I'm reading a fun novel called Babylon by Victor Pelevin - it's about a copywriter in newly post-communist Moscow.

Anyway, came across this passage last night. "None of the passers-by paid any attention to Gireiev. Just like a fire hydrant or an advertisement for Pepsi-Cola, he failed to register in their field of perception because he conveyed absolutely no new visual information."

What a great lesson.

We know from neuroscience that to prevent our brains being 'flooded' by the vast amounts of stimuli we receive, our visual cortex is programmed to only notice things that are new or different. Stuff we've seen before, like that rock, that building, we just don't notice.

So I applied that criterion to a random selection of ads from this Saturday's Guardian magazine. Rather than asking myself if it's a good ad, I asked myself 'does it convey any new visual information?'

Not an absolutely terrible ad. But I've seen pictures of food on stoves before, so by Pelevin's criterion, this won't be noticed.

No new visual information here. I've seen people sitting in aeroplanes before.

Likewise people sitting by the Christmas tree.

This is not an amazing ad, by any stretch. But I've never seen a 'butter advent calendar'. So by the Pelevin doctrine, this is the only ad of the four that might even be noticed.

A sobering thought.