As a designer, when I read a magazine I look at the ads not for what they’re selling but for the way they’re composed, what they say and whether I think they’re effective. And there is one thing that is common to the good stuff: they keep it simple. Few words, a strong message, a powerful image.
While this is partly a matter of taste – I’ve always been a less is more kind of girl – research backs me up, indicating that most people only look at the visual in an ad, with 30% reading the headline and only 5% reading the copy. We know our own behavior – how often do you actually stop and read the fine print in ads or in the flyers in your mailbox? Yet, when it comes to self-promotion we often ignore this experience and understanding because we have so much we want to tell people about our product or service, and we think they won’t trust us unless they know everything about us.
So how do you keep the message simple? These four steps are a basic guide for planning your communications:
1. Know your message
Who is going to see your ad, and what do you want them to know? Pick one key message, and stick to it. Staying focused on your desired outcome will help you to keep your communications simple.
2. Draw people in with interesting and appealing visuals
Whether it’s beautiful photography, a clever illustration or elegant typography, common sense says people will be far more likely to pay attention to your ad if it looks good.
3. Maintain their attention with a strong, targeted headline
Make your headline succinct, relevant and interesting. Ask yourself, if it’s the only part of your ad that your potential customers read, will they remember it?
4. Reinforce the message in the copy
Given that few people will usually read the copy, keep it focused and simple. Avoid introducing irrelevant information, such as long lists of products or services. Always refer back to your key message.
Remember that the purpose of advertising is not to sell your product, but to sell your message. People will buy from you if the message is what they want to hear.