It’s only August, but advertising copywriter extraordinaire Drayton Bird has already nominated a strong candidate for worst ad of the year.  Look at the following ad and see if you agree with him:



I find it unpleasant even to look at that ad, let alone try to decipher it.  Whose brilliant idea was it to create an ad that looks like an eye chart?  And what’s it selling?

Let’s outline the deficiencies of this ad and learn from them.

  1. There’s no headline.  Ad titan David Ogilvy would call this a “headless wonder.”  There is no indication in the topmost and biggest print what this ad is about.
  2. The ad is hard to read.  It actually discourages readers from trying to find out what it’s about by its design.  Then, when you get to the eighth line and you see that its’ about specialist insurance.  What is that?  I guess if you need it, you know what it is.
  3. If you could read the small type, how long would it be before you figured out what’s being sold?  Does the ad give you any reason to keep reading?  I don’t think so, but maybe you disagree.
  4. What’s the point of the flying barrel?  If it’s explained in the ad copy, again, I’m not interested enough to find out.  Ads need to create interest; this one doesn’t.  I had to have it explained to me that the flying barrel is supposed to be a cask like the ones carried by St. Bernard dogs to avalanche victims.  It’s like a joke – if you have to have it explained to you, it’s a bad joke.  This is a bad ad element.
  5. This ad is for a business insurance company – the cask is supposed to be a visual image that ties into their business.  Did it do that for you?

So, why did Drayton Bird single this ad out?  It’s a perfect example of what not to do, but let’s dig a bit deeper.  What can we learn to do based on this ad?

  1. We know that headlines are the most important part of an ad.  If your headline does not get the attention of prospects, you’ve failed.
  2. Ad layout is also important.  Your layout should be easy to read and navigate.  The flow of the ad should lead the eye naturally to where you want it to go.  Put the different elements (headline, images, subheadings, body copy, feature boxes, bullet points, etc.) of your ads in the right places and you will strengthen the sales message.  A haphazard approach will weaken the sales message.
  3. Choose a typeface and font that is highly readable.  The right typeface and font can make an ad look more interesting.   The right typeface and font can actually be an identifying feature of your brand.  Choices like serif fonts and sans serif fonts, handwriting fonts and brush fonts, retro and vintage fonts, graffiti fonts – each choice can either strengthen your branding or weaken it.
  4. The size of your type matters also.  Make it big enough that it is easily readable.
  5. An effective image can help to draw in readers.  An effective image is one engages your readers and communicates a message that supports your sales message.  Size, image resolution, color, pattern, and fonts within your image are all important considerations.  Simple and bold are good guidelines for effective images.
  6. Every element of your ad should work together to communicate your sales message.  If any element does not communicate or support your sales message, it will confuse your readers and diminish your results.

If your advertising needs a boast (or you want to up your game and income), Advertising Angles will give you an advanced understanding of advertising persuasion that will boost your sales.

See Advertising Angles here.


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