Always outnumbered. Generally overdresssed.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The real vs. the modern

If your agency is any good there may be a bookshelf somewhere, perhaps in the art buying department, which will contain this book or one very like it. It's worth leafing through a book like this not because the ads are good but because they are, almost without exception, terrible. That is to say, there is nothing in them that doesn't seem like it came from not just another time, but another planet, one populated entirely by imbeciles. I mean, for instance, WTF?

One of the things that makes Bill Bernbach so incredible is that he seemed to be able to see the terribleness of these ads, at time when no-one else could. This is the difficult thing, in advertising or any other creative pursuit, to raise your head above the contemporary. Because what's fashionable is so prevalent that most people can't seem to see it all, they are, technically speaking, shit-blind.

Bernbach's technique for circumventing the modern was to hang on to the reality of what he was advertising - the truth. This is my favourite Bill Bernbach ad:

There's no part of it that isn't relevant. The things that make it eye-catching are the same as the things that make it meaningful.

So maybe one way of know if your ad is any good is to strip away the bits of it that are flashy and contemporary and see what you're left with. Let's try it on this ad:

Ok, so we've got:

  • Ridiculous headline
  • Contemporary graphic design
  • Website
  • Possibility to 'show your support for this campaign(!) by texting this number for just £8'.

It's got all the contemporary paraphernalia but means, so far as I can see, nothing at all. It's not intriguing, it's only gibberish. I'm not even going to link to that website, because I find the meaninglessness of this campaign so aggravating. I assume it's a Christian organisation - but I'm not going to find out, not because I've anything against the church, but just because they've pissed me off with their idiotic advertising campaign. Although actually, can't you see something obscurely Christian in the arrogance of this ad? The very fact that they thought they could do it themselves, and yet clearly have no idea of what they're doing?



Sell! Sell! said...

Well said Mr. Comstock. I agree wholeheartedly.

real men write long copy said...

I couldn't resist checking out the website to see if it is indeed another embarrassing ad campaign by my Christian brothers and sisters. It turns out this one belongs to the Muslims! YES! There's even an online film, which is a special kind of purgatory to watch

PM Summer said...

As noted above, Muslim, not Christian. An amendment to the post would be a nice touch, so as to not appear narrow-minded (even though it's over a year old and lonely).