April 29, 2011

Finding the Right Mix

Recently the premier of a heavily advertised new TV show caught my attention. It was on a major network and featured high production values, a talented cast, and an intriguing plot. It seemed like all the elements were there for a show worth following closely. Unexpectedly, though, there was backlash from viewers almost immediately.

Were they bored by the storyline? Unimpressed by the cinematography? Nope. Of all things, these complaints were aimed at the show’s sound engineering. People take for granted when watching a TV show that the dialogue will be clear and audible. Instead, this show had mixed the characters’ lines way too quietly, making them almost impossible to hear above the background sound and music in every scene. Suddenly, all the money and talent invested in all those other elements was nullified by the show’s inability to communicate the most basic information.

In the world of advertising design, flashy artwork and attention-grabbing headlines tend to be heavily emphasized. And they should be: like the production values and casting for a TV show, they are what viewers are first pulled in by. There is little point in winning over those eyeballs, though, if you aren’t prepared to clearly communicate your core message. If a reader cannot easily identify the main selling point, the ad has failed.

Accomplishing clear and “audible” advertising isn’t difficult, but it is easy to lose sight of during the process of creating an ad. Something as simple as giving a paragraph of key text plenty of space or making a website URL more legible can fall by the wayside as designers seek to fill the space with artwork, tweak clever headlines and place logos. The solution lies not in de-emphasizing those things, but in also giving attention to the fundamentals of the ad – the words. If a designer can keep that in mind, they can produce an ad that will be seen and heard.