Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I Hate this Billboard


"Why are you taking a picture of that billboard?" asked my carpool passenger, after I had swerved into a 7-11 parking lot and broke out the old digital camera.

"Because I hate it so much! I'm going to write about it," I told her.

"You aren't afraid to have opinions about things, are you?" she observed.

Well, perhaps not. But I sure do hate that billboard. Maybe I can make you hate it, too!


Hate Factor #1: Rewards. It offers me a "reward," and yet I do not recall having done anything of merit. Long-suffering readers may recall an earlier rant on this point, but hey! Advertisers! There is no quicker way to piss me off than to offer me "rewards," short of "tousling my hair" and calling me a "good little boy." Or perhaps, offering me a "dog biscuit." You are in a position to humbly thank your customers, but not to reward them, and you forget this at your peril. Offer a good service at a fair price, and customers might reward you with their business.

Hate Factor #2: The Happy Person. In the last five years, I've noticed a pernicious increase in the number of ads that feature a picture of a happy person, and that's all. Just a happy person. True, these advertisements are usually aimed at selling intangibles, such as insurance, banking, or education, but the fact that it was a challenging assignment should not excuse a total failure of imagination at the ad agency. The person is sitting there looking happily at the camera because, what, health insurance makes one happy? What?

My credit union -- formerly operating under the cool historical name of "Portland Teachers' Credit Union" but now, in a salute to committee-think, under some bland, generic name that I have never been able to remember -- indulges in some happy-people advertising, but they also demonstrate how to avoid the Hate Factor. They'll show happy people... in a new car! painting their house! Enjoying a vacation! In other words, people enjoying the things they were presumably able to obtain through the credit union's services. This makes all the difference, because it means they are selling services, as opposed to just the mood of happiness.

Hate Factor #3: The Insanely Happy Person. Can you imagine responding like the woman in the billboard to the availability of a checking account with favorable terms? Can you imagine that there is a single person, anywhere on the planet, who would respond in such a way to any checking account, ever? This woman's reaction would be appropriate to a marriage proposal, perhaps, or news of a grandchild on the way, or maybe a big lottery win, or news of a major promotion. But a checking account? No. Not even close. And for the marketer to assume that the part of my brain that reads emotions is so poorly wired that I would find it plausible is kind of offensive.


But I Really Like This Flyer

...from the cult period-fixture merchants Rejuvenation here in the City of Roses.


Cracks me up.

16 comments:

Kate said...

I drive past that billboard almost every day, and have to make a point of NOT LOOKING AT IT because it irritates me so much. Morgan saw it and said "Why does that woman look so crazy?" and I told him that I couldn't look at it or I would get angry.

DrSchnell said...

The only thing that would make this billboard more worthy of hate would be if it followed the all-too-familiar strategy of somehow linking your getting this checking account with getting laid. But it's pretty damned annoying just the way it is.

The [Cherry] Ride said...

That is hilarious. She's pre-orgasmic because she's scored a 5.1% APR. What a loser.

Michael5000 said...

@Kate: You are my kind of girl.

@drschnell: Per [Cherry], I think it does kind of make a gesture toward that link....

@[Cherry]: That pretty much sums it up.

fingerstothebone said...

Why are you looking at billboards when you're driving?

Rebel said...

Oh man... more advertisement critiques! My biggest advertizing pet-peeve is commercials that make it look like the customer is a moron. There's this one for Honey Nut Cherios right now that has people going through the "low fat great taste" supermarket and the *only* thing the store sells is Honey Nut Cherios... in the freezer section, in the deli, in the produce aisle. And I just want to scream at the TV! Because what they're suggesting is that we should live in a world where there's is the only available product... not that given the wide range of products availabe we would *want* their product for it's superior qualities!

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

You're dead on correct about all that.

Moreover, I've actually known people who get that excited over such things. They then take their medication and can deal with life a bit more constructively.

Imagine how excited they'd get if they asked for no ice in their beverage at Burgerville and the crew complied with that. The prospect quite intimidates, donnat?

I fell in love with the Rejuvenation ad. I'd like to pick that designer's brain for a few minutes, that would be a privilege. Witty line, gorgeous illo, happy warm colors ... we'd say she/he nailed that one.

Sandy said...

Is it just me, or does the insanely happy lady look a lot like Meg Ryan? Is this what she has come to?

andrea said...

hey michael. You left a comment on a post with a mix cd asking what to do with the .rar file. It's a compression format, so you'll have to download something to unzip it. I use winrar.

J. Shimer said...

The insane emotion... Ha, it made me think of Cleopatra! Shakespeare's version, that is. Sure, Cleopatra's in love. Sure, she's a queen so she's used to getting her way. But..still! Excess of emotion? I'm with you on that one. It *is* annoying.

Steve said...

DrSchnell said:

"The only thing that would make this billboard more worthy of hate would be... linking your getting this checking account with getting laid."

I hate to say it, but that's exactly what they're doing. If you've ever peeked into the adult movie section of a video store, you've seen that exact same pose and expression on more than a few adult DVD boxes...

margaret said...

Hm, I thought you biked to work?

Allie said...

I love your deconstruction of the billboard. And yeah, I would be just as annoyed!

mhwitt said...

I suggest you go into the Rivermark Community Credit Union branch nearest you and hand the teller a Torch the place flyer. Be sure to wear a ski mask.

boo said...

Oh I hate that billboard too now. She is way too happy about what? A duffel bag or a three piece set of plastic cannisters?

And I agree with the whole rewards philosophy. It does act as a deterrent.

But we don't have many happy people ads here. I don't think people are buying happy. We've been in a local recession for some time so most billboards tout cheap food.

Oh the Rejuvenation ad is gorgeous. Clever. I wonder if that is anything like Restoration here. Probably not. Restoration doesn't seem to have a sense of humor. Or may they door at $28 bucks for a drawer pull.

Street Trees said...

The irony is, of course, is that you actually had enough of an emotional reaction to the billboard to take a picture of it and write about it. Indifference is the worst possible outcome for any advertising camapign. All you've done is amplify the power of their ad buy.