Defining Good Ads

Since I’ve been writing about ads recently, I figured I’d take the time to write a lighthearted post.

Sometimes ads are bad because they offend people and cause drama. Others have mistakes that make us laugh. The companies embarrass themselves, but at least they don’t come off condescending. And hey, they make us laugh.

As it turns out… today is Proofreading Day! So, it’s the perfect opportunity to explore these funny ad fails and learn from them.  

First, let’s start with some general observations.

(1) – Remember the Audience

Words and phrases mean something different to different people groups. If you’re writing to more than a local audience, it pays to be sensitive. If you aren’t sure, do some research. How does your target audience usually talk? Use their own words to sell your idea.

(2) – Perfect Your Grammar.

Usually, ads are quite short in the amount of text, which makes mistakes more glaring and distracting. You can bend the rules, but don’t break them needlessly. The best you can is read the text aloud and let a friend give you feedback.

(3) – Have Consistent Design Themes

The whole ad should match one message. Your color combinations, text font, and images should all play a part in communicating the product or idea. If you have a poor design, it will make the words difficult to read or interpret.

Examples of Funny Ad Fails

(Disclaimer: I don’t know if all of these ads are real and not edited for laughs. These are my favorite I’ve saved over the years from meme sites and across writing Facebook groups)

Each of the following examples poorly violates ones of the above rules:

1 – Finding Math Sobriety

Living with addition headline palm partners recovery

This is actually a beautiful and powerful ad… except for one letter. The text should read “addiction”. It’s a shame too because I love the design. Everything fits, from the creeping shadow of a defeated addict to reflected color scheme in the text.

For a rehab center, it’s important to establish legitimacy. I know there’s plenty of corruption in the rehab industry. Having a quality ads could reassure a hurting family. Careless editing isn’t a good sign.   

2 – Rachel Ray: The Cannibal Cook

Rachael Ray inspiration cooking her family and her dog

Rachael Ray is a famous cook star on the Food Network with several publish books. She’s apparently a cannibal. Without the comma, we don’t recognize the sentence as a linked series. Instead, cooking is the main action with family and the dog as the objects.

It’s a cute design that’s sure to appeal to pet lovers. Simple grammar mistakes ruin it, but I’d probably still read the article with the fondest of hopes it’s actually a zombie fan fiction.   

3 – The Mighty Frog Man Pitcher

amphibious pitch headline

This headline looks like an autocorrect disaster. Smartphones and editing programs aren’t perfect. They cannot replace human eyes for proofreading. Someone was lazy here.

Then again, I couldn’t find the actual article. Perhaps the pitcher is actually a frog-man hybrid.

4 – First Hand Job Experience

First hand job experience

Firsthand is one word adjective meaning something obtained from personal experience. It’s never split like this headline… unless maybe if you’re talking about the first hand in your hand collection, as if you were Yoshikage Kira.

This rather stimulating error comes from misunderstanding open and closed compounds.

5 – Truck Load of Text

bad trucking ad Facebook

This post comes from my last job as a marketing manager for a trucking company. I had to recruit drivers from various sources, including Facebook groups. Actually, the best applicants came from social media as opposed to Indeed or other job websites. I figured if someone was technological savvy enough to find a legitimate company offering work through Facebook, they would catch on quick to procedures (truckers sometimes aren’t the brightest people to begin with).

As you can see, it works both ways. Informed leads aren’t easily fooled by flashy ads. Here, we have a bikini clad blonde chick behind wall of difficult to read text and multiple watermarks. It’s poor design plain and simple.

6 – The Legendary Ass Doctor

ass doctor van ad fail

Part of marketing is placement. The saying is “location, location, location!” If you place your logo on a sliding van door, you should be aware of how it affects the reading. All they had to do was space it about a foot more to the right.

When I used to order wrapping for truck units, we relied on the driver to install them. The method was cheaper than using Fast Sign professionals, but it wasn’t always as effective.

7 – Wrestling Gone Wrong

wrestling t-shirt sexual ad fail

High school sports teams often have fundraisers for their equipment and events. I imagine this t-shirt was designed by students. Probably, they used three seconds to drag and dropping clipart and add the text… Oddly, the referee had clothes but the players do not, making the scene resemble something… more risqué.

8 – Probing Your Dreams

Ad fail billboard dream anal

The creepy dude doesn’t look friendly, which is not reassuring when you read the first two lines in isolation. Hyphen splitting words to the next line never really helps text. If you cannot fit the words nicely, rephrase the whole sentence.

Most people driving would also find white text on red background difficult to read. The focus should be on the link.

I think it a little hard to decipher the message. They’ve already analyzed my dreams? Before I even get to the therapy? How is that possible? Is there some kind of machine that records the dreams and uploads them directly to the creepy dude? I guess that’s cool.

Going to therapy implies someone has trauma or emotional distress that needs addressing. I am not convinced my dreams are damaging to my conscious self. Freudians and Pentecostal would disagree with me. If the ad had taken a stance and attempted to convince me, I would have been more interesting.

9 – LSD Lights the Way

Hillsdale is a small town in Michigan. I am not completely sure this sign is connected. Regardless, they need to hire a few more electricians. The thing about LED signs – you need to replace their bulbs from time to time. Someone has to monitor them. They good if you’re a night business, like a bar or club, but conserve the bulbs during the day.

Weirdly, the store names are displayed in tiny font on the bottom red bar. Hillsdale is wonderful, but I need to squint real hard to see why. Instead of the doodle, which defies perspective physics, I would have listed the stores.   

10 – Toilets for Special People

Without commas, my mind races to conjure up the very specific caricature described. Grammar helps, but they could have also used bullet points.

The notice beg many questions… what age defines the elderly? Why do children get special treatment? How many pregnant people are there in this building that the overflow requires a designated toilet? Does the disabled elderly pregnant child exist?

I am not sure I’ll ever understand how some of these ads got published, let alone past a brainstorm session. However, we can do better than them. Work with me and we can make some rockstar ads to spread your business.

Let’s connect and discuss your needs.