"Don't waste your money," is what I said as gently as possible when an artist recently told me they planned to buy one ad in an art magazine to see what happens.
"Nothing will happen," is what I coached. Yes, something might happen, you might get lucky and get some calls, maybe even sell something. But don't count on it. I'll explain.
People who buy art are like most consumers. Consumers buy established BRANDS. If branding was not important than generic labeled grocery items would have succeeded when launched years ago. They were a giant failure. Instinctively consumers knew the generic brands were probably created by one of the well known brands, yet consumers felt uncomfortable and therefore did not spend.
How do consumers feel about your artwork? Unfortunately your artwork is only a part of the purchase decision. Buyers like to ask questions like ... Is this a well known artist? (Translation, "If I want to sell this down the road will anyone buy it?" or "If this artist is well known it will make me look smart for buying this painting.") Is this artists work considered important? (Translation: "I think its good but is it really? Will others like it? Will I look smart for buying it?" or "Will this painting/artist be worth a lot of money someday?")
Your brand is important in TRANSFERRING CONFIDENCE. That is what brands do... they make the buyer feel confident in their purchase decision... if they see your name frequently in print (ads or stories work about the same!) they will start thinking of you as a prominent artist. The more prominent you are in their mind, the more they will desire your work and they will pay a high price the more prominent they believe you to be.
My artist friend, whose name I cannot reveal, told me a story about advertising. She stated that when she first launched her career she could not get galleries to return her calls or consider her work. She could not get into most juried shows and her work was selling at low prices. So she scraped and saved and purchased a small ad in an art magazine. The ad consisted of her name (signature), an image of a painting, and her web site or contact information. She ran the ad and received no calls. But because she had been an illustrator in the advertising industry she knew time and frequency would make the phone ring. She ran the ad every month for a year and got a smattering of calls and a couple paintings sold. After about a year she became recognized. Suddenly her calls were returned, galleries were phoning her to represent her work, and she was getting invited to participate in shows bypassing the jury process. Her name was now considered a draw.
Consistency is critical for brand establishment. You need to be there month after month. This artist is now in several publications month after month. Her prominence has increased 10 fold in 5 years.