Welcome to I'm Not Buying That, the blog where we dissect the woeful mistakes of the advertising industry. I'm your host, CJ Garrett, and I view terrible ads so you don't have to.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Self-Referential ads...

Okay, okay, yes. Ads are clearly self-referential in that they point to the product and scream at you to BUY IT NOW, BEFORE IT'S SOLD OUT DAMMIT! That is the nature of adverts, and the whole point of their existence.

But CJ, I hear you say, clearly you wouldn't be talking about this if it wasn't something truly horrifying. Tell us, oh great and wise Baron von Advertsberg, what have you turned up today?

Yes, children, I have another truly mind-bending gem of promotional material to deride and dissect for your entertainment. (Incidently, you may refer to me as Baron von Advertsberg at any time it seems appropriate.)

This weird example of marketing comes to us courtesy of the Cheezburger Network site called Oddly Specific.

I literally cannot parse exactly what this is trying to say. There is a point to the repetition, but damned if I can figure out what it is. I almost think someone made some kind of typo at the printers, and it was supposed to say something like, "If it's not Boar's Head, it's not quality" - which isn't grammatically correct anyway, but at least you get the idea of why you should care about and buy this product.

  • Repetition, although it may seem 'hip' or 'cool' and something all the kids are doing these days with the rap noise they like to listen to, is not a legitimate strategy for attracting customers. It's just annoying.
  • What the snot are they actually selling?! There's space above and below the writing, but they don't even mention a product. Is it meat? Cheese? Is Boar's Head the name of the shop or just a brand name? Give us a clue, cmon!
  • Minus ten points for clearly showing you know what punctuation and grammar is, and yet you still decided to leave out a comma and a full stop for no reason and capitalize words in the middle of the sentence.
  • Minus a million for just not making any damn sense at all.

People. Please. If you can't bring yourself to describe what you're selling, at least make it easy to understand. The very last thing you want in your prospective customers is confusion over what you do or make. Confused people do not spend money on stuff, and if for some reason they do, there's a good chance they'll be back to make your life miserable once they figure out this isn't what they wanted at all. You're hurting your employees! And your business! Won't someone think of the minimum wage minions?!

When I take over the world and assume my throne as Baron von Advertsberg, Lord of All He Surveys, people who do ads like this will be locked in a small room for a day and forced to watch The Little Mermaid on a loop.

(People who do infomercials, of course, will be contestants on a new Survivor-style reality show set wherever on earth gets the most rain.)

CJ, over and out
Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Obvious Ad is Obvious

Now, sometimes I've heard people in the ad industry talk about customers as if they're literally as dumb as chimps on a sugar high. There's an attitude there that sometimes (or all the time, depending on who you ask) people need to have the core message of an advert beaten into their eyeballs in order for it to be truly effective.

Needless to say, I don't really subscribe to this position. If anything, I would think that ads need to be even more sophisticated these days to really penetrate the collective public consciousness.

[obligatory silly comment] Hur, hur, I said 'penetrate'. [/obligatory silly comment]

Moving swiftly on - if there were an award for Most Obvious Ad Banner Ever, Even Including those McDonalds Coffee Cups That Say 'Caution: Hot!", I think Pizza Hut would win it by a mile with this little gem.

Yes, Pizza Hut has Pizza. The mind, it boggles.

Actually, this got me thinking about why they'd decide to put that up there. I realize this means I'm ascribing actual rational thought to someone working in both advertising and Pizza Hut, but let's just go with it for now.

Back when I was in college learning how to be a pretentious asshole, I got a part time job working in a Chinese restaurant to help pay for beer money and smokes. I was one of the counter jockeys who took orders and handed out food. The pay was terrible but you got your dinner free - and if you're into Chinese food, it was an awesome place to be.

Anyway, one night this guy comes in and asks for a pizza. Dude, this is a Chinese place, I say. We don't do pizza. He stares at the menu for about ten minutes, then comes back and says, okay, I'll have a burger then.
No matter what I said, this guy just didn't get that WE ONLY SELL CHINESE FOOD.

Seeing this sign kinda makes me think Pizza Hut have had a run in with the same dude. If so, they have my deepest and most profound sympathy. He's the kind of guy the ad agencies have in mind when they think of the 'average consumer'.

Hear that, dude? You're making the rest of us look bad!

CJ, over and out
Friday, October 15, 2010

Poor Heidi Klum

It never ceases to amaze me that companies feel the need to take perfectly good women and contort their bodies into poses that are either grotesque or simply biologically impossible. I really feel for the poor models. Do they have those pictures in their portfolio? What if someone asks them to strike that pose again?

It's a conundrum, I tell you.

Today's bad example comes from the ever informative Photoshop Disasters. Is that the beautiful and talented Heidi Klum, I hear you ask? Why yes, it is, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Oh Heidi, I know what you really look like. I know you're not an alien hybrid who's been starved for weeks on end. I know, in fact, that you're a beautiful woman who dresses fabulously and who smiles like a sunrise.

I just want you to know that. If you're bored sometime, we should totally do lunch and talk about clothes - especially those Christian Louboutin shoes. I have a pair just like them at home.

Anyway, let us proceed to the list of fail!

  • Promoting activewear through the use of a model doing a pose that maybe, possibly, a skilled contortionist could do after getting tanked up? Bad choice. Why not a photo of Ms. Klum doing some kind of sport, huh? HUH?
  • HEIDI KLUM DOES NOT LOOK LIKE THAT. Stop lying to us, dammit! Enough of the damn cartoon anatomy!
  • The dead, drained look in her eyes does not bode well for the success of the clothing. That would be projecting the wrong impression entirely.
  • Okay, I get the whole 'active pose' idea you've got going on here, but c'mon - nothing else? No color? I've never seen an action photo look so completely lifeless. It's got a creepy puppet vibe going on.

The moral of the story, kids, is that if something looks like a good idea at first glance, that doesn't mean you should just go with it. And please - the point of using a pretty woman is to get positive attention. Turning her into a creepy alien hybrid through the magic of Photoshop is just wrong, and makes for bad advertising.

CJ, over and out
Tuesday, October 12, 2010

INBT: Moving Pictures Edition! Also - SEX!

A friend of mine mentioned this the other day, and it was like having a light bulb the size of frikkin' Everest turned on in my head.

Did you know... you can use SEX to sell things?!

OMG, the world and everything in it suddenly makes sense! Even Scientology! And that Perfect Blue anime I saw a few years ago! My mind, it is blown, I tell you!

Ok, sarcasm aside, I thought adverts had gotten past the whole idea of trying to use sex + random product unrelated to sex IN ANY WAY in order to sell said product. Obviously, I was wrong.

May I present Birds Eye at it's finest:

The horror. For those of you living in caves with computers made from leaves, mud and your own hair, that's a video where a talking fish finger with a woman's voice strips off for two other identical fish fingers with male voices.

Someone needs to call Birds Eye and remind them that 'sexy' is not a word that should be used in conjunction with 'frozen sticks of dead animal flesh'. The message here seems to be 'buy our new fish fingers, they're sexy!' or 'buy our new fish fingers, and women will strip off for you!'

I'm not sure which is more problematic. Maybe they were going for the humor angle? Personally, I find talking, stripping fish fingers gives me a serious case of WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK, not a case of the giggles.

CJ, over and out
Saturday, October 9, 2010

Office Depot got bit in the ass

I know some people like to think that advertising consists of just big graphic ads, or little text links - that adverts are the beginning, middle and end of advertising, controlled by the company, with the purpose of getting their name out there and getting customers to sit up and take notice.

Oh no, kids - nothing could be further from the truth. Advertising is everything about the company that's out in the public sphere, and that includes things that are being said by critics and customers. At one time you could have full control over your corporate image, but these days and with the Internet being what it is, a customer in London will hear about it pretty soon if you piss off another customer in Toronto.

People talk. You're a fool if you don't listen.

Here's a case in point: Office Depot, purveyor of all things office-related, including computers.

Image and story courtesy of Enterprise Irregulars.

Guy goes to buy netbook. Guy sees good offer on website. Guy also sees what appears to be the exact same netbook for $150 more, and probably wonders whether Office Depot are actually proofing this stuff before it goes live on their website. Guy goes to buy cheaper model - oops, no stock. If you want it, you'll need to pay more.

Can you say PR disaster in the making? That blog post is on the front page when you google 'deceptive advertising'. Guy even tries to contact Office Depot and get some info about what the hell is up with the price, and the chat log of the conversation between him and the customer service monkey is painful to read.

Let us count the fails:

  • Listing two identical laptops on your site, with two vastly different prices, and the only indicator that they are in any way different is the teeny model number
  • Talking like a robot reading from a script when the customer comes to you looking for info
  • Suggesting to the customer to buy the more expensive model (seriously, he thought this was appropriate?! The whole point of the conversation was how that model was $150 more for no visible benefit!)
  • No sign of working with the customer to get them the laptop they want, when a few OD employees confirm in the comments that stock was available in some stores

What are Office Depot getting when they fail this hard? A link to deceptive advertising from a blog post written in January that's still being read now. Not bad for $150.

Apparently the guy was contacted by Executive Customer Relations, which is corporate speak for "Oh Shit People Are Talking About Us Negatively, How Do We Stop It". I'm sure he probably got his laptop, but think of the bad publicity that could have been avoided. That kinda adds one last fail to the list:

  • Not doing anything to fix the problem until it's blindingly obvious that the damage has been done

Seriously, that blog post could have been all about how Office Depot bent over backwards in order to get the guy a laptop, or how they decided to discount one for him as a gesture of goodwill, or how they explained why the more expensive one was more expensive, or... you get the idea. No wonder their stocks have been falling over the last year.

Companies have to get past the mindset that advertising is only what they put out themselves. Advertising is every customer who's willing to talk about you as well. You can't control what they say - and believe me, even trying to is another PR disaster waiting to happen - but that doesn't mean you can't at least influence them in a good way. It all starts with customer service, and actually caring about the people who buy from you.

CJ, over and out
Thursday, October 7, 2010

Welcome to the Internet, L'Oréal. We hope you enjoy your stay.

You know, I like to think that the major brands of the world have marketing departments that are staffed by actual people, and not dribbling morons. Some days, though, I like to believe that there's actually a network of marketing underlings spread out across the world that are enacting some huge, Illuminati-like plan that involves shockingly bad advertising. The alternative - that rational individuals looked at this and decided it was actually going to work - is almost too depressing to contemplate.

The latest fail comes to us courtesy of the Cleveland Leader, because I am being a little bit random for the sheer hell of it and picking a site I've never heard of. Let's talk for a minute about Beyonce.

Yup, attractive woman modelling for L'Oreal. 'This is not news', I hear you cry - BUT WAIT. Here's a picture of Beyonce without all the crazy Photoshopping.

Oh yes, still jaw-droppingly desireable. Note the slight difference, though - L'Oreal decided to lighten up her skin for their advertising campaign, presumeably because they think the fact that this unimagineably delicious singer has dark skin is a mark against her.

Whitewashing. Did they really think the Internet wouldn't notice? The same collective hive mind that can obsess over whether Wolverine or the Hulk would win in a fight, and write slash fiction about Edward and Jacob? (I've read it. It is not for the faint of heart.) L'Oreal has learned a harsh lesson - what could be dismissed or forgotten in meatspace can live on and spread like a disease in cyberspace, and you ignore the viral effect at your peril.

What's worse is that here, they denied they'd done anything - and then used the same image, darkened, elsewhere! They must think we're completely stupid.

Never, ever forget that the Internet can take your best efforts and turn them upside down in a matter of days - and, good grief, think about the obvious consequenses of changing a fundamental feature of your model where people can easily reference 'before' pictures. This is like using a photo of Russell Crowe, but shopping his nose so that it doesn't look like it's been broken in three places! People Will Notice, because people are obsessive, and the backlash when they find out isn't going to bode well for sales.

CJ, over and out
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Toilet advertising: not always effective

Ah, Failblog. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways...

Who thought of putting ads in the bathroom first, I wonder? I expect they're currently swimming through a lake of cash in their solid gold castle in Bavaria, whoever they are. The location itself is a major win, when you think about it - where else do you have people's undivided, empty-headed attention? GENIUS, I tell you!

Oh, but this wouldn't be fun unless there was a screw up somewhere, and here on INBT, we love screw ups.

Especially in company.

And maybe with furry handcuffs.


Sorry, kinda lost my train of thought there. Where was I?

OH YES! Failblog. Right. Here's a lovely little example of advertising gone horribly wrong:

Oh yes indeed, this is a urinal, and that is the men's bathroom. Which has an advert for... something... for women drivers. Two options immediately present themselves.

  1. Someone, somewhere, forgot that women don't use the men's room, or
  2. "Bargain rates for women drivers"? There's a word we use to describe someone who sells women, you know.

Once again, confusing ad is confusing! The use of red on 'for women' also makes no sense. It feels very disjointed, which is not a good promotional method for a business. I can't imagine that they actually intended to convey a message about selling women, but if they did... Great holy hell, Batman, the marketing department needs to come back from their little time travel excursion into the Dark Ages.

We should always remember the point of ads - to get people to buy your stuff. Confusing and annoying your customers, or marketing to people who will never, ever buy, is a waste of time. This is the 21st century, kids - the Internet will maul companies who are not savvy enough to be sensible with their marketing.

CJ, over and out
Friday, October 1, 2010

Marlboro: Historical Edition!

You know what's so funny you'll laugh until you pee? Really old ads.

You know what'll make you stare in dumbfounded horror that anyone thought this was a good idea? Really old ads.

I think someone at Marlboro was smoking something a little more illicit in their usual nicotine fix when they put this delightful campaign together. Behold!

Yes, children, Mommy needs to light up a cigarette to keep her nerves under control, because women have been hysterical lunatics since forever and need chemicals to make them rational! (Image courtesy of the fabulous BlogHer)

Let's ignore the fact that smoking is actually really bad for you, and for kids. Back in ye olde mists of time, they didn't know all the horrible stuff we know today about these little cancer sticks. Just check out the advert itself:

  • Bad typeface. Cutesy, yes - readable? Not so much.
  • The colors, seriously. Menstruating red and toxic pink are not working with the grays there. I guess this was a first foray into the use of colour...
  • What the hell does 'over-smoked' mean? Google doesn't seem to know. And the hat on the baby on the left seems very random. Confusing ad is confusing!
  • This ad pretty much says outright that it thinks women are insane. Maybe it's the effect of the 21st century looking back, but the babies' attitude seems totally patronizing. Is this really the kind of image you want to project to your target customers?

Yeah, we tend to get all nostalgic for the old days. You know, back when the '50s were all about apple pie, white picket fences, gingham skirts and all that stuff, before we had the Internet and America fell into moral decay... Just remember, folks, the adverts sucked back then, too.

CJ, over and out

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