Keeping It Simple: Why Simple Ads ‘Just Work’

By: Nick Damko

Screen shot 2011-10-31 at 12.26.16 PM

There’s no doubt that today’s advertising is much more complex than it was 50 years ago. Companies are obsessed with high-definition graphics, catchy slogans, loud noises (voices and/or music), and always having the brand’s name appear. It has been this way for the last decade. Many companies are turning to this ‘exciting’ form of advertising because they feel it engages the audience and yanks their attention away from whatever they may be doing at the time.


Think about Apple: a company that boasts its products’ simple designs and user interfaces. In the mid-to-late-2000’s, the company had relatively simple ads: a white background with two guys (Mac and PC) bickering over which one is better, infusing some humor and sarcasm into the argument, and Mac always comes out on top.


Nowadays, in the post-Steve-Jobs era, Apple’s TV ads have become very complex, often having some deeper meaning for the audience to learn. The deeper meaning is then connected to the Apple products displayed in the ad, and the audience is supposed to acknowledge that connection is some imperative life-lesson and then be persuaded to buy an Apple product to enrich their lives. Apple’s billboards are a little simpler, but still have current advertising aspects: Large Apple logos and bright colors grab the audience’s attention and look quite out of place in their nearby scenery.

I’m not saying that these complex ads are bad. I mean, I love my Apple products, but I didn’t buy them because they ‘complete my universe’ or ‘create surprise holiday videos for my family by making me look like an emotionally-disconnected teenager.’ I bought my iPod because ‘it just works.’ I bought my iPhone because ‘it just works.’ I bought my Mac because ‘it just works.’ These selling points were covered in the old ‘Mac and PC’ ads. There doesn’t need to be a deeper meaning. The products are great because they ‘just work.’


Even if Apple has given up on its basic structure for ads, McDonald’s has been developing a minimalistic advertising structure of its own. McDonalds’ billboards have rolled out in France that have only a simple drawing of the company’s 6 top-selling products (one product per board), with a white background, and a small Golden Arches logo next to the product.


I love McDonalds’ new ads. I like how they get me thinking about the products without cluttering my mind or distracting me with words. The ads give a fresh look to the fast-food industry versus the same-old IN-YOUR-FACE-HD-PICS-CATCHY-SLOGAN-LOUD-NOISES advertising that the industry has been known for. My last blog post ( announced that billboards are the least-annoying type of advertising media, but we must not forget that although billboards as a whole aren’t very annoying, there are still annoying billboards within that category. McDonald’s has received that message, and is making refreshing ads instead of annoying ads. Good for them. Others should do the same.