Adobe’s Ad Baloney

Who are you talking to? What are you saying? And why?

I came across this full-page ad from Adobe one Wednesday morning in The New York Times Business Section and also The Wall Street Journal.
Below is the full text of this full-page broadsheet ad—all 42 words of copy:

Marketing works, and we can prove it.

With Adobe® Marketing Cloud, you

get a complete set of integrated

solutions: analytics, social,

advertising, targeting, and
content management.
Go from data to insights
faster than ever


Follow us @AdobeMktgCloud

“Marketing is not BS,” said Emma Chalwin, brand marketing director of Adobe in her explanation of the ad, and it is “time to dispel this myth.”

She continued, “For too long, marketing has been misunderstood, undervalued and seen as a soft profession, which has too much guesswork and doesn’t provide too much impact on business strategy and bottom-line results.”

Adobe spent $529,885 to reach a combined circulation of 2.3 million readers of the Times and the Journal. They spend many of billions of dollars a year on marketing to acquire customers, clients or donors. To them, this ad is a total non sequitur.

Without marketing, none of them would have a business and they know it.

Note to Adobe creatives: if you want to win over people who think that marketing is bullshit, it won’t happen using just 42 words of highly technical terminology that would be understood only by hard-core digital marketers. To non-marketers, this is gibberish.

The entire premise of this Adobe effort is a preposterous.

About Advertising
After a lifetime in the business, I can now boil down everything I have learned about advertising to three simple pieces of advice:

  1. It pays to spend money on being relevant—making sure you are talking to the right people and irritating as few others as possible.
  2. “I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information. When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product. When Aeschines spoke, they said, ‘How well he speaks.’ But when Demosthenes spoke, they said, ‘Let us march against Philip.'” —David Ogilvy
  3. Frame over your desk in large type the following paragraph by the late, great copy master Vic Schwab from his book, “How to Write a Good Advertisement”: The copywriter’s aim in life should be to try to make it harder for people to pass up his advertisement than to read it.

More on Advertising
A company’s advertising is its public face. With this campaign, Adobe has smeared its public face.

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at

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  • Dadiero

    I they’re preaching to their choir to rouse them, it’s smart. If they have tactics in place to draw their choir into deeper message understanding, it’s smart. If they have a strong call to action that is part of this campaign, it’s smart and let’s their target know they’re serious and creative and they are vigorously entering into an area for which Adobe isn’t noted.

  • George Christ

    Ad $ is mostly spent 3 ways. Adobe’s way, and everybody’s way sometimes. [To most, otherwise know as “marketing”] As stated below…

    1- See you name in print; in hopes friends see the ad, and mentally up you a rung on the local social ladder. “Gee! George is a smart business man! See his ad?”

    2- “Gotta get my name out there next to competitors – in hopes luck up’s my hopes of snagging a customer looking to buy.” [Better than #1 as a goal].

    3- They’re gonna close the new telephone book ad time next week. I’ll hurriedly make an ad – or let their ad dept make me an ad for that niche. Seeing ur ad. “Oh, how did I forget to put that main idea in the ad”

    There you go… the “common” interpretations” of marketing. Sooooo, you think your so-called marketing is better. Show me your marketing. [Marketing: get the point your prospective customer is after, to just that person, in a way he will buy now, from you, than another]. Ads are one factor in marketing. This is said thinking of what I used to do – the above 3… to what I’m doing now – as my marketing aim.

  • John Kreiss

    I can’t imagine how many of the "wrong" people this ad hit. It would’ve been much more effective had it been targeted properly.

  • Bill

    One thing I’ve learned about being an advertising critic is that understanding the Objective is critical. What are the KPIs of this campaign? Then, how well did it meet them? At that point one can be very certain about whether any of this made sense or not. Prior to that point, however, it’s just another opinion — not a fact-based critique.

  • Erin

    I am a marketer which, I believe, makes me the target audience for this ad selling marketing services. And when I see the giant "Marketing is B.S.", I can’t help but look. I really can’t help it. So this ad is working per Denny’s point 3 about making it harder to ignore the ad than read it.

    I think everyone in marketing has heard or at least felt "Marketing is B.S." from other parts of their companies. Adobe has recognized that is a huge pain point for marketers and is using it to get them to read the ad. Understadning the customer’s pain point and leveraging it is not so dumb, is it? The vague copy and lack of call to action are pretty poor though.

  • Brent Gardner

    Anytime I see a Life Insurance company advertising during, and sponsoring elements of, a college football game broadcast, I think something similar, along the lines of: A sale was made, and the sales person was REALLY good at their job. Part of it, to be sure, is executive ego run amok, spending someone else’s money in a frivolous fashion. Maybe I’m missing out on something, but I doubt the C Suite execs are dreaming up these advertisement black holes on their own. Someone sold them, and they swallowed the bait, hook, line, and sinker.

  • tony the pitiful copywriter

    While I agree with Denny here (as I almost always do), I want to point out that in the Dilbert world of engineers, tech people and the like, the purpose of "marketing" (what an over-broad and abused term — which "marketing" are we talking about? Bad local car ads?), anyway, the purpose of "marketing" is not clear nor understood.

    As much as my company owes its very life to direct marketing as first a catalog company and now a web store, I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve had with managers and employees outside my marketing group who frankly face me with barely masked contempt. It’s almost like a blue collar thing. To these folks, what I do isn’t really "work." Except when it doesn’t work, of course.

    As bad as this ad is, I agree it could have paid off its headline much more effectively. But for the non-marketing types who are basically digital plumbers, they get it.

    It’s very "robust."

    Whatever the hell that means.

  • Edgar Schrock

    That’s ironic. I’m in the market for marketing automation, and this is the first I’ve heard that Adobe was entering the market. So you’ve done Adobe a service.

    OTOH, if you’re selling marketing and advertising analysis and support services, aren’t NYT and WSJ "local papers" for all the big players in those two fields?

  • Will Ezell

    I’m trying to put my feet in the shoes of Adobe – sitting in the ad agency conference room, and hearing their pitch for the campaign. And I’m asking myself how and why this type of ad makes sense?

    I’m seriously trying, and can’t come up with one logical and/or emotional answer as to how this makes sense.

    I do a lot of speaking – and many years ago I discovered a "stink word" – Marketing. And the reason why is because no one really knows what that word means, and it’s the most mis-used word in American biz…. I hear this all the time – "I’m going out to do some marketing." Like what does that mean?

    So I don’t ever use the "M Word" – and I don’t use it with prospects either.

    I agree with you completely – especially that Adobe shareholders should be furious. I’d love to hear from both Adobe and their agency as to why and how they think this works…

  • Jon Pietz

    I agree Denny,

    I seriously doubt that many of Adobe’s customers (who also happen to be their best prospects for new service offerings) are surrounded with people who contend that marketing is BS. These are people, including myself, who have spent years proving its value. What Adobe should be doing is telling me how their billion-dollar acquisition of Omniture, and the analytic tools they’ve put at my disposal are going to make me an even better marketer.

    Unfortunately, what they’ve done instead is to prove that in some cases, marketing is indeed BS. Adobe, if you’re you’re reading this, there’s a powerful story I’d love to help you tell. And it has nothing to do with myths.

  • Peter Hochstein

    "With Adobe® Marketing Cloud, you
    get a complete set of integrated
    Solutions to what, Adobe? You don’t even know if I have a problem, much less what it is if I do have one. If there’s one word, in the whole giant junk heap of irritating jargon that catches in my craw and makes me want to puke, it’s "solutions." The only solution I need is the solution for getting copywriters to stop using that vomit inducing word.

  • Richard Armstrong

    When you’re practicing it as poorly as Adobe is, marketing probably IS b.s.!

  • Dev. Kinney

    Does the word "Apple" have any relevance here? Perhaps someone at Adobe said to its ad agency, "How do we get our stock price up?" Agency says, "Advertise in WSJ and NY times that we know marketing too!" That’s my guess, anyway. And we all know "Monkey See, Monkey Do" never works well in the human world.

  • Trawnaman

    Is it not slightly possible that this is nothing more than a brand-building exercise? So that, when the prospects see a more fact-rich Adobe pitch in the near future (hopefully in their mail!), they’ll be a tad more receptive?

  • Reginald Doherty

    The average person reads on a sixth grade level. So, hand your copy to a sixth grader and ask if they understand it.