How NOT to write and design a full page press ad

Want to know how to write a press ad? Here’s how NOT to do it…

This is a real jaw-dropper. Back page of The Telegraph, full page broadsheet press ad. And it’s a brilliant case study of everything you should never do in a press ad. Look at the picture and see if you can guess what it’s advertising.

  1. The headline: it’s on its side. Why? Why make it hard to read. Can you think of any reason why it’s on its side? (I’ll bet you a million quid the team responsible said “It’s more eye-catching because it’s unusual”. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.)
  2. The headline: it doesn’t say anything of interest to me. (Or anyone else.) What is says is this: In 1925 the revolution nearly wasn’t televised. I have no idea what this is about. I have no idea who this ad is for, or why I should read it. (It’s a teaser headline, everyone will be intrigued!”)
  3. The headline: it’s in capital letters. This makes it hard to read. But as it’s also on its side this is hardly the worst sin of incompetence on display here.
  4. The eye-catching picture: oh. There isn’t one. Why not?
  5. The logo: never mind, all of the above, I’ll whizz to the bottom right and look for the logo so I can spend a split second finding out what the brand is. Oh. There isn’t one.
  6. The body copy: it’s presented in a stupid fan layout. Why?
  7. The body copy: it’s printed in rainbow colours making it really hard to read. Why?
  8. The body copy: it’s about the history of television. And how John Logie Baird’s invention wasn’t taken seriously. Oh OK, so that’s the revolution mentioned in the headline. Why are you telling me this? What is this ad about? I still have no idea what it’s selling me. (And let’s face it, I’m the only person reading this crap, and that’s because I write this blog.)
  9. The body copy: line 18, yes, line 18. It says “Next time you’re enjoying watching people watch television…”  (what???? Is this is a reference to Gogglebox? Why? Where has this come from?) “…think about the small revolution  happening the other side of the socket: the smart meter.” So finally, they get to tell us what this pitiful mess is about. Smart meters. WTF?
  10. The body copy: apparently smart meters are the ‘”clever new device that’s helping homes across the country see how much their energy is costing”. Blimey, that’s a little user benefit creeping in there! It only too til line 20 to get there. And that’s it. That’s all we’re told. No more benefits. No more reasons to buy or enquire. No clue as to how or where we might get one.
  11. The body copy: the last line is that favourite of utterly incompetent copywriters: the lame attempt at a joke. I think. “Perhaps watching your smart meter might become as mainstream as watching Scandinavian crime dramas.” Really? I mean REALLY????
  12. There is a tiny URL tucked at the end of the copy. Same size, same typeface, same rainbow colours.

I find this ad, and the rest of the campaign, genuinely shocking.

Smart meters are useful, they have a clear benefit to the user. They are a physical thing so you can show a picture of them. Lots of people will want to know how they can save money, and how much, by installing them. But this ad fails on, literally, every level. And it’s produced by AMV, arguably one of the greatest British agencies ever. Shame, shame, shame on them.




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