THE BLOG
07/15/2008 06:31 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

This Blank Ad Space Brought To You By...

I know the following will be counter-intuitive for marketers, but bear with me. Have you ever considered paying for ad space but then leaving it blank, with a simple one-liner message: "This blank space in your day brought to you by Super Savvy Brand?" Scary, I know.

My personal interest in such a "campaign" reaches boiling point whenever I am hunting down a simple, quiet space to read in an airport. No go. Cable news blares from every nook and cranny.

So, it was with pause that I read of Delta"s plan (and several other airlines are in on this too) to run ads on their boarding passes. Of course, this is nowhere near as annoying as the incessant airport cable news, but it represents one more intrusion into personal space and into the quiet time that humans get so little of today.

As Anna Prior wrote in the Wall Street Journal (after quoting a Continental representative on how "delighted" customers will be with the boarding pass ads):

"But some travelers -- who already feel nickel-and-dimed by new airline fees -- may be irked by seeing ads splashed on their boarding passes. Travelers already face a variety of come-ons during their flight. U.S. Airways, for example, sells advertising space on tray tables, while other airlines have experimented with ads on overhead bins and promotional messages on the ticket jackets handed to passengers when they check in at the airport."

What would happen if brands started to risk open space? If health/wellness is the new measure of status (as some studies have shown), wouldn't people be "delighted" by the advertiser who gives them a moment to clear their heads (or, at least, a quiet moment to interact in peace with that other omnipresent intrusion -- wireless email)?

Imagine: A big white page and a small logo. 30 seconds of white nothing in prime time. A boarding pass that is just that. A tray table that can sit unobtrusively in its spot.

I'm not saying this white space idea could ever become a trend -- it would be way too scary for 99.9% of brands to even fathom. But, doesn't that mean a renegade brand might be "out standing in the field" (cue the classic Gary Larson cow cartoon) for doing it -- or even testing it for a short period of time?

Some brand out there has an opportunity to hit the advertising "re-set" button with a bit of nothingness. Right now, that would gain attention in and of itself. Later on, when said brand goes back to traditional advertising fare, the resulting campaigns may well be a lot more creative and effective -- possibly even subtle. Talk about delight.