Revising Your Ad: Funny Things Can Happen If You’re Not Careful

POSTED BY Mike Evans - 10.02.12 - Creative

“Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read.” — Leo Burnett

You’re the client. Your advertising agency -- let’s say it’s Fusionfarm -- designed an ad. It sits before you, in all its glory, filling your screen.

It’s colorful.

It’s informative.

It’s easy to read.

It has a clear message in its content (see my previous blog post).

You think it needs a little extra something. You start to type out a design change…

Stop. The process has worked up ‘til this point, right? You got in touch with your local sales representative, scheduled some time and laid out the ‘bones’ of what you wanted in your ad. That layout went to the design team that handles your account. The ad is crafted for you, keeping in mind your preferences for style and look.

But it’s not 100% what you want.

Or is it?

The temptation to fiddle is great, some would say irresistible. You must think about what you want to change and why.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is the change going to alter or confuse my message? Sometimes you have a last-minute deal you want to tack onto your ad. If it doesn’t fit with what you’re doing, like sticking meat listings in an ad that is themed for a dairy sale, then you run the risk of cluttering the message in your ad. Usually, when items are introduced into an ad that do not conform to the theme or message, then it needs to be made ‘to work’ with the existing content. This usually requires extra content to tie it in, i.e. explain why this is in the ad. In advertising, explaining is bad. Everything should appear to belong together at a subconscious level to the reader or they will move on.
  • Will your change have that much of an impact on the response your ad will generate? Once the main body of content is done and in place, some clients will focus on minute details, like adding a ‘#’ to the stock number of a car listing. These details may be important to someone, but they are not important to your audience and will likely not increase sales or readership. Readers look for value in content: Clear prices, clearly described products and clarity of message.
  • Does your change break the flow of the whole piece? Flow is important. Flow moves the eye along to where you want it. Flow is the precise amount of information for the precise amount of time the reader’s eye will be on the ad. Flow is the horsepower of an ad. A lot of clients like to tinker with an ad’s look, which is their right, but their ideas may be focused on the one single correction and may inadvertently impact the flow of the piece. Adding a burst here or adding an extra listing there may seem to be a simple thing because you see an extra bit of space where it could fit, but if the eye tracks across that space to an important part of the ad, you may inadvertently place a stopping point before the reader’s eye reaches its intended destination, breaking the flow of the ad. Give the ad a literal ‘look over’ and think about where your eye is being drawn. This may help you decide where to put your extra items.

There are genuine reasons to revise an ad. Price changes, typos, limited supplies of sale items, manufacturer’s co-op changes. All of these can force revisions that were not foreseen at the ad’s inception. This is the nature of the business. The danger is losing the perspective of the project through the revisions. Additions of bursts, listings or general shuffling of the layout can, if you’re not careful, create a situation where funny things happen while revising your ad.

In the end, we must revise advertising from the readers’ perspective. Put yourself in their shoes. Is this still easy to read? Will this revision distract the reader from what I want them to see? Is this revision really going to enhance the effectiveness of the ad? Most importantly: Would this motivate me to buy?

“The moment clients realize that revisions are not an all-you-can-eat buffet, suddenly they realize they are not hungry.” — Lester Beall

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