What Eric Clapton Can Teach Us About Advertising

You've heard of Eric Clapton, right? The legendary guitar player who had great success with bands like the Yardbirds, Cream, and Derek and the Dominos, and then a long career as a solo artist…?

While he had the technical ability to play like some of his louder and wilder contemporaries, his style of playing has sometimes been described as subtle or delicate. He didn’t cram as many notes as he could into a solo. He used techniques like finger vibrato and “bending” strings to let the tones ring and achieve a more expressive, emotional sound. Because of this, his solos were, according to Rolling Stone magazine, “melodic and memorable.”

Have you ever seen a print ad that just had too much stuff? Good designers resist the temptation to fill every inch.

White space is friendly to the eye. It creates balance and harmony in the design. It makes the ad more readable. And, it can help to direct the viewer’s eye – so they see the important things – the stuff you really want them to see.

Well, the same is true with radio commercials. Breathing room can be friendly to the ear. A warm, well-paced voice-over is far more effective than cramming as many copy points as possible into a thirty second burst. Nobody can absorb a rapid-fire list of services or features. It just becomes… noise.

Pick one simple message to convey, and focus on that. Deliver it with subtlety, in a way that is more likely to draw on the emotions of the listener. Or maybe with some humor that will help the listener relax and enjoy.

Eric Clapton’s style of playing guitar was recognized and appreciated as much for the notes he didn’t play as for the notes he did. The same is true with radio commercials. Sometimes, the things you don’t say can really help to make your ad memorable.