White space – the kind advertisers and graphic designers talk about, is the balance of images, text, and empty space balance that make up their composition; it must be attention arresting without overloading the eye or confusing the reader because turning the page or clicking ahead to a new image is so easy to do now. Traditional Madison Avenue methodology in advertising business rooted in major centers like New York and Chicago has given way to ‘whatever works’ from wherever you are.
The old notions, norms and conventions have changed in advertising – radically, as in every other media, medium, and communications channel. It’s unsettling if you try to figure it out or make sense of it because newspapers, good ones, are struggling like never before in a digital-driven (I hesitate to call them data-driven or information-driven) world. In contrast, poor quality and financially weak ones have failed in large numbers – because they can’t attract advertising revenue when the audience for content isn’t getting from newspapers and magazines due to the massive growth of ‘everything else’ across the multi-media social media landscape.
It’s all about bits, bytes, likes, follows, and impressions that drive revenue for some, costs for vendors and endless lost time and rabbit holes for device users. I read an article the other day suggesting we have too much time devoted to media in all forms because we have too much good TV (meaning everything we stream); arguing, that is the problem. I’m hesitant to agree with that notion because it implies we are sheep, being led – not as we once were by clever advertising, but by clever creative spin being spun …
Many movies, series, and one-off bits we see on social media are good – and a few are great, but mostly they have better production values, so they look and sound exciting, but when it comes to acting, writing, and a powerful message – be that entertainment, documentary films, news or infomercials, it’s more about style than substance, but without the old-school thinking about white space, things-implied and a message.
Where’s the beef, has given way to better questions, where is the substance? Where is the value?
We are eyeballs, travelling in pairs – our attention is vied for and marketed to, and the revenue generation is massive. I’m not suggesting we go backward or return to old things and ways because we are supposed to build a better world – a better experience.
I heard the early reaction to Netflix’s new offering – a ‘commercials included’ lower cost version has been very popular since its release, and two factors have buoyed their stock price: lots of new subscribers prepared to pay less and watch commercial content and new advertising revenue.
The news coverage seems to have missed the other part of the equation, whick is to eliminate the ‘multiple households on a single account’ that has been part of Netflix’s success from day one.
One could argue that Netflix, Amazon, and Google are putting out a better product than Hollywood ever has – and putting more money into the hands of actors and other talent. They are, and it’s our money. They are producing much more than their competitors, so they generate lots of award wins while turning healthy profits. Whether they are doing anything better artistically or culturally remains to be seen by a backward lens of history. Still, all it is right now is a blur of content and buzz coming at us – with adding back commercials as an option. We aren’t being entertained or educated – we are being marketed to …
And speaking of white space and white stuff, yesterday brought an autumn-season reminder we are moving toward winter, our first snow – the wet sticky slush kind, melting mostly in Calgary, while southern Alberta got a bigger dump; we’ll spend more time in coming months sitting inside, watching a screen instead of reading books, too much screen-time and not enough conversation, too much indoors and not enough outdoors (we need the fresh air and activity, of course, we live better and longer with more exercise), so if you can’t find enough white space in the media you immerse yourself in, maybe it’s time to out and go for a walk in the white stuff, soak up some of that space.