Does White Space Increase Advertising Effectiveness?

Regular readers of Branding Strategy Insider know we welcome and answer marketing questions of all types. Today, Qaid, a marketer from London, Ontario, Canada asks…

Brad, I read your blog post regarding the increased effectiveness of ads and headlines with greater white space. Are there any statistics, surveys, or resources I could look at to support this? I’m not questioning what it says, I’d just like to get all the facts before using that sort of information. Thanks.

Qaid, I’m happy to help. My evidence is based upon intuition (less is more — the less clutter, the more powerfully a message breaks through) and years of personal experience.

As one example, when I led brand management at Hallmark in the mid-1990s we ran “brand insistence” advertising that encouraged people to flip greeting cards over to see what brands they were. The ads implied that the card recipients were likely to flip the cards over to make sure they were Hallmark branded cards. The Hallmark logo is roughly centered on the back of each Hallmark branded greeting card with lots of white space surrounding it. Print was an important component of the campaign. For the print portion of the campaign, the ad was a full page back cover ad. The creative consisted of a black and white Hallmark logo placed on an all-white background similar to the way it would appear on the back of a greeting card with a statement in very small print at the bottom of the ad linking the Hallmark brand insistence message to the specific publication on which it was placed in a clever way. This had been one of the least cluttered full page magazine ads used by any advertiser to that time. The print component of the campaign was highly successful, resulting in many magazines contacting us requesting that we advertise with them in this way.

Another way that we tested the “white space” concept was to place the same advertising in two different outdoor advertising contexts: one in which there was little to no other outdoor advertising surrounding it and one in which the outdoor advertising environment was highly cluttered. Adjusting for other factors, the ads placed in the less cluttered contexts had a higher recall rate in general.

While this is not quantitative, I hope it helps.

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  • Michelle Chun-Hoon

    July 31, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    I do not believe that anyone likes to look at clutter, whether its a room in their home, a desk at work, or an advertisement. Great post!

  • Mokokoma Mokhonoana

    August 1, 2009 at 2:36 am

    The less cluttered or simple the layout, the more feeling of sophistication it communicates and vice versa.

    A cluttered layout looks cheap.

  • Hamilton Wallace

    August 3, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    The trap many white space aficionados make is sacrificing message. Clean, good. Clutter, bad. Incomplete message, bad. I do direct response marketing so I get glared at by virtually every graphic designer I work with. Too much copy! There’s a happy medium, but don’t sacrifice message for white space.

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