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Friday, July 02, 2004

Must All Advertising Be Offensive?

Maybe it's a function of growing up and watching my cat approach adolescence, but I'm beginning to agree with Bob Garfield. A sizeable portion of today's print and TV ads don't just do a poor job of selling the product, they needlessly offend potential customers. And any other poor sap who might be caught in the crossfire.

Have you seen the latest TV ad from Pepto Bismal? Gross.

While writing a chapter on "Writing Winning Ads" for my forthcoming book Winning Results with Google AdWords, I had cause to reflect on how straightforward and scientific the process can be for creating effective advertising copy online. And by contrast, how superfluous much of the mainstream advertising biz seems to be. In the medium you're reading right now, small text ads may be shown to people doing a search. No hype, just an introductory message that acts as a sorting mechanism to identify potential prospects. The real persuasion can take place on the website itself. No pushy salepeople! Buyer nirvana, if you offer them the right experience.

That's nothing like the offline world.

Just what were the folks at the agency thinking when they wrote "Hang onto Your Lederhosen" in a newspaper ad selling the 2005 Mercedes C230 Coupe? I just saw a fiftyish woman driving a new one of those, obviously pleased to get a sporty car that would have been out of her price range back in the hazy long-forgotten days when juvenile humor seemed funny. (Hey, I love immature jokes, but only when I pay good money to see them in the theatre, a la Dodgeball.) I can't see her reading that ad and saying "right on man! hang on ta yer frickin Lederhosen, LOL!" and rushing down to the dealership and buying the car.

A second print ad referred glowingly not to the car, but to, uh, something to do with needing a change of underwear. Just the kind of prestige the ol' Mercedes badge needed at this juncture, I suppose? Fortunately, a lot of people are probably just going to do an online search for "2005 mercedes c230 coupe" and wind up on the appropriate page at the mbusa.com web site. No Lederhosen here, just specs and photos.

I don't create newspaper ad campaigns for major brands, so I don't really claim to know what goes into them, other than reading critiques from the likes of Bob Garfield. But it's interesting to see what happens in the online environment when you measure results. "Hang onto your Lederhosen"-style ads almost always tank.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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