Best Advertising Practices: Less is More

By Jesse Clayton, Graphic Designer

Less is more.

Problematic Advertising

We’ve all seen it.  That 5-by-7 inch ad with not one but two headlines, three feel-good images, an over-abundance of branding graphics (everywhere), enough body copy to write a screenplay, every way possible to contact the client, and “Don’t forget to make the logo bigger!”  This is the recipe for a convoluted, “salesy,” seen it once, not interested, over-look-me-ASAP casserole.  To quote my friend and colleague William DeForest, a convoluted ad is “like that person on the bus that is talking too much."

The truth is advertising is abundant: its everywhere we look and in most cases, it’s obnoxious and intrusive.  More often than not, we choose to completely ignore ads or – at best – donate them a glance.  However, advertising remains a necessary evil that business owners must endure to stay on the public’s radar.

Simple Solution

So how do you conquer this dilemma?  Simply... No literally simply.

Instead of trying to sell (“Sell, sell!”) the prospective client every service you offer, every certification, statistic, bullet point, and every word of the overwhelming 80-flight elevator speech, how about simplifying your efforts and dumbing down your strategy?

Try to capture the essence of the company through a stripped-down, clear message with or without the support of imagery.  Pick just one bullet point, one sentence, one word, or best yet – no words (that’s right I said it “no words!”).  Do you pride yourself on the rate in which your company performs?  Photoshop race car tires on your product.  Put it on a pure white background with your logo moderately sized in the corner and “bada-Bing!” – it may be the most effective ad you’ll ever run.

Effective and Refreshing

This type of advertising is refreshing.  Our brains subconsciously recognize and appreciate simplicity: we can instantly interpret the information and digest the message.  And the odds that people will remember your ad and connect it to your company increase dramatically!  After all, you’re lucky if a viewer gives your ad any time of day; so why not make it easy on them?  Give them a simple, clean, clear message to consider. The cherry on top of your simplified message would be to trigger an emotional, humorous, or relatable response but... no pressure.

In order to practice what I preach, I will end with this.  The best, most memorable ads have always been the simplest.

“Just do it!”  “Got milk?”  “Think small.”  “Have it your way.”


Jesse Clayton is the Art Director/Graphic Designer at Cowley Associates and creator of many advertising successes for our clients.  He holds a Master’s Degree in Design from SUNY Oswego and teaches Graphic Design at Bryant & Stratton College.  View Cowley’s portfolio for some examples of his “simple, yet effective” artistic advertising work.

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