Inserts: It doesn’t matter what your message is if nobody can read it.

Because I’m in the business of writing and designing inserts, amongst other things, I look at inserts.  Whereas most normal people shake them straight into the bin.

Which is why an insert has to be very, very eye-catching: very instant with its messaging. It needs to say STOP! LOOK AT ME! DON’T BIN ME I’VE GOT SOMETHING INTERESTING FOR YOU! Arguably even more than the regular advertising in the paper it comes in.

An insert flopped out of my newspaper on Saturday.

It was green. Very green. It was an A5 single page flyer, printed both sides. Green all over.  A sort of appley mid-green. There were some line illustrations on the front which were white (reversed-out is the jargon phrase).  And therefore very hard to see.

The main headline was also white. And therefore also virtually invisible. (Perhaps just as well as we’ll see in a second, it was so terrible.)

On the back was the body copy. White. In a sans face. Utterly impossible to read.

The whole thing was so recessive, so technically incompetent that it made me angry for the poor client who bought this appalling example of design.

The client was something called Mylawyer.co.uk. So let’s look at what mylawyer.co.uk had to say.

Main headline: Everyday legal services – what you don’t need.

Question one, pens ready please. What the hell is an everyday legal service? Who uses legal services every day apart from the police? You use legal services once in a blue moon when you’re buying a house, writing a will, divorcing your husband.

Question two: why are you telling me what I DON’T need? You’ve got a nano-second to tell me why I should read this green monstrosity. So tell me what you’re offering me! And just in case I don’t know what ‘outrageous hourly fees’ means you show me a picture of clock. Apparently I don’t need expensive premises either. So you show me a picture of, er, a picture.

Onto the back. The headline is: What you do need. Now, one of the tried and tested techniques for inserts is to make sure that the main proposition, the main offer, is clearly visible front and back because you don’t know which way it will fall out of the publication.

This one fails in this respect because if it lands backside-up I’ve no idea what’s being offered to me. I’m told I need a Computer. Some tea/coffee (Optional). Be still my quaking sides. And a Phone. But not what I might need them for.

The body copy starts with “If you’re shopping for everyday legal services…” Finally, a bit of a clue. (But of course most people will not have got this far.) The authors clearly love this phrase. The fact that we have no idea what it means has whizzed over their bewigged heads.

After much waffling, no sub-heads to help us, it gets to the point. “We’re an online service which means you don’t even have to leave home to deal with legal matters such as wills, powers of attorney and a wide range of other issues which we can’t be bothered to mention.” (I made that last bit up.)

So it’s actually quite an interesting service. Cheap lawyers online for your less complicated legal needs like wills. But the vast majority of people will never know what they’re missing because the instrument of communication, as a lawyer would probably call an insert, is such a disaster of copy and design in every conceivable way.

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