Marketing Ideas for Artists by Art Publisher B. Eric Rhoads

Ten Reasons Not To Advertise


My clients are often surprised when I tell them not to advertise. Since I own a few magazines, they assume selling them advertising is my only interest.

Not every client is ready to advertise, and others may not be a fit for certain magazines or websites, including my own. It depends entirely on their needs and goals.

No one would ever trust me or my people if the solutions we proposed always led back to our magazines. Here are 10 reasons you should not advertise.

Ten Reasons Not To Advertise

1. You Don’t Know What You’re Trying To Accomplish
Frequently a meeting with a gallery or artist will reveal that they need to improve their business, but they don’t have a specific strategy. They often approach us about advertising with nothing more in mind than “I’m not sure of my goals, I just want to sell more.” Though that’s a starting point, it’s never good to advertise until you have a deep, specific strategy. We can help you work on a strategy, but you must have that in place before you do anything else, or you may waste money and hurt your reputation.

2. You Don’t Know Who You’re Trying To Reach
It’s hard to hit a target when you don’t know what it is. It’s important to understand where most of your existing customers come from and why they buy from you, so you can find more like them. Make sure you know what your customers care about. Many people simply say, “I don’t know, I just need to sell more.” The problem is that a broad, un-targeted approach will most likely not accomplish your goals — that is, if you have goals.

3. You’re Not Ready To Promote
I got a call last year from an advertiser in Artist Advocate who was concerned that she had not accomplished her goal of selling landscape paintings and getting a gallery to sign her. When I reviewed the website she included in her ad, it was all about commissioned portraiture. Nothing about landscapes. She had wrongly assumed people would look beyond her landing page to find her landscape work.

If you’re going to point people to your business, you need to be fine-tuned and ready so they get what they expect when they visit your site or call your number. If the site is not what they expect, or if they get a voice message or a name other than the person or business they think they’re calling, that is opportunity lost.

4. You Don’t Have A Capture Strategy
What if your ads motivate people to call you or visit your website, and you don’t have a plan in place to convert those people to sales? Have you refined your story? Stories are important. Is there someone designated to sell, like a spouse, an agent, a sales associate? Is your site tuned up for success? Do you have a plan to capture names and e-mails? Increased site visits are nice, but only if they convert people to sales.

5. You Don’t Have A Branding Strategy
It’s critical to understand branding: what you stand for (or against), what you want people to think of you, the image you’re projecting, etc. Branding is building awareness and trust, and it doesn’t happen overnight. While most people expect their ads to work instantly (and ads usually don’t), they fail to understand that ads also help sell the brand. People will buy more once they trust you and your brand.

6. Inability To Maintain Repetition
Think of success as the top of a ladder, and each ad as a step toward success. Stepping up one rung won’t get you to the top, and neither will one ad. Reputation is built by repetition: If you don’t have the resources to repeat and repeat and repeat, it’s best to save your money. There are exceptions, but they are rare. Advertising is a process, not a single event.

7. You Don’t Have A Powerful Ad
Don’t assume the art will stand on its own. Great ads work. Good ads and bad ads don’t. Great ads get noticed, cut through the clutter, stand out, look different, relate to the audience, have strong headlines, and make people pay attention. Most ads are good ads, not great ads — but the people who create them think they’re great. Get a second opinion from an expert, and learn the language of effective ads.

8. You Don’t Have The Right Audience
Bigger is not always better, but people usually think larger audiences are better than smaller ones. I always ask art galleries whether they would prefer a busload of schoolteachers or a single collector who arrives at the gallery driving a Bentley. If your ads reach 100,000 people but none of them can buy, you’ve wasted your money. But a small number of the right buyers from a smaller niche publication or website can often sell artwork. Don’t get caught up in big numbers.

9. You’re Stroking Your Own Ego
I used to call on Myron, who owned a store that sold jeans for teens. His business was dying, and I went to discuss advertising on my radio stations. I asked why he was advertising on a station that reached grandmothers instead of a station like mine, which reached teens and young moms. He told me that he advertised on that station because it was the station all his friends at the country club listened to. Myron impressed himself and his friends by advertising in a place they liked, but he failed to reach his audience and eventually went out of business.

Fifty percent of advertising is ego-driven. I’ve had people tell me, “I want my friends to see my art.” I know of publications that reach almost no art buyers, but they get advertising because of peer pressure. There is nothing wrong with advertising to enhance awareness among peers, but don’t confuse your expectations. If you want to sell something, you need to advertise where the buyers are.

10. The Promise Of Free Editorial
Everyone wants editorial coverage. But I know galleries and artists who refuse articles in any publication that offers articles in exchange for advertising. They assume the readers will think they bought their coverage, and they don’t want to harm their hard-earned reputations. Though it’s very appealing to gain the coverage, readers are not stupid and will assume you paid for it. That damages their perception of you.

Though I’m almost always willing to help my advertisers when there is legitimate reason for editorial coverage, I lose a lot of advertising because I refuse to do it over and over for the promise of advertising contracts. My readers would catch on, and I’d lose all my credibility.

If you’re advertising in a publication because it’s the right fit, that’s fine. If it’s because of a free article, that’s not a good reason, especially if a publication is filled with articles accompanied by ads. Reputations are costly to build and quick to fall.

It’s always best to have a well considered strategy before spending a dime on advertising.


P.S.: Sometimes I feel like a juggler because we have so many balls in the air. I’d like to take a moment to tell you about some of the exciting things we’re up to in the art world.

1. Linking Galleries And Artists
Artist Advocate is entering its third year and has helped hundreds of artists gain visibility with art galleries and find new gallery homes. If you’re looking for a gallery and want to be exposed to more than 15,000 art galleries (mail and digital editions), the next quarterly issue will be publishing in a couple of weeks.

2. A Conference To Promote Realism
Fine Art Connoisseur Editor Peter Trippi and I are on a mission to pave a successful future for realism artists and have developed a conference devoted to that goal. Everyone involved in the realism ecosystem should be there: collectors, historians, galleries, ateliers and schools, artists, frame makers, students, and suppliers. This is a true forum, where you will help us shape a strong future for representational and realist art. We have announced the recipients of our Lifetime Achievement Trailblazer Awards, our advisory board, and will soon announce our speakers and panels for the November Los Angeles conference.

3. PleinAir Magazine Returns With Success
In February we relaunched the magazine about outdoor painting with editor Steve Doherty, and we were thrilled with the response. Not only did we sell out at Barnes & Noble stores nationwide, they re-ordered and we ended up with one of the highest nationwide sell-through rates. Barnes & Noble is now adding PleinAir in more stores. We also sold over 4,500 subscriptions (print, digital, iPad, iPhone) and distributed more than 22,000 copies as we launched with 116 pages — a huge embrace from advertisers — and 156 pages in the expanded digital edition. Our next issue will be out soon; if you have not subscribed, please do so today. Call 800-610-5771 or go to

4. The Publisher’s Invitational Paint Out
I’m hosting a painting event for artists next month in the 100-acre Adirondack Park. It’s all play, no work. No show, no sale, no events, just painting with friends in the same places painted by the Hudson River School painters. See who’s coming and join us. I’ve rented Paul Smith’s College and reserved 100 rooms. So far about 60 are sold. To learn more, visit

5. October Fall Leaves Danube Art Cruise Is More Than 50 Percent Sold Out
I’ll be hosting a group of art collectors, artists, and art lovers on a fall art cruise down the Danube. Our Russian art cruise was met with such rave reviews that most of our new friends asked us to keep the tradition alive by doing an annual cruise. This year we start in Budapest, then cruise down the Danube to Vienna and several ports, plus we’re offering a side trip to Prague. Of course we’re lining up special art events along the way. To learn more and see a new video about the cruise, go to Join us — again, we’re more than 50 percent sold out, so please book soon.

6. Documenting The Important Realism Movement On Video
When artist Michael Klein approached me about a venture to showcase the best realism painters in the world on video, I instantly fell in love with the concept. When he told me he wanted to do it for $10 an issue for two hours of content, I thought it would be a giant success. I had no idea how successful American Painting Video Magazine would become, but now it has viewers all over the world.

7. Fine Art Connoisseur: Soon Entering Our Sixth Year
Its hard to believe that we’ve been publishing this magazine for over five years now, and that just two more issues from now, we’ll start our sixth year. The May/June 2011 issue is out already and features a stunning portrait from Nelson Shanks’ upcoming exhibition in Russia.

Our summer issue (July/August 2011) will feature articles on the Utah landscapist LeConte Stewart (1891-1990); James A. McN. Whistler (1834-1903); the French Impressionist painter of urban pleasures Jean-Louis Forain (1852-1931); and the German academician Heinrich Hofmann (1824-1911); plus living painters Max Ginsburg (b. 1931), Andrew Jones (b. 1961), Robin Hall, Sarah Lamb, and the London-based painter Alan Dick. The Destination Art section will focus on the booming art scene in Wyoming, especially Jackson Hole. To subscribe or advertise, call 800-610-5771 or go to

8. The Largest Gathering of Plein Air Artists In History
Not only do I want to get your name in the Guinness Book of World Records for being among the largest number of people ever painting outdoors in one place, I want to gather everyone in the community of plein air painters to discuss our world and how we can improve it, improve our skills in painting and marketing, make new friends, and of course paint together. I plan to have collectors, artists, suppliers and more, and we’re taking over Red Rock Casino and Resort on the outskirts of Las Vegas, abut five minutes from Red Rock State Park. I went out there last week, and it is spectacular (the hotel and the places we plan to paint.) Hold the dates, April 12-15, 2012, and make your plans to be there.


May 10, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

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