Give me some space, please

Published on .

Clutter, clutter everywhere. It clogs our in-baskets, it piles up on our desks and it even finds its way into the b-to-b ads we read. Clutter in an ad is more than a nuisance; it can be enough of a distraction to drive a reader from the page. 

dvertisers are justifiably proud of their product or service and are eager to tell a target audience about it. But they need to resist the temptation to say too much or to display too much in an ad. Let the ad breathe a bit. An extra dose of white space can often make the difference between an ad that overwhelms readers with clutter and one that connects with them.

Let's take a look at some ads that we believe try to do too much.

Antam, an Indonesian mining and metals concern, trots out its new logo at the top of an ad. A river of white space helps frame the new logo, but the ad gets extremely busy below the introduction with dense-looking blocks of text, a pair of fever charts, a headline, a collage of photos, a dose of fine print, a call to action and, finally, a smaller version of the logo that was so boldly trumpeted at the top of the ad. Whatever message Antam was attempting to deliver probably went unnoticed to a large segment of the audience.

An ad for Brother International's multifunction printer and copier uses just about every inch of real estate?from the group shot of executives, to the product shots, to the headline, to the overblown logo at the base of the ad. There's a busyness to the ad that we found off-putting. It seemed as if too much was coming at us at once.

IBM Corp.'s ad for its x3655 Express server has a sizable dash of white space, and the product itself is unquestionably the dominant point of entry; yet it strikes us as having one element too many. Perhaps it's the substantial block of fine print at the bottom of the page, which no one will read, of course. The company lawyers, however, undoubtedly have good reasons for allowing it to clutter the scene. But the unsightly minutiae must share the page with a block of copy, a headline, underlined product features, an AMD logo and a boxed-in invitation to download an e-catalog. The glop of fine print pushed it all past the tipping point into the realm of overly cluttered.

The International Council for E-Commerce Consultants uses red and black type that wraps around the image of an IT executive who says he hired a hacker to help better secure the company's network. The art director deserves credit for trying something a bit different, but the page presents more text than most readers are willing to absorb. The story about hiring a certified ethical hacker is intriguing, but it could probably be told in fewer words that would allow for more white space in the execution.

This column is not an argument for overly simple ads. Ads that have a plethora of elements can work, so long as there's a high degree of thoughtful art direction. One ad in particular that caught our eye was for Hitachi, which is attempting to drive readers to its Web site to view a documentary film series about people using Hitachi technology to make life better.

Using a series of eight smartly organized photos, the art director for the Hitachi ad logically tells the story of how the state of South Carolina is using Hitachi storage systems to help track down cyber criminals. Although there is a lot going on in the ad, including a headline, copy block and logo, it's still easy for the reader to follow the tale, absorb a message and most likely head to the Web to learn more about the company's storage systems.

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