Advertisers strive to create a perfect ad that would draw prospect’s attention and make a clear statement, but somehow they often end up getting on their audience’s nerves. Why? Maybe because being too creative not always pays, while tried methods seem to do their job. However, some ad trends are too outdated to continue their miserable existence.
1. The Wow-Face
This one is the most versatile, ubiquitous and certainly the most annoying. It is the ultimate solution to every advertising goal. Low credit rate – the wow-face, vast color choice – the wow-face, a client is satisfied – the wow-face! It would be okay, if only it wasn’t so mightily overused. On each screen and every corner, there are huge, amazed, open-mouthed faces. The wow-effect of a wow-face has expired long ago. Seriously, it’s irritating. Even if the wow-faces draw attention, they also inevitably evoke a desire to slap them and bring around the poor catatonic thing, stunned and frozen to the spot with utter astonishment. By the way, screaming warlike faces on the game icons in AppStore and GooglePlay have pretty much the same effect. Please, stop this madness.
2. Sexual hints
We all know that we don’t buy toothpaste – we buy a shining smile, we don’t buy a new purse – we buy ourselves some time of bliss which derives from feeling fashionable and stylish. Yeah, yeah, textbook material. Yet do we really need so much sex? Of course, we do! Constantly and urgently, as multiple ads suggest. A handsome young man cheekily raising a brow and saying “Take it!” What does this one sell? The answer is anything. Literally, anything: food delivery service, electronics store, sundresses clearance in the nearest mall. Likewise, a curvy lady, pouting red lips and saying “Try me”, surprisingly, is supposed to sell all from the internet subscriptions to motor oils. If people drink coffee, they must look as if they were dating this, um… hot drink. For the same reason, I presume, chewing gum will only sell well if you can mistake it for a pack of condoms. Neat.
It might work perfectly back in the 1950s, when you couldn’t really say what you meant, and innuendos and equivoques were recognized as a language of desire. Now, however, when everything is plain, simple, and no one will judge you for calling a spade a spade, these hints and puns aren’t tantalizing – they are hilarious. The “sex sells” notion is old as the hills, and frankly, people got tired of flirtatious and suggestive ads. Today cats sell better.
Cliché of all clichés, it was born when people were more naïve and really believed that the ads were made this way: a picture taken before, and another one taken after the miraculous solution was applied. Often we obviously see two different subjects. Sometimes we see the same person, yet it’s evident that the difference is achieved by lighting, stance, face expression and a couple of graphic alterations: quite innocent, really, in comparison with what graphic editors are capable of today. Classic example: an unhappy girl, slouching, no make-up on, hair not done, in monochrome vs. radiant smile, shoulders thrown back, stunning make-up, shiny curls, bright colors. What was her problem? You already know the answer. A-ny-thing! Yellow teeth, acne, no one would give her a student loan, not enough volume, too much of volume (wherever), bad food choices, small apartment – take your pick! The only problem is that we know the ads are not done this way. It looks primitive and uninventive. Lazy advertising, you can do better.
Juicy fruits and appetizing spices flying through the air, long-tailed garments floating in the currents of fan-induced wind, something mouth-wateringly delicious sloooowly being poured into the bowl. Not sure how the viewer should feel: as Neo, able to lazily wave the bullets aside or some slowcoach, who wouldn’t grasp the sense of what’s being pictured unless it’s slowed to match their capacity. I got it; the laws of physics do not apply to the hair treated with this super-flexible hairspray. Move on, already. I am almost positive, that the message of slow-mo is really the Faustian “Linger you now, you are so fair!”, however, it more often provokes the Monty Python’s “Get on with it!” vibe. Again, the technique is beautiful; it’s just that there’s too much of slow-mo on each and every occasion. Slow down a bit, or should I say, speed up?
5. Buckets Of Paint/Holi Powder/Magic Dust/Whatever Splashing From The Screen
This one became worn out decades ago, yet still, it is utilized to illustrate how lifelike the images are on the HD smartphone/tablet screens. Moreover, they employ the breaking of the ‘forth wall’ to advertise a variety of things: catchy site content, fast service, safety of money transfer, or even how close the future is* ( *if you get the product). Verdict: overused.
6. Scientific Mambo-Jumbo
Don’t get me wrong here, I’m very far from claiming that science is mumbo-jumbo. However, most of the scientifically flavored ads are. Much formula, so science, very molecular, wow. No matter what it is that’s being pushed: tires, moisturizer, yogurt, medicine – it all can be presented by the ad, that involves a lab coat plus glasses, 3D reproduction of “series of the experiments”, percentage, molecular structures, charts, and, of course, the word “formula”. Even if it is the “formula of success”. If you are looking for toiletries at the supermarket, you with high probability will find an array of bottles containing “new formulas”. By no mean is it a good old potassium hydroxide or sodium lauryl sulfate with some aroma compounds. It’s a revolutionary formula. For crying out loud, Roland Barthes dismantled this myth 60 years ago, couldn’t we come up with something better by this time?
This word is ought to be present in any commercial. If it’s not, then you will probably find it on the package (even if the package is all that is new there). Being an advertiser, don’t forget to use a little red label or at least red font: the chances are that a customer will overlook this feature, and you don’t want that to happen, do you? Use capitals and the exclamation point just to be sure.
People trust well-established and tried things. Sink your roots into the rich soil of human history. You don’t just sell a product, you sell a product since. If your brand hasn’t been on the market for that long, summon early memories of the thing or the practice itself. People drink beer for centuries – you use traditional recipes, people always wanted to fly like birds – it’s your airline that came to rescue and made it happen. Any ad can begin with the picture of a primordial tribe. Tell them a story, way back when, buy yourself a crest. It reminds of aristocracy and nouveau-riches. Brands can be snobs too, you know.
9. Measuring Tape
Fat-free, sugar-free, gluten-free and simply “diet” products cannot do without a serpentine band entwined around a slim bottle/package/female silhouette. A happy female with a measuring tape around her hips is so last century. In fact, back in the 50s, this image was meant to advertise some weight-gaining potions, because “men wouldn’t give her a second look when she was skinny”. Today it is considered bad manners to point out more or less preferable body type and try to express beauty in inches. The tape is stereotypical, therefore neither original nor creative. It suggests that we must worry about our size (that often have nothing to do with our health). If you want to say that your product is healthy, please do, but find another metaphor to express the idea. Anyway, I don’t think that underweight people with diabetes (they do exist), who buy sugar-free products are fond of the idea of becoming even slimmer.
Some years ago, there was a popular show where a magician in a black mask successively revealed all secrets of the trade and showed how the most popular illusions and tricks are done. At the end of the final episode, he unmasked himself and addressed fellow magicians, explaining that he did this to incite their creativity. Since the audience would no longer fall for the old tricks, there would be a cascade of new illusions of the higher level. I believe you’ve already caught my drift. There’s nothing I would want more than some fresh ad ideas and witty campaigns that will both sell and entertain.
Jana Rooheart is a professional blogger and IT specialist living in Kansas City. She currently works for Pumpic and works on her first book. You can contact her via Facebook.