Keep It Simple – Simple ads simply work

Nothing is more useless than a phone number on a billboard. No one is ever going to immediately pull over to the side of the road to make a call, and people don’t have enough mental bandwidth to remember the short list of items to pick up from the grocery store after work, let alone a 10-digit number while they’re traveling 60 km down the road in heavy traffic.

Any form of advertising has a limited amount of ‘real estate’ to be used. Limited real estate means you have a finite amount of time and physical space to convey your message. Billboards and website banner ads only have a small box and your attention for three seconds and people who don’t design ads for a living often fall into the same trap. They fill up all the negative space in the ad with whatever they can find. Logos, company motto, award badges, photos of staff, quotes, legal disclaimers, logos, emojis taglines, phone numbers, stock images and long website URLs. 

If your eyes begin to wander and skim past the last sentence or if you didn’t notice that the word logos was in there twice, you just proved how easy it is to lose people with overloaded messaging. 

Graphic designers and writers spent years studying, experimenting, and applying their trade in creating content and ads. If you’re not engaging professionals to help, it’s worthwhile to find some. If you’re working with some already, listen to them, they usually know what they’re doing. But if you’re stubborn enough to try creating ads yourself there’s a few things to consider.

Always think about your call to action. It’s an invitation to engage with you further. It must be effective. If it’s something your customer must write down, like a phone number, address, or website, it’s not effective. Try to fit your call to action into only a few words like Book Now. A call to action can also be a nonverbal one. There is a whole industry around dressing up a cheeseburger to look so appetizing that you don’t need an invitation.

Keep it simple. Don’t fill up your ad with every little detail you can think of. You’re conveying a single message in a short amount of time. Negative space is used to frame the information that’s most important to your audience.

At one point there were heavy restrictions on the visible text allowed in online ads. Text was to take up no more than 20 per cent of the ad’s total real estate, and this includes logos with words or numbers in them. While text heavy ads are no longer getting disapproved you will still be subjected to limited exposure and your ads will most likely get served less. If you want to limit your text, keep a single line of text with 10 words or less, and try to go for less.

Lastly, take notice of ads you see in your daily life. You’ll start to notice what’s influencing your own considerations and you can use that in your own advertising.

Also, please stop putting phone numbers on ads.