Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Pain in the ad

We "experts" can debate about whether some ads are good or not and nitpick the details. However, you occasionally see an ad that clearly illustrates a complete lack of understanding of advertising.

There's a billboard I see on my drive home from work every day that makes the adgeek in me cry every time. It's a tiny thing that's fairly badly positioned to begin with. But let's ignore the placement for now.

The copy reads "Where does it hurt: Stand-up MRI." The most important part to note about this is the fact that there's a colon instead of a question mark between the headline and the subhead. A colon denotes an explanation, not a question. So instead of posing the question "Where does it hurt?" and suggesting that the stand-up MRI is the solution, the billboard suggests that the stand-up MRI is the place it hurts. I can't say my stand-up MRI has hurt much lately, but I'm probably not the target audience.

Also, the entire background is black. This matters because the tiny subhead "Stand-up MRI" in white (probably the most important part of the board) is sandwiched between the large yellow headline "Where does it hurt:" and the red phone number. Did I mention that there are both serif and sans-serif fonts, not including any logo?

And just for good measure, let's include a strange and barely-related image. The small image relegated to a small square of this ad on one side is a silhouette of a skeleton riding a bicycle...that's right...a bicycle. I'm not even gonna touch that one.

In short, an unclear and terrible ad does two things at once- gives me professional pain every day on my ride home and illustrate how far off-base you can get when you don't know what you're doing.

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