Display advertising: understanding sizes

March 02, 2014

Display advertising: understanding sizes, AM-Insider article by Sarah Ritchie


You've been asked to create a print display advertisement for your client. Here are some tips on understanding ad sizes. 


HxW or WxH?

If you are told the size of the ad is 150mm x 45mm, how will you know if this is a portrait (tall) or landscape (wide) ad?

The "official" graphics industry standard is to specify width by height (width x height / WxH). Layout programmes (such as InDesign and Illustrator) also specify width by height. However, these days, there seems to be no "standard" when receiving dimensions from clients, designers, suppliers and publications. Therefore, if the measurements aren't clear, it is safe to assume you need to ask for clarification. A simple question could save you a whole lot of unnecessary design time!


Modular advertising

Magazines and many newspapers will specify their ads based on the amount of coverage the ad will take up on the page. These are standard, fixed sizes and shapes, rather than variable columns and centimetre depths.

Example:  One newspaper may have Compact, Square Compact and Broadsheet page options. Each page is divided into modules. A Compact page may measure 8 x 8 modules, a Square Compact page may measure 6 x 6 modules and a Broadsheet page may measure 12 x 12 modules.

Modular ad options can include:


  • Double page spread
  • Double page spread half horizontal
  • Full page
  • Half page vertical
  • Half page horizontal
  • Junior page
  • Tower
  • Lower banner
  • Third page island
  • Quarter page vertical
  • Quarter page horizontal
  • Quarter page island
  • Eighth page vertical
  • Eighth page horizontal
  • Eighth page island
  • Sixteenth page vertical
  • Sixteenth page horizontal
  • Sixteenth page island
  • 1 x 1 spot
  • Front page solus


As an Account Manager, all you need to know is what type of modular ad you are placing; is it 4-colour or spot colour; the exact size; and how the paper or magazine wants the ad to be supplied to them. If it is not already crystal clear, you will need to clarify whether these ads are horizontal or vertical (just being told "quarter page" is not helpful to you!).


Buying by the column centimetre (newspapers)

You can buy display advertising by either the 'modular" system (as above) or by the 'column centimetre'.

If you are working with a newspaper that sells their advertising space by the column centimetre, and you are told the ad is 6x12, it is tempting to think this may refer to 6cm x 12cm or be a 6 x 12 module...but beware!

The first number usually refers to the WIDTH, specifying the number of columns (in this example it is 6 columns wide), and the second number usually refers to the DEPTH (in this case 12 cm deep). I do say "usually", but - as always - you should double check if you are unsure.

Watch out for column widths! Every newspaper publication will have a slightly different column width size. You will need the specifications for each newspaper you are advertising in. Also be aware that there is a difference (within a single newspaper) between the column width sizes of the main section of a newspaper and the classifieds section. Be sure you know where the ad will be placed before you start creating the artwork.


ROP (Run of Paper)

If your ad is booked under ROP, it means that the ad can be placed anywhere in the newspaper at the discretion of the editor (though this doesn't - usually - include the classifieds section). If you wish to be specific about where the display ad will be placed, you will need to let the publication know, and you will probably pay a premium for the request.


Solus Ad

A 'solus ad' is a single ad that does not appear near other ads within a newspaper or magazine. An example of this is the only display ad on the front page of the newspaper (or the front page of a section of the newspaper). The ad could be located anywhere on the page. It can vary in size between publications, so you will need to clarify the size before beginning the creative.

The first page is the most expensive real estate in the newspaper, and your client will pay a premium for this ad space. Sometimes you may be able to secure a solus ad at "distress rates" (when the publisher needs to fill a space and is offering advertising at a discounted rate).



This is an advertisement in the form of an article. The article is usually written by you or your client in a way that looks like the editorial of the newspaper or magazine. It usually carries the words "Advertorial" or "Advertisement" at the top so the reader clearly understands this is not the opinion of the publication itself. You can include images and text, and you will have to work closely with the publication to ensure the advertorial is visually appealing and acceptable to all parties. Some publications allow you to supply the layout, other publications will insist they prepare the layout themselves. Check with the publication for sizes and specifications.



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