Anyone who has worked in publishing will be very familiar with this term. Advertisers will negotiate with the sales rep to ensure that their ad is placed in the publication far forward (usually first 50%) and on the right-hand page (on top if possible). The sales rep will come to the production manager or the art director with an insertion order with big, bold, underlined, italic Arial type with five exclamation points that reads: MUST BE FAR FORWARD RIGHT-HAND PAGE!!!!!
The production manager will roll his eyes and tell the sales rep (almost convincingly) that he’ll “do his best” to make sure the ad appears where the customer demands. Usually, this request can be granted. The problem arises when the request is really a demand. Advertisers will use the fact that their ad did not appear where they commanded and refuse payment. Even if there is no guarantee and no premium paid, advertisers will often think that they are entitled to special placement.
It has been my experience that the 80/20 rule applies to this. 80% of the “problems” are caused by the bottom 20% of the advertisers. Here’s an example, based on years of production management:
Phil (not his real name), the ad rep has gotten a hot lead on the hook. He has convinced Widgets-R-Us (not a real company) to give the publication a try. They are willing to buy a one-time quarter-page square ad. In order to get Widgets-R-Us into the January issue of Widget World (not a real magazine), Phil has agreed to their demands. Their quarter-page ad (which must be teamed-up with another ad of the same size to form a half-horizontal and fit nicely on the page) must be far-forward, first 50%, right-hand page, opposite full edit, at least six pages from competitors, not across from any negative editorial. And, oh, by the way: we need to create the ad for them.
“We Need to Create the Ad for Them.”
Deadline approaches. Production manager chases after Phil to get the material in. “But I’ve emailed them twice today; they just don’t respond.” Then call them. “I have, but Mr. Big-Ad is away somewhere.” Uh-huh. “Well, if they do not have material in place by 5pm we’ll have to pull the ad and replace the space with a filler and charge them, since they signed a contract.”
“Whuhhh, no, we can’t do that,” Phil laments.
As if on cue, emails start pouring in at 4:59pm. There’s a Microsoft Word file with some unproofed text, then comes some low-resolution PNG files that the advertiser “just got off the Google.” Then a giant logo that needs to be converted to CMYK and re-sized (but first it must be unzipped).
As night approaches, an ad is quickly cobbled together. The Google images are replaced with images found right on the advertiser’s website, the text is proofed, and a PDF is sent to Phil so he can send it to Mr. Big-Ad.
Approved! Who knows if anyone really looked at it, but the returned email is all the proof we need!
Due to some shifting of editorial and some ads being moved around, Widgets-R-Us gets placed on a left-hand page, on page 66. Uh-oh.
The Tribunal of Publication Crimes
The magazines arrive and Phil walks in holding a magazine limply in his hand with a downcast look on his face. “What happened?” Welllll. Yes, this a mistake. A promise was made and not kept. Guilty as charged. However, there are a few things to use as a defense during the trial at the Tribunal of Publication Crimes:
There was no premium paid and Phil should never have agreed to any guarantees, especially for a one-time, quarter-page ad. OK, he did, we messed up. But, what does it really matter? Here’s what research has shown:
Leslie Tucker, writing for The Richards Group, cites a study conducted by VISTA:
“An ad on a right-hand page is more effective than an ad on a left-hand page.
Answer: false. In terms of right- vs. left-page positioning, there’s virtually no difference in recall.”
And from Principles of Effective Print Advertising, [Word .doc file] a paper by Steve Blom at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville…
“While this seems to be overstating the obvious, there are still myths that placement has a direct affect on ad performance. “Right-hand page, Far forward” is a frequently heard request.
Unfortunately, it has virtually nothing to do with whether or not your ad will succeed. A well-designed ad will perform well wherever its location: front or back, left-hand page or right.”
There’s an Ad Stuck in My Eye!
This assumption comes from old newspaper “rules.” For some interesting reading on layout and how right and left play into it, see this post by by Chris Da Sie, writing for Creative Bloq. Chris describes the “Gutenberg Diagram,” a design guide developed by Edmund C. Arnold, that describes how people’s eyes “travel” across design. Jessie Lacey writes about it in The Dirigo Blog. It’s interesting reading.
So, next time Phil comes in with another FF-RHP ad, show him this research.
Thank you for reading.
—Jeff Macharyas, publication production and design for many years.