Looking for some “rules” on how to create effective advertising? Here’s a good one for starters: “Make sure your audience can read the words you’ve written.” Duh. (Or, as Courteney Cox’s character Jules would say on the brilliant Cougar Town, “Der!”)
Every time I get in my car I’m amazed at how many billboards make it impossible for a driver to read the message without risking life and limb. And every time I pick up a magazine or newspaper I’m equally amazed how many advertisers apparently believe that readers have nothing better to do but get out the magnifying glass to scrutinize every miniscule word in their ridiculously cluttered ad.
Recently Morgan Stanley began running an ad campaign on the front page of my favorite newspaper, The Wall Street Journal. The ads are tiny–slightly over 3″ x 4.5″–but that’s not the problem. The problem is incredibly poor graphic design that makes the ads virtually illegible.
For example, the designer of the above ad chose to superimpose white type over a light green background. This, coupled with the poor resolution that’s inherent in newspapers, renders the body copy unreadable. Okay, I’m exaggerating; if you’re willing to squint and expose the ad to ideal lighting conditions, you might be able to make out some of the body copy, including the wonderfully ironic phrase, “…Morgan Stanley has the global insight to help you identify opportunities…” If Morgan Stanley is so insightful, why are they running an ad that’s almost impossible to read?
On top of that, the background graphic is an art deco illustration of water rushing over some sort of stepped structure, with a woman standing nearby. Huh? Given the reference to “World” in the headline, I can only assume this graphic is supposed to be some known international site, but I don’t have a clue what or where it’s supposed to be.
If Morgan Stanley got a single phone call or website hit as a result of this ad, I’d be absolutely stunned.
If that weren’t bad enough, the brand name “Morgan Stanley” is just about invisible. It’s almost as if they didn’t want anyone to know who the advertiser is.
Wait a minute. Maybe a little more wisdom went into the creation of this ad than I’d thought…