Hot Potato Advertising
After 50 years of advertising—writing, designing, placing and analyzing the stuff—the most important thing I've learned is this:
I cannot judge good advertising; it judges me.
Slate.com reader opinions, at right “IN THE NEWS,” don't matter. If the ad works—brings in orders, donations or inquiries at the budgeted return on investment—it's good. If not, it’s bad.
Never forget the legendary Anacin commercial that was offensive to millions, ran for years, sold tons of product and cured a zillion headaches.
If an ad is successful, our job is to analyze it, figure out the elements that make it work and then steal smart.
I have absolute contempt for ads whose ROI cannot be measured.
Quite simply, the perpetrators are wasting money and are traitors to their stockholders.
E-mail From a Reader
In the November issue of Target Marketing, I excoriated American Express for running a national campaign of full-page newspaper ads that broke all design rules: headline in an all-caps serif font, text in sans serif mousetype and all the text in white against a black background. Footnotes and disclaimers ran vertically along the side in 6-point sans serif type. The entire thing was unreadable. This from one of my readers:
Your article “Fire the Agency—Now!” is a great read. In fact, I have it posted on a bulletin board next to my desk.
The rules you mentioned are simple: the cleaner the ad, the easier it is for readers and (typically) the higher the ROI. It makes sense.
I’d like to send your article to a graphic designer I work with as we are often at odds about the exact ad elements you discuss in your article. If I do send it to him, however, the first thing he’ll ask about is ROI. Do you know how poorly it performed? I understand it’s confidential, but maybe you heard a water-cooler ballpark.