So, can you get to the point?

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Getting to the point in an ad takes purposeful art direction, which is best done by organizing the parts of the ad so there's an unmistakable entry point. From there, the reader is led through the material in a sequence consistent with the logical development of the selling proposition. The unmistakable entry point can be in the form of a headline, a visual, even the text. Whatever element it is, it's got to have stopping power. It seems like a simple notion—going from point A to point B to point C—but it's remarkable how often we encounter b-to-b ads that send mixed signals in terms of where we should head first. Maybe it's because advertisers have lots to say in a limited amount of space. The space is expensive, of course. So there's the temptation to maximize it with a collection of elements that fails to provide a clear sense of direction. Other ads may be uncluttered and breathtakingly beautiful but fail to deliver readers to the payoff, which might come in the form of a clinching line of text, a call to action or simply the logo in order to register or reinforce the brand. Vance Uniformed Protection alerts readers that it's now known as Garda with an ad that features a collage of diverse faces. It's a good first step because a human face—or faces—is always a strong drawing card. The problem is that the image overpowers the headline that rides above the visual element. The headline is critical because it presents the important news of the name change. A red banner running horizontally through the arrangement of faces with such bulleted benefits as consistent service, experienced team and peace of mind seems to have more stopping power than the main headline. Our eyes then fell into the two columns of text that do a solid job of elucidating Garda's selling proposition—that it can help secure personnel, property and assets at Fortune 500 companies. Visuals tend to trump headlines, and headlines tend to trump text. Also keep in mind that the reader's eye naturally moves from higher on the page (or screen on the Web) down. In this case, our collective eye started on the visual and tracked into the text, overlooking the headline stripped across the top of the page. Thus, the selling sequence was not as logical as it could be. Next is a handsome ad for Cargill, which describes in the patch of text how it's created a more eco-friendly foam for the furniture and bedding industries by using soybean oil instead of relying on petroleum-based ingredients. The unmistakable point of entry is the image of the strikingly green couch that flows seamlessly into the bean field in the background. Next stop is the headline near the top of the image: “This sofa design coordinates with everything. Even nature.” The art director hopes that the reader will continue swimming upstream to take in the text that talks about Cargill's green initiative. But it's not a logical progression. The advertiser is at risk of having the reader skip the text, which houses the most important part of the ad's message. In fact, the upper half of the ad looks like a separate execution. While we're down on the farm, let's take a look at a final example that epitomizes the principle of selling in logical sequence. BASF makes an ear of corn against a field of white the unmistakable entry point. Next is the wordplay headline: “48 miles per kernel.” The eye tracks effortlessly into a block of text that opens with: “How much ethanol can a company extract from corn? Today, BASF helps increase both the quality and quantity of corn that farmers can grow. So it is now possible to improve corn supplies for ethanol production without reducing the crops intended for the kitchen table.” The last line of copy invites readers to learn more at BASF's Web site. Finally, there's the tagline and logo. The ad is as logical as it is elegant. M
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