Friday, February 18, 2005

Don't Take My Money, Please

As a former ad man (I wrote radio commercials for many years) I pay attention to commercials on a different level than most, sizing them up for how well they accomplish their missions. And I have noticed a strange thing in at least two commercial campaigns: the commercials are telling you not to use the product. I don't think the creators mean them to do that, but that's what they do.

The first is a credit notification commercial which has a man being harassed in his kitchen, car, and bedroom by a notifier telling the man that his credit rating is fine and his identity hasn't been stolen. At one point the service wakes him from a sound sleep to tell him this information. This commercial, while funny, delivers the message "Our product will annoy you." Now while some of us will intentionally annoy ourselves for potential benefit, it usually isn't in the arena of credit watching.

The second one is on both radio and television. It is the travel site with the lawn gnome, where they debunk travel myths. The ads announce what they consider is a myth about booking travel and then give the benefits of their service. However, they immediately follow it announcing a myth such as "it's bad to touch jellyfish" followed by the gnome getting stung by the jellyfish. It, too, is funny, but says "We're lying" or at least "you can't trust us."

You can be funny in an ad without destroying the message you want to send. The travel site's ads could be altered slightly to "Truth or Fiction?" giving the same travel point saying that the myth is fiction, then doing the jellyfish bit with the gnome getting stung, saying that was true. The fix on the credit commercial could be something like a guy not being able to do anything because he's worried that his identity has been stolen. Then, after he gets the credit service, he's calm and serene.

At any rate, whenever delivering a public message designed to persuade, you must take a look at what you're saying under the surface, or else, like the jellyfish, it could come back to sting you.

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