Read my lips, then the copy

One way of ensuring people read the text on an ad is to use restraint. And a great image

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An anonymous commenter on an advertising blog once had a pop at me for art directing an ad without a logo on it. (I’m assuming that the deep irony of their decision to remain anonymous was lost on them.) Actually there were quite a few people wading in with varying levels of vitriol (and spelling).

But of course it’s not such a crazy idea. As conveniently demonstrated by this piece of brilliance from the 80s by art director Derrick Hass for the … well, actually, I’m not going to tell you who it’s for yet. That would be cheating wouldn’t it?

Let’s just say I’d be gobsmacked if anyone who saw this ad didn’t know who it was for after just a few seconds. Think of it like the difference between an ugly person coming up to you and screaming their name in your face, versus seeing someone incredibly attractive and actually wanting to find out what their number is.

Yes, advertising can do that. It rarely does, but it’s possible. It’s a big part of what art direction is all about.And for this idea, the art direction is about sheer visual impact.

Helped by the fact that the copy gets out of the way. It runs vertically down the right-hand page – and why not? People will actually want to read it, remember? Because the visual has grabbed them. It says, “Nothing could improve your presentation more than a call to The Covent Garden Art Company”. And the captions, artfully positioned over the image, say things like, “Nothing dog-eared” next to the dog ear, “Nothing battered”, next to the black eye and “Nothing missing” next to where the nose should be etc.

In fact the art direction is the idea really. But of course it still needs executing. And the art director had better get it right. After all, this ad is all about the details. Colour or black and white photography? Man or woman? Clothing style? Hair style? Light or dark background? And a hundred other things to worry about. Each one, if the art director doesn’t mess up, adding to the power of the communication.

The spot colour on the lips for example. Fantastic. The idea of using a real dog’s ear. Equally wonderful. The choice of photographer is also critically important. I’m sure the great John Claridge brought a lot to the party.

But let’s not be so blown away by the visual that we forget to appreciate the restraint and confidence of the typography (I’ll even forgive the slight 80s fashion of excessive tracking, it kind of works here. And let’s face it, rules are made to be broken).

By not having the type fight with the image, the impact of the page is just so much stronger.

This ad is about as far from anonymous as it’s possible to be. Yes, it screams. But oh so elegantly.

Paul Belford is the founder of creative agency Paul Belford Ltd, Details of his D&AD art direction session, Art Directing the Idea, at