CONTENT vs. FORM… What You Say Is More Important Than How You Say It

In most publications for print media, the pages are hot with articles about the power of the computer . . . how data is punched up and projected into dynamic presentations that impress the customer . . . how salespeople in the field utilize their notebook computers to pull up instant information . . . how the internet can quickly give valuable information about a publication . . . and how graphic artists can create fantastic award-winning ads.

The basic rule in all advertising is that the eye has to be drawn to the ad and the reader has to be motivated to actually read the ad without succumbing to fatigue, distraction or irritation.

Certainly the selection of type faces is important with the emphasis on headings in sans-serif type, which reads cleaner and looks more modern . . . and body copy in serif type, preferably in the 9 to 12 point range.

The visual syntax of ad design is important and the popular “Z” path of ad elements is critical to the initial scanning pattern, which pushes the eye around the ad (optical path).

However, in spite of all discussion about the attractiveness of the ad, what really decides the consumers to by is the content of the advertising – not its form – what benefit(s) you are going to promise.

Many times over zealous graphic artists over-design ads so that the content of the ad is obscured and the important message to the reader is lost . . . the ad goes gray and the reader’s eye passes over it.

This over-designing can come in several forms which include:

  • Reverse type, which many times is too small and not readable.
  • Greatly exaggerated borders which distract from the ad itself.
  • Graduations of dark to light and copy which doesn’t show up well in the process.  The maximum screen for black type is 30%; the minimum screen for white reverse type is 60%.
  • Backgrounds of busy prints and designs with type superimposed over them.  Usually the type is very difficult to read.
  • Too many boxes, sunbursts and other visual elements which distract from the content of the ad.

There has to be a balance between good ad design and a powerful, provocative heading which, in most cases, can be 80% of the ad’s effectiveness.  The message of the ad can be divided between sub-heads and body copy, and must be well-written to support the heading of the ad.

In the final analysis, advertisers must give reasons for people to shop with them.  They must give benefits to reach the subconscious mind of the consumer, motivating them to shop at their business.

The salesperson and the artist have to work as a team to decide the exact image to be projected for an advertiser.  The artist has to be creative, not only for a single ad, but for ongoing campaigns that will build readership for the advertiser.