For some time brands have broadcast lengthy ‘manifestos’ to differentiate themselves from the competition when perhaps less is more, writes Lucian Trestler, Strategy Director at BBH and Editor of BBH Labs.

I’ve got a few problems with brand ‘manifesto’ ads. With a couple of notable exceptions, they are just strategy set to a mood film. They over explain something that didn’t need explaining. They veer into topics unrelated to the product. They try too hard to be liked. Most off all, I hate that they are all long.

If simplicity is the ultimate sophistication, and you have a finite media budget, and human attention is a rare commodity, then why not say it fast? Because you need 90s to say what your brand wants to say!? Bollocks.

Muhammad Ali, Hanz Zimmer and Banksy are proof that you can distil complex ideas, and that they are more powerful when refined.

The world’s shortest poem, a BBH favourite. In Jim Carroll’s words, ‘I particularly like Ali’s poem because it suggests two fundamental questions: who am I?; who are we? Sometimes I suspect that these may be the two most important questions of all.’

Hanz Zimmer explored the sound of the Joker, the sound of anarchy, by writing more than 9000 bars of music. This was refined into 2 notes ‘that clash beautifully with each other. That get tighter and tighter but never break… You can hear a second of this thing and you know the Joker is lurking somewhere.’

A Banksy in Bethlem commenting on the region’s geopolitical conflict.

Short is fast.

Short is memorable.

Short is a competitive edge.

Nuff said.




8 Responses

  1. One of the best short stories is just one sentence long
    The Dinosaur by Augusto Monterroso. Here it goes:
    When he woke up, the dinosaur was still there

    Brains love simplicity and we have a few evidences to prove it

    Thanks for your post


  2. Great post. Has any research been published on how the length impacts effectiveness? I’m thinking recall and consideration.

  3. i think its the wrong question to probe. length does matter, but its not really the primary defining factor for any comm’s effectiveness.
    short can be sweet, it can also be insufficient and forgettable. long can be tedious or illuminating.
    consider this – would a LV do the 1 second ad like miller did?
    Advertising is not art. And we shouldn’t compare the two without qualification. Ali’s poem has meaning in a certain context and it’s meaning is not apparent without contemplation. Advertising cannot afford that. It is a short poem that requires a long consideration. Most CPG or non-premium brand advertising needs to be opposite – easily digested and meaning conveyed as obviously and forcefully as possible. Even if they are longer, their is no time spent in contemplation afterwards. Here are some of my thoughts on this topic. Hope you appreciate.


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