The Importance of Being Brief: An Open Letter to Advertisers

The Importance of Being Brief: An Open Letter to Advertisers


Brevity. It’s important.

Here’s why.

Brief in Copy, Brief in Visuals
Unlike the decades of advertising past, long-form copy in most mediums has lost its punch. We don’t want to read an essay on why your deodorant will keep us from stinking up our board meeting better than your competitor. Give us the bullet points—woo us with benefits, charm our noses with new scents. From there, we’ll decide which brand to wear under our arms.

The same goes for visuals. Too much too look at = nothing to look at. Our modern brains lack extended attention spans. If you throw too much at us, the paradox of choice sets in. And by then, we’ve already moved on.

McDonald’s took a simplified approach with their recent ads, demonstrating how more can be said with less.


Without even seeing the tiny “M” to the right of the pictures, we already know whose ad this is. All the fluff of manicured food pictures is gone, leaving little more than a visual cue. Somewhere deep inside the tape decks of our experiences, a memory is triggered—a childhood birthday party, the smell of ketchup, the sizzle of fries being dropped into the grease. And now we’re hungry.

Telling a Story vs. Relaying an Epic
Context is key.

  • How much time will the consumer have to digest your ad?
  • Are they speeding by it on a highway?
  • Is the ad hanging in front of them for thirty minutes during their morning commute?

You may only have their attention for a moment. Tell your story in the proper amount of time based on the context of the ad’s placement. Then get out.

When Miller High Life decided to create a series of one-second ads to run during the 2009 Super Bowl, they stood out from the crowd.

You may argue that one second is too brief. But when you’re talking to a bunch of people sitting on a couch watching football, maybe all you want them to hear is the name of your beer. Which takes me to my final point…

Brevity isn’t a Clown Car
Being brief doesn’t mean you say everything as quickly as possible. It means you say what you need to say and stop. If you try to say too much, your message will become cryptic and you’ve missed your opportunity.

Photo Credits
McDonald’s “Big 6? menu items,