Advertising Design – The Fine Art of Commanding Attention and Creating a Response

two and a half men syndication ad

While it may appear that there are thousands of design styles, and millions of creative choices, the world of design for marketing, advertising and promotion is always going to adhere to a few key rules.

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Consumers have proven that they do not wish to be marketed to, they wish to be communicated with. Who wouldn’t? A screaming page that says BUY ME NOW! is certainly going to create some sales, but not as many as the ones that take the same product and seduce you through a brilliant concept into wanting that item more than anything. I am sure you have seen this, haven’t you? A lot of brilliant campaigns will go by unnoticed by you because you are not their target demographic. McDonalds can spend millions of dollars on every campaign in the world, and it will catch my attention, but never convert me because I do not ever eat their food. (Not in over 35 years!) That said, they are very adept at using exactly the practices I am discussing in this article as they grab their audience by communicating lifestyle… and with lifestyle, the consumer makes an association and buys their products, regardless of the quality of their ingredients, or the their negative impact on the consumer’s health. But if a film is being released that is directed by one of my favorite directors, or starring one of my favorite actors, it will instantly capture my attention, and focus my desire on their targeted outcome… selling movie tickets.

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Regardless of whether you are producing design content to stand apart from the crowd, or to seamlessly blend in, the art of successful design is never an accident, it is a carefully orchestrated effort to focus the attention of the recipient in a way that directs their eye to travel in a distinct path. In designing the hundreds of theatrical and television key art campaigns, we always adhered to the 3.5 second rule. A piece of key art which sells a show or movie must tell a consumer which actors are in the movie, what the movie is called and what it is about in 3.5 seconds… the average length of attention as a person drives past a bus shelter or billboard. More important than imparting all of that information about an entertainment property to an audience, is the final quality in the 3.5 second rule, and that is you must make the audience want to see the film or show.


To successfully accomplish these tasks, the art must have a focal point. A position in the art that will draw the immediate attention of the eye. In most circumstances, that focal point is traditionally the faces of the stars in the film, or in the case of franchise properties, it may often be the title of the film or show. More interesting is to watch how that focal object grabs your attention, and then deftly hands that attention off to the secondary element of the art, and then to the third and fourth, if one exists. In key art, the hierarchy of images may start with the actor(s) faces and then expand to the title and finally to the tag phrase or to the action scene or comparable element designed within the campaign. Sometimes the title, and sometimes the tag are treated as the dominant element, but in all cases, with great design, your eye moves deftly through the campaign via a clearly orchestrated, visually sequential path.

smallville bus shelter

I picked the Smallville campaign above for a bus shelter example for a specific reason. This was not the original launch of the show (which we had worked on as well), it was a relaunch of Smallville on ABC Family. This is important because we were promoting Season One, Episode One, on ABC Family, while Smallville was in its fourth season airing on the WB. So if you watch the path of the eye travel in this design, you see the ABC Family logo first thing… as a crop circle cut into corn field. Then the flow of that title takes your eyes to the show title, and finally to Tom Welling’s face and then finally to the date/time of broadcast.  Many other campaigns attract to the star first, but this one had to differentiate that ritual with a need to drive in the awareness of a whole new launch of the show on a whole new network. The flow of the eye in this campaign supports that concept.


Designing advertising for a product, service, experience or organization is the same requirement on most levels. There is a core focal interest, the one that is communicating. It may be a product that is speaking to your inner being and calls out for you and it to connect, or a service that you instantly relate to needing to complete a personal or business requirement. In these advertisements, a person must be enticed to engage at the first glance. A page which has been properly designed, like the Flash campaign above, designed by the inhouse team at The CW lead by Rick Frye,  is inviting to view. It understands the mindset of the beholder and works intelligently to be all of the things that beholder finds interesting. The page must be inviting to the eye, it must be attractive in the presentation, and very helpful in allowing the end user to have a reaction via some form of call to action in the campaign. Tune in, buy tickets, text, call, write, email, stop into a store, log onto a site or app… whatever the call to action, the driving mechanism to that call must be straightforward and clear.

snaidero kitchen ad

Working on key art to presell a project, or bring it out to the global audience via theatrical and home entertainment distribution? IllusionQuest Studios has produced thousands of campaigns for film and television projects and has been entrusted with the promotion and marketing of over 7 billion dollars in filmed, live, broadcast, and online entertainment. For a free consultation on how we may assist you to take your entertainment property and bring it out to your desired audience, contact us via text, phone or email and let us help you coordinate the very best path for your promotional requirements.


IllusionQuest Studios designs in all media. For Print related campaigns, we produce Key Art, Consumer and Trade Advertising, Corporate Identities, Brochures, Posters, Out of Home Advertising, Theatrical Standees, Product Packaging, Style Guides, Point of Purchase and more.

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