Media: Good Ad Bad Ad

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The Independent Online
In which a leading advertising expert picks some of the best and worst around.

Carol Reay, chief executive of Mellors Reay and Partners, on the satisfaction of a good teaser on the Tube and the frustration when a clever ad doesn't know its place.

microsoft

Weiden and Kennedy

The lines on this ad, in red type against a blue background, are: "Give a man a fish, he eats for a day/Teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime/Enlighten him further, he owns a chain of seafood restaurants."

The thing about posters that people don't normally realise is that their effect has a lot to do with where you put them, as well as what they say. Often people have a clever thought, but then just stick it up anywhere, so it doesn't work. But this one is especially designed for the London Underground, where it's often very tedious, stressful and unpleasant, and things that will entertain you or make you think for a couple of minutes are a very rewarding experience. I felt grateful to Microsoft for taking my mind off things for a while.

It isn't perfection, by any means. For instance, I didn't feel the pay- off of owning a chain of seafood restaurants was as strong as the midway point of eating for a lifetime - but I suppose that's symptomatic of the commercial age that we live in. And there's a small picture of a man in a wheelchair in the bottom left-hand corner, which I don't quite get.

Nevertheless, Microsoft is a difficult brand to advertise on posters, and it does work on that idea of enlightenment in the last line. "Enlightening", rather than just "teaching", really connects with the Microsoft brand, and through this ad - even through its imperfections - I got into thinking about Microsoft, and then into pondering my own abilities with a computer. I go so far with them, but the rest scares me - I feel I'm not wholly familiar with it all. But this ad made me feel I should go further.

jedi knight

Banks Hoggins O'Shea

What this ad says is: "Do not read the rest of this poster", in yellow against a starry background. And, at the bottom, in smaller type, are added the words: "You have failed to resist temptation. You will never become a Jedi. This game is not for you."

To set it against the ad that I like, someone has written this, thinking it's very clever, and then somebody else has stuck it up in the wrong places. Often this poster is very high up, and you couldn't read the second line of copy at the bottom - and therefore get the joke - even if you wanted to. So it fails on its media placement.

It's clever when you do read it: I'm sure it gets everybody who can see it. But where does it go from there? It's not about the product that it's selling; it could be for anything. It could be saying: "You have failed to resist temptation" - so come down to Oddbins and buy some wine. I know it goes on to say: "You will never become a Jedi", but by then you are working really hard.

I think somebody's got completely hung up on the cleverness of getting people to look at it and failed to realise that then, it's over. My whole office was in complete debate about it: everyone had seen it, but what was it for? Some said it was a board game, some said it was a computer game, and lots of people just didn't know at all. It's just not connected to the brand in the same way as the Microsoft poster is. It's a real shame, because your initial response to the ad is positive. But I think to get somebody that involved, and then not close the sale, is almost a worse sin than making an ad that's bad through and through.

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