Kenophobic Anyone?


Kenophobia is the fear of void or empty spaces. This is meant in a physical sense however I can’t help but notice this phobia creeping into the world of communications.

Your communications need to grab attention. Attention is the behavioural and cognitive process of selectively concentrating on one aspect of the environment while ignoring other things. Let’s not go to town on this. Let’s not make the consumer run a mile when that’s not the desired response we want.

If the objective of the communication is to achieve cut-through and deliver a message, then space is our canvas (be it print or broadcast) and it needs to be considered not crammed.

So I need to do some form of exercise. Let’s say I come across these two communications below, which would make me want to sign up?

parkland pilates ad


It’s not that the second ad is more beautiful, (let’s face it, that is not a pretty Pilates ball!), it’s the simplicity and clarity that allows the message to cut through in just a glance. I see the problem and the solution immediately. Nothing else is needed. It’s job done and done well as far as I’m concerned. The first ad shows me everything yet tells me nothing, I fail to see the consumer benefit and I am not motivated to ‘sign up now’. It’s a classic case of fear of space!

If we’ve 1.3 seconds to engage with people then we need to really focus on clarity in order to grab attention and deliver our message effectively.

We’re asking people to notice our communications above all other communications, in pretty much every place imaginable, and above the millions of business and personal thoughts they are already processing in their own heads. We need to make it easy for them.

Budgets are so tight nowadays and the temptation is to put everything we possibly can into paid-for communications.  Over the years I’ve often heard clients saying “There’s too much white space, we need to fill it”. While I completely understand the fear of unused, paid-for space I think the above Pilates comparison highlights how effective it can be to focus on clarity of the message rather than filling the space.

We’ve looked at a visual example, but what about an audio one? I remember during my time on the client side while I was working for a particular 5 Star hotel which needed a little lift in sales (and in a hurry!). There was quite a challenge here and it struck me that it wasn’t space cramming that was needed. In order to make my pending radio campaign work hard to deliver results I needed both creativity and bravery. Creativity from my agency and bravery from myself (a tough sell internally I tell you!).

The result was a beautiful suite of ads which focused on the hotel as an experience rather than the mandatories. This hotel was all about the experience. We had 40 seconds and we weren’t wasting them talking about the obvious. Rooms? I’d assume there are a few, it’s a five star hotel. Restaurant?  It has to be decent enough, again it’s five star. Rate? If you have to think about that then it’s not for you! We bravely omitted all of these from our ad which opened up a space to do someone magical…

“I am quiet, I am relaxed, I’m happy, I have all that I need, all that I could wish for and I like it.” whispered lyrically by Joanna Lumley. These are the opening lines to the first radio ad. The entire ad was the lovely Johanna Lumley talking about the fantasy and experience of the hotel. I can tell you now that nothing prepared me for the boost in sales from that activity. There was a modest medium-weight media spend and this was a sharp reminder of the importance of focusing on clarity and delivering the right message in the right way.

We all fear ‘space’ but we need to see space as a clear platform for our message rather than something that is crying out to be filled to capacity.

From my own experience both in agency and client side, I’ve learnt that it requires bravery to break away from the competition and I truly believe that fortune favours the brave.

Let’s avoid Kenophobic behaviour.  Be brave, respect creativity and don’t fear space. You’ll then achieve cut-through, and cut-through will deliver results.

Susannah Hewson
Account Director

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