Beyond Math: Why the Lowest Common Denominator Applies to Advertising

The smallest ad spaces can help B2B marketers distill an ad’s message to its essence
red funnel

The lowest common denominator (LCD) can be defined as “the broadest or most widely applicable requirement or circumstance.” It’s often difficult to acknowledge, but LCD can be a valuable tool for marketers when selecting what format their online advertisements should take. Larger ad sizes allow for more images and more text for the viewer to digest. But with the ability to include more information comes the risk that an ad’s key message or call to action is lost. Conversely the smallest ad size can force clarity, as it makes marketers distill the core campaign message to its essence. If the design and concept work in the smallest of spaces, then they are likely to be effective and powerful in any ad size. Thus, when we work with clients on digital campaigns, we use what we call the “LCD Principle,” testing concepts in small formats before choosing a direction that can be translated into other sizes or mediums.

We recently “the LCD Principle” to use for a client in the financial services sector during the development of an integrated marketing campaign. The campaign was to be deployed across nearly 100 different publications through a variety of channels including web, mobile, print, and radio. During the preliminary creative stages, we tested concepts by focusing first on how they played out in the smallest ad spaces. This strategy helped us identify which concepts were the most effective in communicating the core message of the campaign in the most engaging way. The result was the creation of a distinctive campaign that grabbed attention and delivered the message.

Not only does following the LCD Principle deliver a more effective, concise and easy-to-deploy campaign, it also has the potential to attract an audience of more interested buyers. A post on Seeking Alpha highlighted a kitchen-appliance campaign from Kohl’s that ran in both small and large ad sizes. The post notes that “As you might expect the larger ad got many more clickthroughs….What you might not expect, is that the small ad actually performed 1.7 percentage points better in driving purchase…the larger ad drew the attention of more would-be shoppers, but the smaller ad found a greater concentration of motivated buyers.” The key insight here for B2B marketers: when considering concepts for your next ad campaign, treat the smallest ad as a litmus test. This will help the entire campaign to be more effective and make better use of the advertising spend.

Another essential factor for success: make sure media planners are involved even in the earliest steps of design and concept so the agency is fully informed of all the details of the small ad size, i.e. what the dimensions are, as well as how it will be deployed, and what kinds of patterns they have seen in the past. It may seem obvious but its important to keep in mind that consistent contact between agency and media planner is vital for campaign fluidity and success.

By focusing on the essential message of a campaign and capitalizing on the potential of the smallest ad spaces B2B marketers can maximize the effectiveness of every ad format and placement.

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