You’re cruising along at 25 mph in Oakland when you glimpse a billboard across the street. You see it for about two seconds, across three lanes of traffic, before you drive by. What registers? What’s being advertised?
“Siri, find me a place above 50°.” Broadway near 51st Street.
I’ll tell you what I saw: an ad for Siri, the iPhone voice app. Or maybe, on second thought, an ad for kayaks. In, I dunno, Alaska.
It wasn’t until a third and slower drive-by that I caught the much smaller type in the lower right-hand corner: “Real summer. Real close.” And beneath that line, in even smaller type—at last—the name of the advertiser: GoTahoeNorth.com.
In other words, this is the 2014 edition of the you-poor-suffering-San-Franciscans campaign that GoTahoeNorth introduced last year. The first time around, I said I liked the catchy slogan (“Winter, Spring, Winter, Fall”). What went wrong this year? Simple: the agency led us astray by name-checking an unrelated brand. After we see the “Siri” billboard we aren’t thinking about Lake Tahoe, we’re thinking about iPhones.
Moral: It’s not enough to come up with what you think is a clever line. You have to remember the context as well. What works in a static medium like print may not work in the now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t environment of outdoor advertising. When you’re pitching to a moving target, you need to make sure they see your name, not some other brand’s, writ large.
Tangent: The Tahoe North folks have a harder sell this year, because here in the San Francisco Bay Area we’re enjoying an exceptionally warm summer. Last week daytime temperatures climbed into the 80s in San Francisco, and one overnight low in the middle of the week was the warmest on record for that date—a near-tropical 63°. (It’s more July-typical for San Francisco’s daytime high temperatures to be in the low 60s.)
Here’s an even weirder tidbit. Where I swim in San Francisco Bay, we’ve been recording water temperatures of 66° and 67°, about four degrees above normal. Some veteran bay swimmers have been overheard grumbling that the water’s too damn warm. Not I: after two weeks of 49° water in January, I’m happy to revel in this quasi-Hawaiian treat.
So, Siri, I’m happily staying put. See you next year, when I hope you’ve counseled GoTahoeNorth on a better way to sell its summer weather to us flatlanders.