Securing audience’s attention in ads: reveal or imply?

The idea of advertising a product is to finally get people – the consumers – to buy it. But not every ad is successful at doing this. Perhaps many have failed, too.

Every day, we all are bombarded with so many advertisements – whether we are at home watching TV, going to work, reading newspapers, browsing our Facebook page, etc. But so many ads fail to get our attention even from the first time they appear to us. We don’t feel engaged, but bored and never want to see it again, let alone proceed to buying.

In fact, Demetrios Vakratsas and Tim Ambler explain in their work on “How advertising works: what do we really know?” that the mind of consumers isn’t a blank paper awaiting advertising. Their mind already contains “conscious and unconscious memories” of product purchasing and usage.

Our responses to advertising, they argue, are mediated by two factors: motivation and ability to process information, and attitudes toward the ad.

But what if the ad fails from the first time it appears to potential consumers? No purchasing. Simple.

Then, how can we seize their attention, their first impression of the product?

The concept of “leaving something to the imagination” perhaps appears to have some answer to that question. It’s one that was introduced by author Pete Barry in his book “The advertising concept book” (pp. 25-27).

Barry says one of the most important tools of all would be “imagination”. It’s important to leave some gap for the consumers to fill in so that they are engaged.

Take for example, this FedEx adverting campaign.


(Image: Neighbors Fedex advertising Campaign)

It’s very simple. Perhaps, it’s what makes it impressive and engaging. It doesn’t need words to explain but the handling activity, especially the image of maps and buildings, gives the context to it.

However, Barry warns one shouldn’t try to make it too hard for the consumers to fill in the gap. They don’t have the time.

Then, it’s vital we know how to strike the balance well. And that is the question worth exploring next.


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