The one thing every bad ad is missing

16 Nov

A confession: I love bad ads. A garish billboard for a furniture store. An obnoxious flyer for a pizza joint. Bring ‘em on.

Many things can make an ad bad. A flawed strategy or understanding of its audience. Awkward, cheesy, confusing copy. But 999 times out of 1,000, an ad is bad because it lacks good design.

Design is an art. Art directors study design for two or four years and then spend many more in the field, honing their craft. To those of us who haven’t had that experience, our rational minds can struggle to understand why they designed an ad with “so much white space” or why such-and-such can’t be bigger or why they didn’t lay it out some other way. Our job is to make sure design isn’t getting in the way of communication. Their job is to design. If you never use an agency to create your ads, at the very least, find yourself a skilled graphic designer with the chutzpah to defend their work.

We’ve got three fantastic art directors at Copeland: Brad and Michael for offline and Tom for online. I’m thankful we’ve got their talents here, and their eye for design is visible in everything we produce.

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3 Responses to “The one thing every bad ad is missing”

  1. Jack Steinmann November 16, 2010 at 11:01 am #

    I’ll say one thing in defense of this Compute-2-U ad: it’s chock full of specs because it’s targeted at an audience that responds only to specs, not to art direction or anything else.

    Not a sexy demographic, admittedly – an unfair image of horned rim glasses and pocket protectors and acne comes to mind – but it’s the only one they’ve got.

  2. sgoth November 16, 2010 at 11:16 am #

    Hi Jack

    You raise an interesting point. I can look at the Compute-2-U ad from a snobby ad guy perspective and say, “What a horrible looking ad”, but as you say, it could be effective for its audience and drive business to their store. There are bad ads, and there are ineffective ones…are they (or should they be) two separate things?

    I do think an art director could lay out all this copy in a more attractive way. That’s something any reader should respond well to (even the spec-seeking nerds), because it makes the ad easier to read. Good art direction doesn’t have to be showy to be effective.

    Thanks for your comment.

  3. Jack Steinmann November 16, 2010 at 11:30 am #

    I actually think more attractive art direction would repel the very audience this ad speaks to. The bad crammed layout is what the demographic is conditioned to expect of their counterparts across the counter, and any pretty-ing up would be regarded with suspicion that the marketer has sipped some fancy pants Kool Aid. And, I’ll bet that the actual store looks just like the ad would lead you to believe it looks.

    If everyone in your tribe wears a mullet, you can’t show up with an executive cut and expect to be taken seriously.

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