With the advent of wearable devices, the advertising surface has undergone yet another shrinkage. Smartphones were the first sign designers and copywriters had to rethink their approach.
It is hard to imagine an ad designed for a 50-foot billboard on your Apple Watch. But that is exactly where we are heading. The “shrinking surface” presents both a challenge and an opportunity for the copywriter.
I’ll never forget a story I once heard from a friend. He was living behind the Iron Curtain during the height of the Cold War. The story was about a visit to the supermarket. It was in stark contrast to what we are used to here in America. Most of the store was empty and the little you could buy came all from one place, the government. Scarcity did away with the need for advertising. All that was printed on the milk carton was the word milk. Eggs were sold wrapped in newspaper. Admittedly it was hard to imagine that for a person born in consumerville. Choice is the only reason we have advertising in the first place. If the government is the only provider of goods, there is no need to advertise. You either buy it or you don’t.
The reason for bringing up this story is that in our supermarkets you could spend hours deciding which brand of toothpaste will get you the best smile. Is that wrong? Not necessarily. There is room for both freedom of choice and simplicity. A good advertiser should strike the balance between the two. Unfortunately, we live in a world where the loudest voice often “wins”. And so Hollywood continues to put more explosions into their movies and radio commercials are downright annoying.
The shrinking surface presents a new challenge and a renewed opportunity for the ad man to discover new ways to impact his audience. I predict one day we may have to design ads to fit on a grain of rice. If you can get your message across there, you may have reached the zenith of advertising!