Where’s my ad? You want how much to build my ad? I don’t have a graphic designer. What are the spec’s again? Where do I send my art work? I need to see a proof of my ad before I pay. And the inquiries go on and on.

Just as there is a system for a bullet proof pub schedule, it’s easy to set up a system for a bullet proof ad schedule to assure that you get all of your advertisers in on time so it doesn’t cause your program book to be late, or even worse, it doesn’t cause you to leave advertisers out of the program book!

Step 1: The key to a good advertising proofing system all starts on your advertising agreement. After the proper size of the ad for your particular advertiser is determined, and payment terms are gone over, it is crucial that the account executive review the ad copy sheet with the customer. If made very clear on your ad copy sheet, this information will tell the production department if the ad is being supplied by the customer, if the ad needs to be built (if this service is offered by your organization), or if the ad is going to stay the same from the previous season, and most importantly the ad due date. This should also have the information for where to send the completed ads or ad components so the customer can give this to whoever will be in charge of designing the ad on their end.

Step 2: Once the advertising agreement is turned into your production department it needs to be entered into a database, ideally a publishing system. This will allow you to track the advertiser the whole way through the program book production process. If you have neither, a simple Excel spreadsheet can be set up for this.

Step 3: The ad copy sheets should be separated from the ad agreement and put in a job jacket and filed. Within this file you will have three categories—“Same As Last Year”, “Ad To Follow”, “Build.”

The “Same As Last Year” ads are going to be the easiest and fastest to get out of the way. Simply pick up the ad file from the previous season, rename it for the current season, and then file it with all the current season ads. Nine times out of ten these ads will not have to be proofed out to the customer. However, if the customer will want to see a proof, then this will need to be handled.

The “Ad To Follow” and “Build” ads will take a bit more work and a lot of organization. Ideally you will want one person dedicated to this task so that they can stay on top of the communication between your venue and the advertiser.

Tip: Set up a dedicated email address for all incoming customer supplied ads, as well as components from the advertiser. At Onstage we use the email address so that we have one email to hunt through for all ad copy. This is also very easy for the advertiser to remember.

The “Ad To Follow” ads will need to have triggers set in place to remind the advertiser that the ad due date is coming up. The easiest way is via friendly email reminders. The person in charge of these ads should use the predetermined dates via a pub schedule (5 Tips for a Bullet Proof Pub Schedule) to start sending these emails. Once these ads are received, they will still need to be checked to make sure they comply with your advertising specifications. If they do, move them to final ads. If they don’t, then the advertiser will have to be notified of what needs to be fixed before resubmitting.

Tip: If there is a graphic designer on staff, this would be the most ideal person checking these ads. If the ad submitted is not to the specifications, but are minor things that can be fixed quickly on your end, do it. Be careful here though, you do not want to change an ad if it is going to cause copy changes, or change the integrity of the original ad. In these cases, you will want to send it back to the advertiser.

The “Build” ads will also need to have triggers set in place to remind the advertiser that their components are needed for you to start building the ad. These should be the same pre-determined dates via the pub schedule to start sending friendly email reminders.

Tip: Have the account executive that is working with the customer on their advertising rough out a sketch of what the ad should look like. A good account executive will know what the advertiser should have in their ad to make sure the ad works for the advertiser. By doing this, you can build these ads early, get them proofed and approved so that they don’t hold you up at the end.

Step 4: Proof out the ads. Hopefully, if all the above steps were followed you should get very little changes back. Regardless, you should have an ad proof template set up so that whoever is building the ad can simply drop the ad in the middle of the proof template and get it emailed out to the customer. The ad template should have a box at the bottom with two check marks—“APPROVED AS IS” or “APPROVED WITH INDICATED CHANGES.” The sample provided is what we use at Onstage Publications to make sure the proofing process goes as smoothly as possible.


Tip: Have a clear disclaimer on your ad proof that if you do not hear back from the customer within a certain amount of time (at your discretion) their ad will run as is. This will help keep the ads moving through your system as well as put a sense of urgency on the customers end to get it back to you.

Confused yet? Hopefully not. The main point here is to have system in place for your ad proofing process. As long as you have a process in place, and everyone in your organization understands it, you will be on your way to an easy ad proofing process. Good Selling!

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