The Bus Test*

Have you ever noticed that in advertising agencies, the creatives draw up their ads on a nice new white piece of paper, everyone sits round a table looking at the piece of paper, then when the ad gets presented to a client, there is more sitting around tables looking at pieces of paper?
This is about as far from the realities of print advertising as you can get.
Print advertising is best approached with a blind raging fear that no-one is interested.
The Bus Test is a way of reminding yourself of the realities of making print ads that aren't like taking your client's money and hiding it in an envelope, then burning it. It's simple. Sit on a bus in the morning, or the evening - sit next to someone who is reading a newspaper or a magazine. Now, just watch them. Watch how they read the magazine, how quickly they turn the page. how they flit from one headline to the next. How that full-colour-full-page ad that someone has spent their last two weeks making just got flicked past in less than a second. Do this a few times, do it every week. It's very helpful to put everything into perspective.
It's a reminder that the first job of every ad is to not be ignored. People are not reading the paper or magazine for the witty and informative commercial content, they instinctively ignore it. A print ad needs to get it's whole point across in a nanosecond to someone who isn't looking OR it needs to be interesting enough stop someone. The are of course lots of ways to do this - more on that another time. For now it's just about perspective. And stop staring at your layout - no-one else is.
*The Bus Test can also be carried out on the Tube and on a Train, but obviously you have to change the name.

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