Anatomy of An Ad Campaign – Des Plaines Public Library

Daily Herald Print Campaign Ad

Daily Herald Print Campaign Ad

Things are a-changing in libraryland, especially on the marketing front.  Just seven years ago when I began at the Des Plaines Public Library, my position (head of public information services) was a rare one.

All too many public libraries had no staff dedicated full-time to marketing library offerings. Fast-forward t0 2014 and, well, here you all are:  marketing pros who know the impact of a well-coordinated and funded multichannel marketing campaign on library resource awareness and use.

For the second year in a row, Des Plaines Public Library is running a $19K consumer advertising campaign with the tag line “Your DPPL Library Card: the most valuable card in your wallet”.   It includes print, digital and email components and was paid for with State of Illinois per capita grant funds.

Daily Herald Email Campaign

Daily Herald Email Campaign


The campaign began in mid-November and runs through the end of the year. It is timed to coincide with the holiday season when patrons are shopping for digital devices and looking to save money.


The campaign includes:

  • Twelve 4-color ¼ page print ads in the Daily Herald ($7.2K)
  • Two ¼ page Spanish language ads in Reflejos ($780)
  • 375,000 keyword-driven digital ad impressions over 6 weeks on  ($2.25K)
  • Three emails over 14 days to 30K emails from a Daily Herald database, targeting women 18 – 40 interested in music and film within a 10 mile radius of DPPL. ($2.8K)
  • Eight 8 ½” x 11” inserts into Des Plaines Journal and Topics (40K pieces total), zoned to our community ($4k)
  • Other miscellaneous community based advertising (chamber of commerce map, etc.) ($2k)
  • DPPL website, Facebook, Twitter and in-house display system. (Free!)


I developed the concept for the campaign and wrote the content. The ads were designed in-house by our manager of creative services Kelly Maron Horvath.  DPPL’s manager of web services Ali Van Doren created custom URLs embedded into each of the pieces to track traffic to the resources so that we can accurately track and report our ROI. Because all was done in-house, there were no outside production or design costs.


Relejos Ad

Relejos Ad

Members of our library board have asked over the years that we reach non-DPPL users with information about the library and all we have to offer.  Their first thought was mailings, but I convinced them that an advertising campaign would better penetrate the market we are hoping to reach, especially in a town as large as Des Plaines where mailing is expensive and response is difficult to track.

From staff perspective, we want to see the usage of the digital products we have invested  in grow.  In late 2015, we are installing a new digital device eBar and a Digital Learning Center. These two spaces will allow DPPL to teach patrons to both use their devices AND use our “e” on their devices.  The baseline usage established by this ad campaign will allow us to easily compare the growth in usage after the installation, and help us to cost-justify our expansion in digital offerings for years to come.

Des Plaines Journal & Topics Insert - Front

Des Plaines Journal & Topics Insert – Front


Hard to pick, right? EVERYONE is a possible user of these products.  But in marketing, to be effective  you need to focus. We chose to target our images, message and ad placement to women 18-40 interested in music, film, magazines and downloadable books, at a time when they are shopping and needing to save money.  This is the demographic hoopla – a key product featured in the campaign – tells us is a main user group for their product.  Secondarily, the ads are designed to appeal to new mobile device owners and anyone with a familiarity with digital resources and a desire to save money.


Des Plaines Journal & Topics Insert - back

Des Plaines Journal & Topics Insert – back

The campaign is still running and we have yet to tally final numbers, but the initial numbers look promising. The 60K dedicated emails alone had 10 – 12% open rates (9,580 opens) and 1,340 clicks to the featured links in the first 2 weeks.


  • Focus your target and message:  The most effective campaigns market one kind of product and service, sending one specific massage to one specific group of people. Will the message of our ads reach those outside reach those outside of the ‘target’ group too? Sure. You notice and respond to ads all the time, despite not being the key demographic target, right? The same applies here.
  • digital ad digital ad

    Lobby for the money:  In advertising, it is all about the number of impressions. More money = more impressions = (hopefully) more usage of your resources.   My budget to advertise hasn’t always been $19K. My piece of our library’s Per Capita Grant “pie” has increased over the past several years.  Each year, I’m able to justify asking for more dollars because the money I have spent the previous year yielded results backed up with usage increases.

  • You don’t need to be a media buying expert:  Especially at the local level, trust your local media sales reps to steer you in the right direction. I was a little skeptical about the email campaign recommended by my Daily Herald rep, but it’s turning out to be fantastic.
  • Good design matters:  I’m lucky. I have an incredibly talented and experienced commercial graphic designer on my staff. If you do not, PLEASE consider hiring a well-vetted freelancer to do your ad design. Nothing distracts more from a message than a poorly designed ad.

 Heather Imhoff  is the  Head of Public Information Services at the Des Plaines Public Library. Reach her at

Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce Community Map Banner Ad

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3 Responses to Anatomy of An Ad Campaign – Des Plaines Public Library

  1. Readers who are interested in ad campaigns may also enjoy this recent article from Marketing Library Services. It explains how a public library system worked with radio and TV stations to get their on-air personalities to do library testimonials, and how they tied that in with ad campaigns in those media.–Getting-Media-Support-and-Exposure.shtml

  2. Congrats on your great campaign, Heather! Your post makes many good points too, especially about targeting one market with one message. It’s also important for others to see that you can start with a small campaign budget and use ROI to prove its value in order to increase that budget. Kudos!

  3. Elizabeth S Neill says:

    Thank you for this wonderful piece, Heather! I’m sure a lot of folks will be very interested in your experience.

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