How to do bad ads, good

“Crap ad”. My partner says it straight. He doesn’t care about USP’s, creative strategies or long-term marketing objectives. He sees an ad on TV and either buys it or hates it.

Not everyone is like him. Most people yawn and channel hop. Yet everyone rates advertising messages, whether consciously or not. I think it’s an evolutionary left-over; that warning-bell we hear when someone is lying.

So our built-in lie detectors flare up when we see unreal commercials. Yet somehow, the people responsible for bad ads manage to switch off theirs.

They become overly concerned with very important things – like creating something that ticks every message in the long list of mandatories. Or  making the MD laugh. Or jumping on the latest band wagon. So instead of switching on their BS detectors, they use:

  1. Stupid, contrived situations: A man bungee-jumping head-first into a crowd of screaming women who try to touch his freshly styled hair. A bunch of cows eating their own cheese. The spate of bottled water ads where sea creatures drink fresh water.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.
  2. Stupid, unreal dialogue: People don’t talk like commercials. No-one looks into your eyes and faultlessly delivers their plumber’s phone number.
  3. Weak jokes: To make sure the ad is unobtrusive and safe. Usually happens when scared clients meet tired creatives.
  4. Clichéd characters: The perfect wife. The tattooed bad guy. The precocious blond angel child. No-one has only one side to their personality. Except in Ad Land.
  5. Fake promises: “False Lash Effect” mascara. It’s nonsense. I know because I tried it. What a great name! What a great let down.

Compare this to what Old Spice ( is doing at the moment: They’re giving us a believable situation (a guy who thinks he’s awesome), well-written dialogue, fresh jokes and a real character who doesn’t make fake promises about the product. That’s APART FROM THE FACT that they’re doing something no other product has done on this scale before  – filming immediate answers to the tweets they’ve received. They’ve impressed again, nearly as much as their 80’s Carmina Burana commercial did. Man, I loved that ad.


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