Keep it simple, silly

Over the past 40 or 50 years, the amount of information in advertising has dropped significantly. We don’t have time to read long explanations. We already have to cope with up to 1500 advertising messages a day, so sitting and absorbing information has become a luxury few of us can afford – these days capturing people’s interests works on a different level.

So advertising has to get to the point. Quickly. Over the years, as information content in advertising has dropped, imagery has risen. The lines probably crossed over in the 70s. So the theory.

Almost right, were it not for some exceptions – decades ahead of their time. To prove the point let’s look at some 1970s car campaigns from Germany . Look at all that copy (the words/text)…

renault.jpg datsun.jpg


Nowadays car advertising is minimalistic (if it’s done properly – I could name some spectacular exceptions, but don’t want to upset anyone – for me they are an obvious case of a copywriter somewhere desperately trying to get a point across that 10 words won’t do).

But, contrary to the theory, even in the “old days” some advertisers were way ahead of their time. One example: this famous campaign from the US which attracted so much acclaim, and still does. So simple. So succinct. Such a shame VW didn’t do this everywhere, and keep up the momentum from the States.


If you ask me, this is the sort of advertising we see today. Simple image, fast message, backed up by a bit of copy. And the “Think Small” teaser really entices you to read on. 10 out of 10 for effective advertising.


By the way, I will venture to predict the future: as demographic change affects us all (the population is getting older), advertising content will rise again over the next 20-30 years. Generation X – the sceptical, post-hippy children that grew up during the candlelit winters of the oil-crisis, banged their heads to punk and 70s rebellion, and now shrug their shoulders to conspicuous consumption, big brands and marketing bullshit – will be woopies (well-off-older-persons) with the advertising wisdom to boot. They’ll expect a complete lists of reasons “why to buy”.

Re-enter lots of words. But rather than advertising lost in words, these will be more honest and much, much less waffly.

Alex Woodruff

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