Nik

Advertising Class

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Advertising

BAD FISHERMEN: ADS THAT DON'T HOOK

Here I'll be deconstructing ads from an aspect beyond being a consumer. A few examples from the surplus of g-a-r-b-a-g-e.

Note: I tried to focus on ads that have a higher budget and nice design. I didn't wanna critique bad design - I wanted to critique bad advertising.


Example 1

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American Express

Focusing on the "What" instead of the "Why".

 
 
fig. 1  This is reminiscent of of ads from the 60's with "NEW" in a badge, flinging itself toward the consumer.. Big no-no.  This doesn't look like it was designed by an ad agency, but rather an exec.  

fig. 1

This is reminiscent of of ads from the 60's with "NEW" in a badge, flinging itself toward the consumer.. Big no-no.  This doesn't look like it was designed by an ad agency, but rather an exec.  

fig 2  woah woah woah, don't start giving me stats. Don't try and just give me big numbers and multiplications to trick me into believing there's some advantage. This isn't clever, or smart. 

fig 2

woah woah woah, don't start giving me stats. Don't try and just give me big numbers and multiplications to trick me into believing there's some advantage. This isn't clever, or smart. 

fig 3  I guess this is our "why" statement. It just feels like they're using modern slang to me into thinking they're "with it". What does this even mean? This is an umbrella line that anything could fit under. 

fig 3

I guess this is our "why" statement. It just feels like they're using modern slang to me into thinking they're "with it". What does this even mean? This is an umbrella line that anything could fit under. 

fig 4  This looks experiential and relatable to some people, I guess.

fig 4

This looks experiential and relatable to some people, I guess.

fig. 5  Oh awesome! Some great use of exessive branding

fig. 5

Oh awesome! Some great use of exessive branding

 
 
 

I was once explained "the golden circle" ideology (link) in marketing and advertising. The idea states that very successful advertising focusses on the why, rather than the what. This isn't a revolutionary idea necessarily - selling the experience rather than the product, or selling the lifestyle that the product brings you. Even though this is well known, companies still fall into the trap of focussing on the "what". Fig 1, and 2 are examples of how this ad is focussing on the way. FIVEx BENEFITS, they say. NEW CARD, they say. The problem is, is that I don't give a shit about that, and most people won't. Fig 3 shows the "why", but it's cliche, and it has no clever or apparent connection to the rest of the ad. Even the images seem half assed, uninspired, and sometimes irrelevant. Oh, not to mention, they plaster their logo all over it, since they know that nobody is going to be compelled to look at this boring ad for more than a moment. Unless they're ripping it apart of advertising class, that is.

This feels like an ad that at one point had some great direction, but maybe AMEX got in the way. American Express could have taken the YOU DO YOU idea and explored it, "customers, get this: you can do the things you love to do, and as a reward for doing these things, you can do more things you want to do - FOR FREE." AKA, get points, get rewards. But all this ad communicates to me is there's a new card thingy with 5x a better thingy or something. 

 

Example 2

 

GRAMMARLY

Faux testimonials focussing on features

fig. 1, showing off features

fig. 1, showing off features

fig. 2, seriously disingenuous looking smile

fig. 2, seriously disingenuous looking smile

fig. 3, ad appearing in context

fig. 3, ad appearing in context

 
 

Oh, Grammarly. If you've used youtube in the past few months, you probably know Grammarly. Their ads play all. the. time. - which is part of the problem, really. My opinion, is the way that youtube's ad platform is built encourage resentment towards the ads, and particularly the companies supplying those ads. You go to watch your video, right, and it's gamble. Sometime's you get an ad, sometimes you don't - last time you didn't get an ad, let's go 2 for 2. Shit, ad. Stupid Grammarly again. 

So they start at a disadvantage - the viewers already hate them, after all they're holding back the viewer from watching their vlog or cooking tutorial or whatever. On top of that, their ad isn't very inspiring - while they have pretty pictures and nice graphics, that's about all they have. The ad, from start to finish, shows off features of the app (fig1), which I'm sure people don't really care about. Yeah, we get it, it fixes your grammar. These testimonials are given by super happy actors (fig2) that are meant to resemble their target market, and they practically announce as much. "Look, I'm hot and in college." While I understand the need for satisfied (fake) customers, these characters come across as very disingenuous.

Cynicism aside, this ad makes me feel as though I'm being tricked into liking it instead of inspired to like it. Tricked by hot people and their fake smiles, by pretty graphics and nice cinematography. Come on Grammarly, show me why it's important - show me when it saved someone's ass, put me in their shoes, make me feel it. Right now I feel annoyed by fake-ass people hotter than me showing off your redundant app and stopping me from watching my music videos.

 

Example 3

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TD CANADA TRUST

Non-sensical Insensitivity

 
Fig. 1, random white dude who is supposed to look educated and like a therapist

Fig. 1, random white dude who is supposed to look educated and like a therapist

Fig. 2, The main copy which makes TD sound confused.

Fig. 2, The main copy which makes TD sound confused.

 
 
 

Woops.. I think this one was an accident. TD is usually known for their inclusion and sensitivity, but this seems a little out of character.

In fig.1, we see a man with glasses, a collared shirt, and a sweater-vest... classic therapist. He's also sitting on one of those stereotypical couches. Here's what I got from this ad: "We will listen to you before advising you. You have real worries, and we respect that. We're just like therapists, psychiatrists." Sorry TD financial planners, but you are not nearly as important to the world as therapists. I get what they were going for here: they wanted people to know that they listen, and they listen well. They aren't going to blindly advise you, or give you a generic speech (though that might be what you get anyways). TD was only trying to say "we're great listeners!", but I'd argue that with their metaphor they downplay the importance of therapists, and lightheartedly brush over mental health. While I understand "

A metaphor works both ways. In saying "A is like B", you are also saying that "B is like A", especially when the metaphor is left vague. Therefore, not only is TD saying "We are like therapists", they are also saying "therapists are like us!". This totally ignores the importance and high qualifications of therapists, and makes their job sound as mediocre as financial planning. Additionally, the tagline (fig2) used here "Guidance starts with hearing you out" might be suitable when talking about financial guidance, but certainly not with therapy. This is bad choice of words - people who suffer from mental health issues, or who see a therapist for whatever their reason, are not just being "heard out", because that makes their real world problems seem unimportant, unsubstantial. During a time of accepting mental health issues more widely, we must all adjust out thinking and speaking about therapy, and seeking help, which is where TD falls short. 

 

Example 4

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Zip Recruiter

Native Advertising x Podcasting

fig 1., Audio clip from malcom gladwell's podcast, Revision History. This is where the ad is.

 
fig 2., native advertising on google

fig 2., native advertising on google

 
fig 3., lack of native advertising on google, since it depends on the search result

fig 3., lack of native advertising on google, since it depends on the search result

 
 
 

Recently I got into podcasting - I listen to a few different podcasts so far. One of my favourites is Malcom Gladwell's Revisionist History, as I'm a big fan of Malcom Gladwell and apparently everything he talks about. One thing I've noticed about the podcasting platform is the peculiar way they sometimes do advertising; the hosts won't just read a script, as we're used to on the radio, but they'll talk about a personal story, and give more of a convincing sales pitch. This is obviously a form of native advertising - made to sound like you're not quite being advertised to, and that it's all just part of the show. 

In my opinion, native advertising, similar to youtube advertising, is at an inherent disadvantage. People don't like being advertised to, especially in spaces where they aren't used to it, or in circumstances where they feel like they're being tricked. In fig. 2, we see google search results that look a lot like an organic result to my search. I've often seen older people who aren't used to this sort of trickery, fall into the bat and click on the links with the green "AD" icon. Sometimes this will lead to the eventual realization they clicked on an ad, and the resulting frustration. This is how I feel with native advertising in podcasting. Look - Malcom's doing an interview. Oh. Wait, it's an ad.

Apart from the frustrating form of the ad, there are serious problems with Malcom's story. I've heard it several times, and never have I thought from his story that ZipRecruiter was valuable. Malcom talks about how he found his incredible assistant - not through Zip Recruiter, but through a convoluted chain of events and mix of people. While this is supposed to sound undesirable, it actually just sounds like the natural way people meet one another. It sounds organic, and it sounds nice. In fact, the assistant originally reached out to Malcom - despite the fact that the company prides itself in having applicants "come to you", since that apparently wouldn't happen naturally. Who bares the fault in this? Well, Malcom was put in a tricky situation - find a personal story that promotes our ad; but what if Malcom didn't have any stories? ZipRecruiter handed over the reigns to a likeable podcaster to promote them. Seems difficult to produce an ad of quality in this way.

 

Honourable Mention Gallery

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