This may or may not be a continuing series. It all depends how annoyed I get.
Here you’ll find my rants about bad ads, and you will find my good advice on what to do to make them better.
Below are the first four ads I saw in my latest issue of Popular Science magazine that leave me speechless. Maybe, I haven’t been paying attention or maybe I have, but seeing these ads I just had to say something.
The first one is for The Nissan Titan XD. Sounds like an extra-large undershirt to me. This ads tells me nothing about this truck. What a waste of space.
There’s no headline with a clear benefit to me as a consumer. “Take on the night shift…” What does that mean? All it says is that these trucks were newly designed which tells me the old ones sucked. This ad doesn’t make any claim that no other car or truck ad can make.
And the warranty is a joke. Do people actually pay attention to bumper-to-bumper warranties anymore? They’re mentioned in every ad by every car manufacturer. You could take the content from this ad and place it on another ad.
Here’s the real stupid thing. They made this ad a double page spread as if the size of the ad is going to make me want it more.
If you’re going to spend the money on a two page spread, tell me something about the product. This is what many call “keeping the name before the people,” and this phrase goes back to late twenties when John E. (not F.) Kennedy lamented about it.
The reason for advertising is to inform people about your product. If in two pages, all you can tell me about a $35,000 truck is that I “can take on the night shift” then you are a loser! And no use to me at all. NEXT!
Now let’s look at another automobile—an ad that did extremely well in selling cars. It’s a classic ad from David Ogilvy who was trained in direct response advertising:
First, it has a headline that no other car can claim. They own that. Chevy can’t say that. Volkswagen can’t say that. No one else can say:
“At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock.”
The headline states the benefit clearly. And in the copy, there is loads of information listing the benefits of owning a Rolls-Royce.
The ad provides everything a consumer is looking for: The price, where to find more information about acquiring one of these gems. The Nissan ad above doesn’t tell you anything. It’s the equivalent of “Here’s our truck—now go fuck yourself!”
Here is another meaningless ad that takes up two pages as if two pages was going to pique my interest more than just one page.
There no information about this television program. I know It’s a TV program because I’ve seen it before, but had I not seen it before, I don’t think I would have gotten that just from this ad.
The headline is awful:
“The future belongs to those who change it.”
What does that mean? This headline could be applied to a hundred other TV programs. Planet of the Apes, X-Men, The Avengers, etc. etc.
Is this keeping the name before the people? They would have done much better with a quarter page ad with a direct call to action to go to Amazon Prime and get one month FREE (as they usually have those promotions).
I see the ad, and I say, “Huh?” What do you want me to do?
The ad should have a clear call to action, telling people to get a Roku, or Apple TV or a Google something or other, Get Amazon Prime and watch the show NOW.
This is exactly what MTV did back in the eighties. They TOLD people exactly what to do:
“I Want My MTV!”
And many other cable shows said similar things such as “Ask your local cable provider to carry this show.”
This Man in the High Castle double page spread is clearly a waste of time and money—for all of us. And how do they measure the ads success? They cant. There is no way of knowing how effective this ad is.
Look, I know the difference between brand advertising and direct response advertising, but man in a castle is not a brand like Coke. And Coke has no benefits to speak of. A television show ad can provide lots of information that could appeal to people such as:
“It’s 1962, America has lost WWII; the east is the Greater Nazi Reich and the west, the Japanese Pacific States. Amidst this oppression there is new hope – films that seem to show a different world.”
Which is taken directly from the Amazon website. This provides a LOT more information than: “The future belongs to those who change it”
This was the third ad I saw in my issue of Popular Science magazine. Geico does fairly well despite their rather silly commercials. The problem is that all the other insurance companies have followed suit: Progressive, Farmer’s, etc. This Geico ad in particular makes no sense to me and really off-putting. I love Buffalo wings just as much as the next guy, but seeing in this format (environment) makes me want to throw up.
These are the claims they are making:
- Helping people since 1936
- 24/7 Licensed agents
- 97% customer satisfaction
- 2nd largest auto insurer
These claims are meaningless.
- The Farmers Group of America has been helping people since 1928. So, in your face, Geico!
- Progressive also has 24/7 Customer Service, so no dice there, Geico.
- According to Property Casualt360, Geico comes in 8th place for customer satisfaction. Eat crow, Geico. http://www.propertycasualty360.com/2015/11/19/20-auto-insurance-companies-ranked-from-worst-to-b
- I don’t even have to research and refute the second claim, because what’s so great about being the SECOND largest? Take me to the largest auto insurer.
At the end of the day, I’m not trying to dispute facts that Geico is making. I’m trying to point out that in this two page spread, any other auto insurer can make the same (and even better) claims. This is a lackluster ad, and the copywriter and the agency should probably be shown the door. Unfortunately, this is what stands for advertising today as it did many, many years ago. Some things never change.
This ad took me a while to figure it out. As I write this I still I have no idea who the advertiser is. And by the way, the image isn’t upside down. The ad is upside down in the magazine! You can see all the disclaimer info on the bottom of the ad. I hope it says something along the lines of: “We ran out of ideas for an ad, and we really, really hate you. So here. Have fun, jerk face!”
Nobody wants to play games. No one is going to be on the subway or waiting room and risk looking like an idiot by flipping the magazine around to read the stupid headline : “Go Waitless.”
What does that mean anyway? I’ll never find out because I’m NOT going to rotate the magazine to read the subhead.
And don’t play word games either. What does weightless have to do with “waitless.” This ad is so stupid it hurts to type about it.
Here’s a big problem with a lot of advertisers who are selling their apps. I keep thinking it’s an ad for a cell phone company. Does anyone else have that problem?
NOBODY likes to read ads. It’s that simple. To counter this problem, advertisers mistakenly think that they need to spare the reader of a magazine a lot of reading—which is a ridiculous notion if you think about it. So, what do advertisers do? They make bigger images on more surface to tell us less about the product.
People want information. That’s the only way they are going to make a decision as to whether your product is worth buying or not. You can never go wrong with providing your audience with information.
Follow David Ogilvy’s example above.
Ash Waechter is a direct response copywriter who helps small businesses sell more products and services online. He also writes SEO copy for attracting readers from around the web.