We’ve all endured “in your face” ads that bombard us with yelling, flashy graphics and the insufferable barrage of message after message. What these advertisers have failed to realize is that every time they fill the screen with multiple graphics, split-screen shots, and voiceover that doesn’t sync with the visuals, they are employing the ad’s worst enemy: distraction.
The visuals in this Walgreens ad tell the story of two women shopping at Walgreens who are intrigued by a teen with purple hair, but the voiceover calls attention to Medicare Part D and copays. Because the ad asks viewers to process disconnected visuals and audio simultaneously, viewers might follow one story missing the other, or worse, not follow either story line.
In his book, The Organized Mind, Daniel Levitin reveals that our brains constantly switch between two different sides: the daydreaming, freethinking side called the “Mind Wandering Mode” and the focused, problem-solving side called the “Central Executive Mode.” He explains that because some of us excel at switching modes, we’re led to believe that we’re a multitasking master. However, in reality our brains are designed to focus on one thing at a time. True multitasking is impossible for all except 2% of the world’s population.
So when advertisers require the consumer to pay attention to multiple messages at once, they are asking their brains to do the impossible.
The following three rules can improve the odds of clearly communicating your message.
1. Focus on a single-minded message
Trying to communicate multiple messages may ultimately muddy what the consumer takes away. Instead, stick to telling one relevant message in a clear way.
This Wal-Mart ad employs strong audio visual synchronization as they verbally and visually tell you what beef to use for great burgers and where to find it. While the spokesman introduces himself, he tells you why he’s famous and describes the product and retailer he recommends. His verbal explanations are complemented by the visuals.
Ocean Spray uses strong audio/visual sync to convey the message that their juice is 100% juice and good for you.
2. Limit audio and visual distractions
Help the consumer stay focused by avoiding distractions such as in-frame competition. In-frame competition occurs when multiple elements fight for consumer focus and distract from the brand. For example, if the Ocean Spray ad had included voiceover about juice boxes, popsicles, and calorie data, viewers may have missed that it’s 100% juice. Your brand message should be the star of the ad; don’t let anything upstage it.
This Twitter ad which aired during the World Series is fraught with many distractions — multiple image styles, quick moving image changes, text overlays, upbeat music. Where and what was the brand’s message?
Who can forget the puppymonkeybaby ad which aired during the 2016 Super Bowl? Although puppymonkeybaby trended on Twitter, the distractions likely overshadow the brand and product for many viewers.
3. Tell a simplified story
Telling a story is one of the most powerful ways to communicate a message, but the brand’s role in the story must be abundantly clear. The consumer cannot fully focus on your message if they struggle to see the connection between your brand and the message.
This ad for Amazon Prime engages through storytelling. Viewers want to find out what happens next with the poor dog in a cast. His owner knows there is a problem … cue solution: Amazon Prime. With 1-click buying on Amazon Prime, little Fido no longer has trouble keeping up with daily adventures in his new Baby Bjorn.
These days your customers are trying their best to multitask on multiple activities. Their attention is already split and limited. Communicating a single-minded message, with few distractions and with a clear story will create an easy-to-watch advertisement and will be most effective in both capturing the audience and relaying your intended message. A focused message focuses the consumer.