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, 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


  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.”