For exhibit and event professionals  

Your Dilemma Answers: Anyone know how to speak ‘ad-ese’?

July 6, 2010 By Editor

Anyone Know How to Speak ‘Ad-ese?'

Our advertising agency is very creative, but its staff members don’t seem to understand face-to-face engagement, and their graphic designs work well in print but not as exhibit graphics. I’ve tried to explain where they’re falling short, but they don’t get it. Has anyone else had this experience? If so, what did you do about it? How can we get the best out of this ad agency?

— Penny, Exhibits Manager

Suggestions to put your mind at ease

Penny, your problem is not a rare one. Conveying a concept — particularly one you’ve fully visualized — can be difficult to do. Look at it this way: If someone says “white flower” to you, you might envision a bright-white flower while someone else “sees” more of a vanilla shade. It’s just that your perspectives are different.

So, if getting something as simple as a color right can be problematic, how can you get more complex graphic ideas across to the ad folks? Our readers suggest you:

  • Prepare before you meet.
  • Keep your message simple.
  • Recognize that some designers have limitations.

Prepare before you meet

You indicate you’ve given your agency people clear instructions. So, how can you prevent an obvious communication breakdown?

An anonymous reader believes you need to prepare before you meet with the agency creative staff.

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“Are there items you can point to that capture your expectations in both areas [face-to-face engagement and graphic design]? For instance, on the face-to-face issue, set a goal, quantify it and spend some time working on the qualitative aspects as well.”

Keep your message simple

Could it be that you’re making each job more complicated than it needs to be? If so, the ad people aren’t the only ones who might miss what you’re saying; your target audience might too.

A senior designer extols the virtues of simplicity.

“Your copy message needs to be simple and clean. The goal is to capture the eye and get the message across within seconds. With all the commotion on the show floor, seconds are all we have to clearly communicate any information.

“Copy-intense graphics are unsuccessful and a waste of precious graphic space. But clean graphics that raise a question in the mind of the observer can help create a face-to-face engagement on the show floor. Graphics are a tool, and when used successfully, they can invite, engage and be a crucial element in the sales process.”

Recognize that some designers have limitations

On the other hand, maybe you’re doing everything right; it’s the agency staff members who have the problem.

James McKean explores this possibility.

“Graphic artists typically see an image on a computer screen, and while yes, they can model it in 3-D, it’s still on a screen. Based on my experience in the sign industry, I’ve found some people have difficulty changing perspectives between 2-D and 3-D.

“From a sign maker or stage perspective, the design must function in the round much the way a sculptor views a piece of art from all angles. When someone walks into an exhibit booth, the entire ‘set’ is a stage.”

(Editor’s note: If your designer doesn’t have the skills to go from two dimensions to three, you should probably jump ship, if possible.)

Penny, try to be as precise as possible when you speak to the ad folks, and keep your graphics simple — for easier execution and better results. Then, if your ad people still can’t fulfill your requirements, consider going elsewhere. Or perhaps there’s another alternative.

As Caroline Meyers writes:

“In outdoor advertising, agency graphics departments have nifty software apps to visualize how the billboard looks out on the road. Clear Channel has an app called MOVI Presenter, where you load in your artwork and take a look at the billboard in a street setting from 100 to 600 feet away. Does anyone know of an app like this for exhibit graphics?”


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