Oct 04 | Dan, Creative Director
Frank del Giocondo worshipped his wife Mona Lisa, and indeed she was a babe. To capture her beauty, he hired an artist named Leo da Vinci to paint her portrait. Frank, in what he thought was a sensible proposition, asked to see the portrait in stages, starting with a simple pencil outline of his lovely wife. Leo shrugged his shoulders, went to work and produced the sketch—Mona’s outline, with no eyes, lips, nose or hair drawn in. Frank looked at the sketch and said, “This sucks. It’s boring.”
“Of course, it’s boring!” Leo replied, “It’s a silhouette with no detail. Lemme draw in the details, so you can get a real idea of what the painting’s gonna look like.” A few days later, he produced a detailed sketch, and when he saw it, Frank exclaimed, “THIS ROCKS! Except her smile’s kinda crooked …”
Okay, I made this up. But I did so to illustrate a very real point: if you want to make an informed decision, you need sufficient information and detail. This is especially true in advertising.
As an advertising writer, I routinely get requests to submit copy or headlines only for a client’s perusal—without an accompanying layout, or even a rough sketch. Reviewing these components in isolation usually doesn’t give enough information to make an informed judgment about the quality and effectiveness of the ad. Because you’re not seeing the whole thing. The danger of course is that a great ad can be passed over because it wasn’t evaluated in its entirety. An ad that could’ve made the cash register ring ends up in the trash can instead. And when a great idea is passed over, that means going back to the drawing board—unnecessarily—and chewing up more time and money reinventing the wheel, so to speak. Just as a detailed sketch helped Frank del Giocondo appreciate the artistry of his wife’s portrait, an ad with a headline, layout and copy can help you decide whether it’s any good or not.
Now, in today’s gotta-have-it-yesterday world (which, come to think of it, probably hasn’t changed much from Leo da Vinci’s time), I understand the urge to review and judge ad copy before a layout is complete, before the whole ad is in your hands. But I also know how counter-productive this can be. My suggestion is to, whenever possible, look at the whole picture (headline, copy and layout in the case of an ad) before deciding whether you’ve got a masterpiece of work in front of you—or a miserable piece of work. Even a rough layout is better than none, when it comes down to it.
By evaluating an ad in its entirety, you can be entirely sure your judgment is based on the best, most complete information available—and sound judgment usually leads to the best results. That’ll surely give you something to smile about. Just like Mona.