Style over substance


While watching TV last night, I saw ads for a bunch of shows that are returning in the fall. At the end of each ad, they provided the date of the season premier. But instead of writing it normally, like “September 9, 2008” or just “September 9”, they decided to get clever. So, the screen said “9.9.08” instead. This sort of thing drives me crazy. And it’s not just limited to dates — marketers do it with phone numbers too. For instance, they’ll write 212.555.1234 instead of (212) 555-1234.

Why does this matter? Well, people are accustomed to looking at dates, phone numbers, prices, and other common data in a certain format. When you mess with that format to make something look cool or trendy, it means that fewer people will be able to read and remember the key information from your ad. In other words, you’re making things harder for your target audience and increasing the hoops they have to jump through before they can respond to your ad.

When faced with this type of design decision, the best approach is to adopt standard formatting for the data I’ve mentioned. Then, be as creative as you like with the part of the ad that actually talks about your product or service. In short, you should wow people with your product benefits, instead of daring them to figure out how to read your phone number or grand opening date.