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Ways To Create a Great Ad #7: Omission

In '100 Ways to Create a Great Ad' Tim Collins offers an overview of a hundred tried-and-tested advertising techniques used by creatives to create effective ads. These feature great advertising visuals and creative campaign inspirations. Tim has selected 10 of these to be featured by D&AD, which means there's 90 more in his book.


Some ads omit words or images and leave us to fill in the blanks.

A classic Fisher-Price press ad featured a boy standing alone on the right of a picture. The headline was, ‘Which of these three kids is wearing Fisher-Price anti-slip roller skates?’ Rather than showing the slapstick image of a child falling over, the ad invites us to imagine it, making for a much funnier execution.

D&AD Great Ad Campaigns
Silver / Colour Trade Advertisement / 1986 / BMP / The visual of this wonderfully simple Fisher-Price ad omits something the headline leads us to expect.

A Brazilian ad for a push-up bra also used unusual cropping. It looks as though we are seeing a queue of people with a large gap. It’s only when we read the product name that we understand what’s really going on.

The principle of omission works just as well on TV, as in the Alka-Seltzer ad where we see two men adrift in a boat. The ad cuts to one of the men alone. The voiceover is, ‘Alka-Seltzer. For when you’ve eaten something you shouldn’t have.’

Nomination / TV & Cinema Advertising / Television Commercials up to 30 Seconds / 1997 / AMV BBDO / Some ads leave gaps in the visual and leave readers to work out what’s going on.

Omitting letters or words can also make for clever advertising. In 2004, the English Premier League team Arsenal completed an entire season without defeat. Their record of wins, draws and losses could be written as WWWWDDWWWDWWWDDWDWWDWWWWWWWWWDWDWDDDWW. Nike ran this as a poster, also omitting the ‘L’ from the name of the club.

D&AD Great Ad Campaigns
In Book / Press Advertising / Newspapers - Individual Colour / 2005 / Wieden+Kennedy UK / Omitting words or letters can also produce good executions. This Nike ad celebrated English football team Arsenal’s year without a Premier League loss.

100 Ways to Create a Great Ad is available now from Laurence King

For those looking for advertising art direction courses, there can be none better than Alexandra Taylor’s. 

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