How to make a bad advertisement

KATHMANDU: Coca-Cola recently came up with a campaign, Labels are for cans, not people”. For a brand like Coke, which probably holds all world records for ‘Most Recognised Brand Insignia of All Time’, promptly removing its brand's name from products altogether would not only be a bold move, but a very wise marketing strategy too. Whether this campaign became a success or a huge laugh is subjected to discussion for which I need to take a rain check, but one thing is certain: this campaign does not stand exemplary to any other brands worldwide.

Perhaps, a move like this might be fatal to brands from the rest of the world.

The problem with bad advertisements is not that they take a bold leap of faith entering into the consumer psyche with a creative edge too sharp to handle, but take that leap without a proper harnessing tightrope. The rule of thumb of any advertisement tells that its communication line should not drift too far away from product's unique selling proposition, the USP. But that's where the problem lies. Two competing products can come up with similar (if not same) USPs, meaning: they will have similar communication line. You can already guess where I am headed with this. Two different products, from two different companies will have similar looking advertisements. Wise eyes can spot similarities within milliseconds.

This is how bad advertisements are made. The art department of an advertising agency comprehends the need to ‘stand out from the crowd’ just like Coke did, but the business development department exhibits tenacity to not allow 'going over the top' disobliging the brief. Not being able to arrive to a common ground delivers an advertisement either too flaccid or too twisted to grasp.

Making a good advertisement means determining the right velocity of creative momentum versus the steadfast doggedness of a layperson, hence good advertisements hit the media only once in a blue moon. Perhaps knowing how to make a bad advertisement tips the scales towards better creativity and enhanced business development brief. Here are some instructions as to how to make a bad advertisement:

Monopolise the palette: Putting everything you have in one plate and eating it like khichadi makes a bad advertisement. When you give more than one information from one advertisement, people will not see a clean and crisp communication but a product catalogue.

Make something creative and explaining it: Creativity should be self sufficient. If you start explaining why you have put a graphic element, or an impromptu headline, or an out-of-the-place icon from your body copy or via voice over, then the automatic context of the commercial is lost.

Art is for art's sake: But not for commercials. Commercials need to have an artistic knock, but if the business aspect is lost within the art, then it reflects a bad advertisement. Commercials exist to sell the product, not the creative director's caliber.

Misunderstanding the USP: The word ‘unique’ needs to serve a purpose. You cannot sell toothpaste by saying ‘it makes your teeth sparkle’. Any given toothpaste needs to do that. If it has outlandish alien mineral in it, then maybe it is unique. Otherwise it becomes as bad a commercial as it can be.

Trying to kill two birds with one stone: This is ‘the’ golden example of a bad commercial. One advertisement can never sell two products. Either the audience understands the communication of only one product, or relinquishes the effort to understand altogether. Remember seeing a whisky’s advertisement, and also seeing a vodka bottle there? You might. But you will not remember their names.

A great advertisement for a bad product: There are hundreds of examples out there. If your product does not have potential but campaigns for a great advertisement, then false hype of the product heads for the downfall of impending creativity. Subsequently, the feedback for the advertisement is bad.

Ideas are prolific: Any Tom-Dick-Harry can come up with it, and that's what makes an advertisement bad. Ideas alone cannot yield creativity. and business. For both of them to work, attempting to steer clear from a bad idea is a must. Maybe it will not be great tomorrow morning. But eventually, it will.

The author is the Creative Director at Ad Media, and a Brand & strategy connoisseur. He can be in touch with your queries at