When is a billboard not a billboard? When it’s a freakin’ 227-word manifesto – 239 if you include the headline.
“This is our only billboard. We need it to say a lot.” No you don’t.
Yes, I counted the words in this screwy outdoor ad from Public Mobile, a Canadian wireless-telecom company. (I lifted the photo from Tim Nudd’s post on Adweek, which called the ad “clever.” I disagree.)
It’s hard to tell from the way the photo’s been cropped, but that ad appears to be floating at least one story above street level, which means it’s impossible to read either from a moving vehicle or from the pavement. Not that anyone would take the time to read an ad that conveys no useful information whatsoever in the headline (set in the largest type) and hides the name of the company (!) in tiny type at the very bottom of the text. (It’s in the orange block, in case you missed it.)
The ironic part? The company’s theme is “less for less”: fewer frills for less cash.
Would that they’d taken that motto to heart when they’d assigned and, incredibly, approved this waste-of-budget ad. Perhaps the copywriter faced Pascal’s dilemma: “If I’d had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”
The copy, should you take the time to study it (I forced myself to) is, unsurprisingly, padded with words that serve no purpose other than to fill out a line: “By the way,” “And lastly,” “Wow, that was a lot of information.”
Recall that the purpose of advertising is to direct attention toward something. (That’s what the verb advert means.) This ad, and others like it*, serves a different purpose: self-congratulation. Note the “our” and the “we” in the headline, and the 13 additional times our and we appear in the copy. (Plus one you in the first sentence that’s really a we.) Public Mobile may think it’s talking about benefits to the customer, but it’s actually talking about itself. Guess what? Nobody cares.
This hot mess could have been avoided if the creative director and copywriter had followed some elementary ad guidelines:
- Say something meaningful and memorable in the headline.
- Think about what your audience needs to know, not what you feel like bragging about. Do it in as few words as possible.
- Make the logo big enough that people know who you are.
- Forget about getting a flattering mention in Adweek or a trophy at the Clio awards. Focus instead on making a sale.
You might also consider having your advertising and your website sing the same tune in the same key. Unlike the billboard, PublicMobile.ca is concise, clear, and well organized.
* Other examples of the Verbose, Self-Absorbed, or Just Baffling Billboard genre: