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I am going to teach you how to create ads that suck more than a five-story vacuum factory. In truth, most of the ads I see are monuments of major suckitude that virtually ensure their own avoidability. They are either so dull and unimaginative that they become invisible, or so obnoxious that they have people trampling one another to get to the mute button. These kinds of ads have no chance of pausing the scrolling thumb on the social media newsfeed, unless it is to tap the even smaller downward digital thumb of disapproval.

Follow any of the following suggestions and you’ll be sure to be unfollowed; follow all of them and watch your business go down faster than a fat kid on a seesaw. (By the way, using terms like “fat kid on a seesaw” falls under point #3.)

  1. Look like everyone else.

In middle school, being the same as everyone else is “safe.” But in the world of advertising, being the same is death. Most businesses think that their ads need to look and sound like ads. The truth is that feeling safe is the least safe position for an advertiser.

For instance, almost every Realtor I’ve worked with has gone into a fetal position when I’ve suggested not using the ubiquitous headshot. I once had a professional photographer take fun, personable images of a firm’s Realtors. One agent’s photo in particular was fantastic–she and her dog, a very photogenic weimaraner, were both smiling into the camera. It was adorable. Everyone I showed the photo to had the same comment: “I’d work with that realtor!” Unfortunately, she opted instead for the boring, overused formal look because she felt like people wouldn’t think she looked “professional enough.” (Hint: Nobody likes your glamor head shots except you. The rest of us just roll our eyes.)

So, to suck, make sure your ads look like ads, especially like everyone else’s.

  1. SHOUT!!!

Use bold, ALL CAPS and multiple exclamation points as often as possible!!!!!! Roy H. Williams, the “Wizard of Ads,” says that “Every beginner’s solution is to put an ‘attention getter’ into the ad. Bright colors, loud noises, exclamation marks, and crazy stunts are the sad little attention getters most often used. The effect on your beautiful customer is much the same as sneaking up behind her and shouting, ‘WATCH OUT!’”

Cheap tricks like this are just…annoying. As the Wiz says, “Is that any way to start a relationship?”

  1. Cross the line

There’s a fine line between humor or impact and just plain offensiveness. Cross the line. Go boldly forward like a raging bull in a china shop. If you think it’s funny, go with it! Don’t give it a second thought, consider the sensitivities of your audience, or run it by diverse sources for feedback, and you’re on the superhighway to Sucksville.

Don’t get me wrong, there is an art to provoking enough controversy and reaction to benefit your business, but it’s risky and it requires a very skilled and experienced professional to pull it off (and sometimes even professionals fall flat on their faces.)

Damn the torpedoes…and watch your reputation sink.

More tips on ads that suck to come in a future blog. For now, these three points, properly applied, will produce spectacular failure.


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