Villing & Company

Ditch Those Digits: Why Dropping the Phone Number in Your Ad Will Instantly Improve It

In the grand history of this universe—which may very well be only one of many—there was a time when it made a whole lot of sense to the creatures on one particular tiny blue speck orbiting a tiny yellow star to display a string of seven or more symbols (called "numerals" on that particular world) in their visual messages to one another. This bizarre (and thankfully short) tradition made sense because an especially clever member of that species named Alex invented a contraption that required a person to input a bunch of numbers, in the right order, to magically talk to whoever you wanted to on the other end. It was a marvelous invention and it made life easier for everyone, especially people trying to sell things.

For a short period of time, it was wise to include the numbers right up on a billboard or at the end of a TV commercial. After all, how else would a person know how to contact the people who paid for the billboard or commercial to let them know they wanted to buy a dozen doodads at the advertised price? Sure, there were thick books filled with numbers to help you figure it out, but nobody had the time to open them. They wanted that number right in front of them, so they could write it down and dial it at their convenience. Numbers were all over the place and for a brief time it was entirely appropriate.

That era came and went.

Technology on that blue speck called Earth did not stop. It progressed quickly and before long other people, just as clever as Alex, came up with ways to improve his concept. The whole thing became visual and networked and instantaneous and people could connect with each other using tiny devices they carried around in their pockets. People stopped needing to memorize lists of digits because they could instantly find them at the speed of thought using their devices. All they needed to know was the name of the business they wanted to contact, which was way easier than trying to remember a complex string of numbers. More often than not, they could find their answer without having to plug in the numbers at all. Life was even easier than before.

Sadly, some folks really liked tacking those numbers up on billboards and at the ends of TV commercials. They had gotten used to it and  thought the numbers needed to be there, that they were somehow helpful, that they even looked pretty—even though they distracted from the name of the business and added unneeded jumble to the design. Perhaps they didn't realize the anguish this caused the video guy and art director at their marketing agency who would cringe and shake uncontrollably every time they were forced to include it.

The point is, in certain short-format contexts like TV and outdoor ads, a phone number is not only unnecessary, it distracts from the message and adds jumble. You want the viewer to come away with your message, and the thing that should be sticking in their brains is the name of your business. That's all they need to find you. In other longer format contexts, like magazine ads, it probably doesn't hurt to include a number in small type, but it's still not necessary if you're doing your job.

So when it comes to billboards and TV spots, ditch those digits. (And newsflash: everyone is on Twitter and Facebook. People already know they can find you there along with the rest of the world.) Put your numbers and social media icons on your website instead. Certainly make sure your number is easy to find, but beyond that, leave it out. It will make everyone's life easier, and that's the whole point of what Alex was getting at, right?

Filed Under: advertising

Villing & Company

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