Steven Seagal movies and Bad advertisements

I’ve worked in the realm of market

ing and advertising for over a year now. As you would expect, writing advertisements and other marketing pieces has caused me to notice more advertisements and pay more attention to how their various parts work together: fonts, images, headlines, body, call to action. Good ads feature attention-grabbing headline, valuable information in the body built around benefits to the consumer, and a strong call-to-action at the end.

Unlike my brother-in-law, I don’t build rockets. Good ads are simple creatures with one purpose. In his seminal work on advertising, Tested Advertising Methods, John Caples quotes John W. Blake: “There is just one justification for advertising: Sales! Sales! Sales!”

An average American sees over 3000 ads a day. We conditioned to ignoring ads.
Headlines are the most important part. If you have lousy headlines and pretty pictures, you’ve got nothing. A good headline accomplishes three objectives all at once with a handful of words:

1)    Speak to the self-interest of your target audience

Example: “Save $30 a month with Comcast”

2)    Promise to convey new, relevant information

Example: “Announcing: New Deals at Comcast save you $30 a month”

3)    Pique curiosity

Example: “Find out how Comcast’s new deals can save you $30 a month”

Most ads fail because they try to be too clever, have obscure or boring headlines, or depend upon a persistent reader to overlook bad writing and logical disconnects.

Consider the following picture that I took with my cell phone on a subway train in Boston:

Who are these people?

The headline reads, “Losing the American Dream? Take the first step.” Very interesting.

So what you’re telling me is that if I call MortgageHelpNow.org, then you’ll help me lose my house even faster. Where do I sign up?

Remember, someone got paid to write this garbage. The writer overlooked all three aspects of a good headline.

I love bad advertisements the way I love Steven Seagal movies. I laugh so I don’t vomit.

They both remind me why good writing matters.

If you’ve seen any heinous ads recently, I’d love to hear about them in the “Comments” section below.

Comments Closed

2 Comments

  1. Posted January 9, 2010 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    Exactly, that second statement should be “We can help” or something positive, right? Plus, what’s up with using both a sanserif and serif font in the same word? See:’d’ream

  2. Posted January 13, 2010 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    On a billboard: “If it’s in stock, we have it.”