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It’s a black and white issue

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Over the past several decades, advertising has evolved dramatically. From the days of full-page newspaper ads stacked with column after column of feature copy to today’s digital and social marketing endeavors, the relationship between consumers and marketers has continuously changed.

This is mostly a reflection of present day lifestyles. Thanks to smart phones, tablets, interactive televisions and other sources of instant communication, consumers are constantly connected to the world around them. Thus, they are bombarded with more marketing messages than any generation before.

To cut through this clutter – and to attempt to resonate in a mere 2-3 seconds – arresting visuals, unbelievable offers and screaming calls to action have become the norm to get noticed. While these efforts may demand immediate attention, unless they are done the right way, their messages are rarely remembered.

That’s why I love the antithesis of these executions: A clean, simple, headline-driven ad. Black ink on white paper. A message with nowhere to hide. Perfection in black and white.

These print ads for Swiss Life – one of Europe’s largest insurance providers – are a terrific example. Created by Leo Burnett, each execution shows how a clever headline can be the most impactful force in advertising.

No visuals are necessary. In fact, they would only serve to weaken the idea. These 7-8 words, which feature an excellent twist in mid-thought, paint the perfect picture in the consumer’s imagination. The message is unmistakable. And unforgettable.

Of course, this approach won’t work for every client. The message has to be thought provoking, insightful or emotionally engaging. Few things make me cringe like seeing a weak headline standing completely naked on a stark, white background.

But, when done correctly, these ads prove that well-written words are a timeless tool that can achieve powerful results.

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