Welcome to the latest edition of our current weekly blog series, How to Ruin an Ad. As is most obvious from the title of this series, each week we’ll be identifying a key element of an ad that, when missing, is sure to reduce its effectiveness.

Last week’s ad was ruined by a targeting the wrong people.

Today’s ad is ruined by: Drop-out text

This may sound like old-school advice — because it is. But it’s as true today as it was 50 and 100 years ago.

Don’t use drop out text, knock out text, reverse text or whatever you want to call it. This is done when you take a color and lay it over the background, usually a base white, and then insert text over that color that is also white.

Picture a black ad with white type. While this may seem like more interesting design than white with black text, it’s a fact that it’s harder to read. And when your ad is hard to read, people don’t read it. The meaning is not conveyed effectively. And your response goes down.

This is a timeless piece of advice that holds true in print ads, direct mail pieces, banners, web design, emails, etc. David Ogilvy, considered one of the greatest advertisers of all time and the father of modern advertising, absolutely despised drop-out text. It was one of the biggest sins an advertiser could commit, and was not tolerated in his company under any conditions.

It’s important for designers and advertisers alike to understand the goal of the ad. It isn’t just a good looking ad, it is to create an advertisement that reaches the intended audience and inspires them to do something. And if they can’t read it, you’ve got no chance.

Did you enjoy this post? Do you have a surefire way to ruin an ad you think we should cover in an upcoming post?