall theme of the books,” said Martinez-Pagnussat. “The ad section should not affect the look of the book, it’s a part of the book.”

“When you look at your yearbook, when you start to look at the sections and you make copy and design (improvements), you start to see that’s the part of the book you need to define next,” Tanner said of the ad section.

Consistency in the personal ad section began with control of the design and the submission process. Regarding design, the fonts, backgrounds, colors and design elements reflect the design of the other sections of the Le Fleuve of Our Lady of Lourdes and in the Pride of Franklin High. At both schools, the design editor was in charge of the ads and only a few students worked on them, a major change from previous years in an effort to maintain design consistency.

Martinez-Pagnussat took over as adviser last year, and said in trying to improve the yearbook overall, she reviewed guidelines from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association, including the criteria for a good ad. Tanner said she has looked at the guidelines and at other contemporary yearbooks.

Consistency also came from taking control of the ad submission process. Now, only a certain number of photos are used per ad, such as 4-8 for a one-page and 1-5 for a half-page. Also, they only accept hard-copy photos to maintain reproduction quality.

At Our Lady of Lourdes, if a parent submits too many photos, Martinez-Pagnussat selects the photos.

“Overall, the biggest change is I’m hands-on, it’s micro-managed by me,” Martinez-Pagnussat said.

At her school, parents or students submit the photos, message, contract and full payment. After that, an ad packet is created for each one, and they are in the hands of the yearbook staff for editing and design. The staff returns the photos to the student when they pick up their yearbook on distribution day.

“When they sign the contract, they give us the right to create the ad as we see fit,” Martinez-Pagnussat said.

At Franklin, there is more leeway.

“I really believe parents need choices,” said Tanner. “They are involved in the process but we have the control.”

The staff meets one-on-one with the parents to design the ad. “I find we do so much better that way. Everybody’s happy,” Tanner said.

In the meeting, the designer asks the parents which photo they would like as the dominant, which of three fonts they prefer and a background. The font and background choices reflect design decisions for the rest of the book. For 2007, some of those backgrounds included dance shoes, corrugated cardboard, lace and musical scores. The designer then draws a sketch so the parents can see how the ad will look. It also affirms why the artist’s suggestions works better than the parents’ ideas.

“We really want to highlight the dominant photo,” Tanner said.

In controlling the design, the designers can select a dominant photo, something most people do not know about design. “That’s just part of good design,” Martinez-Pagnussat said.

Deadlines vary at the two schools, too. The Our Lady of Lourdes staff gets the personal ads done early in the year, sending them on the first deadline. Ad sales occur during the second week of school at the end of August. Ads submitted after that week incur a $100 late fee and no ads are accepted after a specific date in September. Parents also do not see proofs.

At Franklin, Tanner’s desire to accommodate parents shows again. The staff begins selling personal ads when school starts in August and stops in January when the pages sell out. In the past couple of years they even added 20 pages to the section.

“We sell ads up to the point we have no room left. They bombard us in December and January and we work on them in January and February. We’ve made it work for us,” Tanner said.

With these major changes in personal ads, both Martinez-Pagnussat and Tanner said they have only had enthusiastic approval. In a CSPA critique of the 2007 Le Fleuve, the ads received positive feedback.

“We do not get complaints on our ads,” Tanner said. “The community raved about the ads.”

Idea File Staff

Idea File Staff reports are posts compiled by the Walsworth Yearbooks Marketing Department, covering a wide range of yearbook topics.