by Carolyn Edlund
Advertising in publications is an option for artists looking to gain recognition and cultivate collectors. If you are considering print ads, here’s what to know.
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Page through any fine art magazine, and you’ll be struck by full-page spreads with incredible images that appeal to art lovers. You will also see plenty of advertising.
Have you ever considered whether running print ads could be a good marketing move? Artists who advertise in publications place their work in front of an audience of serious collectors, industry players and art enthusiasts. They gain a presence in a publication that displays art of importance, geared towards their readers’ tastes.
Print advertisements are durable, remaining permanently in physical form. Fine art publications are frequently saved and re-read by subscribers who treasure the quality and genre of the art that fill the pages. Thus, print advertisements can have lasting value beyond the fleeting effect of other marketing methods such as social media.
Advertising in print is definitely not right for all artists, however. This traditional marketing method requires money, patience, and taking a long view at gaining the result you want. Gauging the effect of your ads and making adjustments is necessary. And because the ad is often a first touch point with new potential collectors, it requires diligent follow up and an understanding of the sales process. Print ads themselves rarely generate sales. Instead, they are designed to garner attention. When successful, they put you in a position to have a conversation with prospective buyers. It’s up to you to follow up and make those sales happen.
Making It Work
Key factors in successful print advertising are selecting the right publication, having a large enough budget to run ads, and remaining consistent over time. A single advertisement that is run one time is unlikely to get results. Persistence is required to make an impression on readers and collectors and becoming memorable.
“Artists will need a working budget available to commit for a minimum 3-time commitment. The volume commitment provides an excellent rate and the 3-time exposure that will lift them into the minds of collectors with their beautiful and intriguing art,” says Wendie Martin, the head of International Artist Publishing. They produce multiple publications, including American Art Collector, International Artist, Western Art Collector, Native American Art and American Fine Art Magazine.
Galleries constitute the typical advertiser in print publications, according to ad specialist Connie Warriner, who works with Martin. She names the ideal advertising client as a gallery with multiple artists showing. They may be having an upcoming preview show or are looking for national exposure. She says, “Literally art sells prior to the show due to our very special two-page Gallery Previews.”
Individual artists advertise as well, and Warriner advises them to “consider the media choice with the most reach for the investment. This allows them to get the most exposure possible for their money.” Their publications, like others, offers a digital version for all subscribers. They also include social media exposure along with the print ad as extra visibility for the artist. American Art Collector alone has more than 550,000 social followers.
Choose a Publication
The advertising sales department of any publication can provide information on subscriber demographics. Different publications will cater to similar readers, so consider several of them before deciding which one best matches your intended audience. Review the other advertisers they feature and look at advertisements run by artists you admire for ideas. Then, ask questions and discuss options as you make plans for your first ad.
Editorial calendars can also be helpful in making this choice. Publications use such a calendar to plan and schedule their content, and this is available to advertisers. An art magazine issue devoted to wildlife, for example, would provide an excellent venue for artists who specialize in that niche.
“Following editorial calendars and the specific genre helps guide an artist to a creative strategy that places them front and center of their specific type of work. It is like having perfect timing for the artists. Their ads will be very effective in our special sections. Our art collector audience is accustomed to our annual genres which suit their taste and style and the specific genre is eagerly anticipated among our readers,” says Martin.
Put Your Ad Together
Ad quality is imperative, and professionally taken photos are a must. Carefully select images of your work to make a striking impression and draw interest. Preview the ad carefully, so that your images and copy are perfect before you submit. Include your website and email address in your ad, so that the reader can immediately see more of your work online and contact you directly.
Digital files in TIFF format are higher resolution than other images and work well for print. The staff of the publication will be able to help you with specs and may offer graphic services as well as advise on ad size and placement.
Art sales aren’t the only reason to consider working with a publication. Artists regularly advertise workshops, classes, online art studio sessions, or painting tours. They may sell instructional books, videos, or mentorship. Or they may engage in “co-op advertising” with galleries or event producers who share the cost of a co-branded ad.
One Artist’s Story
Painter Chuck Middlekauff has decades of experience as an artist, and became deeply involved in print advertising. “From my start as an artist 30+ years ago, I was always intrigued by magazine art ads,” he says. “Especially those ads that presented famous artists and famous art galleries. These ads informed me of these artists and their work and the galleries that were out there in the art world. That was my dream—to be in those galleries and for people to see my paintings. But it was expensive to run ads. A little cheaper if you ran multiple ads during the year with that publication, but still too expensive for my budget just starting out and for the first 20 or so years of my career. I wasn’t selling enough art to have excess funds to run ads.”
Despite this, he knew the only way to reach buyers that read those publications was through ads. He needed more exposure than just being discovering by gallery walk-ins. So he finally took the plunge.
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“It’s only been in the past six years that I was making enough money to finance ads,” says Middlekauff. “I was at a point in my career that I needed to put myself out there and know if anyone was interested in my work. So I contacted the best art magazines and worked out contracts with each with their best terms. I invested tens of thousands of dollars over six years to see what would transpire.”
The result? Middlekauff says that it wasn’t a waste of money, despite the fact that he only sold three paintings directly from ad features —noting that it can be almost impossible to know how many gallery sales stemmed from ads unless the gallery informs the artist.
He affirms the need for consistency, saying, “You need to keep putting your art and name out there periodically so people will start remembering you (the out of sight, out of mind syndrome). And you have to have enough ads running so that you hit someone just at the right time when they are looking to purchase.”
His advice for others considering this option? “Every artist needs to evaluate their impact in the art world. Running ads is just one very expensive way, but I feel that if you are not doing mega-sales through your galleries and your website (‘mega’ meaning to satisfy your cost of living expenses, art supplies and overhead, and enough money to live out your dream-life activities and to purchase your dream-life possessions, and to invest in your future retirement) then you must advertise to get more people to know about you and where to find your work. If you are like a few fortunate and blessed artists out there you may have just what the art market is seeking and make a fortune and get famous.”
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