During the summer months, driving up from Manhattan to Cape Cod on I-95 comes with a lot of stop-and-go.

Out of sheer boredom I took notice of all the billboard advertising along this major artery between New York City and Boston.

I discovered that my reaction to most of the ad slogans came down to three little letters: WTF!

Maybe you can do better than I in figuring out what they’re talking about:

  • McDonalds: “You can’t fake local flavor.”
  • 101.1 FM: “50 shades of radio”
  • Coors Light: “First round, last call.”
  • Walgreens: “Well at Walgreens”

Clean Care of New England: “We are the grand master of disaster.”

  • Mazda: “When you change everything, everything changes.” 

By the time I arrived home on Cape Cod, I was on a roll. Everywhere I looked, I saw ridiculous advertising:

  • On my jar of peanut butter from Woodstock Foods: “Eat because it’s good”
  • A mailer from Duane Reade: “Treat your dog to a treat”
  • And the punchline of Helloflo’s tampon subscription service commercial: “It’s like Santa for your vagina.”

What bothers me about all these slogans is that they are self-obsessed, more in love with alliteration, internal rhyming and parallelism than with communicating a persuasive thought.

Bill Bernbach said it well: “Whereas the writer is concerned with what he puts into his writings, the communicator is concerned with what the reader gets out of it.”

David Ogilvy backed him up: "What really decides consumers to buy or not to buy is the content of your advertising, not its form."

In other words, what you say in advertising is more important than how you say it.

Television advertising pioneer Rosser Reeves used to rail against the cleverness of copywriting:

"Let's say you have a million dollars tied up in your little company and suddenly your advertising isn't working and sales are going down. And everything depends on it. Your future depends on it, your family's future depends on it, other people's families depend on it. Now, what do you want from me? Fine writing? Or do you want to see the goddamned sales curve stop moving down and start moving up?"

In my next blog: Starship Commanders

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  • Peter Yaremko
    published this page in Blog 2014-10-27 09:10:02 -0400