TypewriterFrom The Urbach Letter August 2006

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Advertising that Makes You Laugh/Think

Advertising. You're soaking in it. The average person is exposed to upwards of 4000 commercial impressions per day... and most of it is... simply awful. The amount of money wasted by advertisers is beyond belief. Big, big companies can often get away with wasteful ad campaigns... for a while. They've got so much market inertia and presence they never really know what's working or not. For the rest of us, different rules apply. If you own or run a small/medium business, advertising, done right, can take you to the next level. However, for us, running an ad campaign is a major budget item. Here's the key idea though: it costs no more to run a good ad than a bad one. Duh! The magazine or TV station or mail house will charge you exactly the same whether your ad pulls in new customers and orders -- or not.

Bearing that in mind, doesn't it make sense to study the creative (i.e. design) aspects of good advertisements? Whether you actually place ads or not, there's always something interesting to be learned. So, without further ado, I bring you some clever ads from my swipe file:

Tires that Really Stick to the Road

Sticky Car

As seen in a German airport. How better to get the point across that your tires just won't let go? Super-expensive to produce and deploy, but this one really stopped traffic. Your take-away? How can you creatively display the *benefit* of your product or service to your marketplace? My friend, Bob Smith, a marketing genius, once came up with a trade show display for a company which manufactures coin-operated equipment for gas stations. Bob got huge sacks of quarters and poured them all over the floor of their booth. It became a carpet of money. Since they were selling coin-operated air pumps, it truly communicated the message that the station-owner could, "Get money out of thin air!"

Nicotine Gum

Smoking Bus

Now, that's product placement for you. Really clever. "Klar for slutte?" translates to "Ready to quit?" Creative design is important, but so is being smart about when the message will be best received. This ad campaign ran in January, when people are thinking about their New Year's resolutions (and bus exhaust was most visible).

Matrimonial / Trial Law Firm

Was His

After it appeared in a local magazine, somebody scanned this ad was and posted it on the Internet. From there it went viral, gaining worldwide exposure for the firm. You can't buy this kind of publicity. Or maybe you can...

3M Security Glass

Security Glass

Integrated into an actual bus shelter, I love this real-life demo/ad of a product. Even though it's filled with fake money, it screams out, "Try and hit me with a sledge hammer." I'm not sure if anybody actually attempted that. Probably.

Mini Cooper Print Ad

Cops Hide Here

All of the Mini-USA advertising and marketing is extremely well done. They capture (and capitalize on), the iconoclastic Mini-owner mentality. Often harmlessly poking fun at "The Man."

Mortuary Billboard

Mortuary Billboard

As seen in a London tube station. At first I wasn't sure about this one. Upon reflection, I began to realize how smart it really is. Can you imagine how hard it is for the "death industry" to advertise well? Anything other than a tongue-in-cheek campaign would only serve to turn people away from an unpleasant subject. Playing it cheeky like this is a great way to get people to pay attention, chuckle a bit, and hopefully remember you when the time comes. There was another good one: a highway sign outside a funeral home. It said, "Drive safely. We'll wait."

Environmentally-Friendly Car

Bird Crap

Taps in to the anti-SUV sentiment that's all the rage right now.


Slim Fast

This is another print ad that went viral on the Internet. Besides being really funny, it ties a product benefit directly into the message. Contrast this with virtually any beer commercial or car insurance ad. Those Budweiser and Geico ads are entertaining all right, but do they actually say anything meaningful about the product? Not to me.

Accident-Prevention Tires

Tire Protection

An ad campaign that had to come from Europe; this wouldn't fly here in the U.S.A. We're way too prudish. But it's brilliant. Funny, yes, but it couples to the safety / accident-prevention benefit message quite nicely too.

I've got many more ads I could show you, but I'm supposed to be taking it easy in the summer. Hah! As if.

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