Clever vs. Effective

Photo source

Photo source

A few days ago, this image appeared on my feed because it was “liked” by Jeff Weiner CEO of LinkedIn. Clearly this was just a like, but it was posted by a group called Brilliant Ads. This is a very creative approach to outdoor advertising. Some might even call it clever. I have to say that I responded positively to it when I saw it. But the question is- is this really a “brilliant ad”?

Outdoor advertising is created with the premise that it is viewed as people are moving from point A to B. The more successful executions are simple to grasp and uncluttered. Now look at the “brilliant” billboard again. If you were 100 meters away, would you have any idea what this ad was about? Would you be able to quickly read the URL bar and search field? Absent of any other context you couldn’t. Setting aside the fact that they’re also communicating that their weather reports aren’t any better than looking out a window, the “brilliant” billboard fails to do it’s job, which is communicating effectively.

How does this happen? It’s because we usually only talk to ourselves. At Netflix we used to say “get out of the building”. It was shorthand for go and talk to the folks you’re targeting. Find out what they need to learn in order to be open to hearing your message. This doesn’t mean every little thing needs to be stamped and approved by target consumers. It means don’t fully develop service features, marketing materials, etc. without checking in to see if you are headed in the right direction.

In the case of this billboard, I have no doubt many (myself included) think it’s clever. And who knows? It may even win an award. But advertising, at its core, has a job to do- communicate effectively. Knowing how to separate out the difference between effectiveness and what you think is clever/creative/brilliant makes all the difference between advertising that works and advertising that doesn’t.

I write on brand, advertising, and business culture. Get in touch @kaizenbarry or on LinkedIn. Check out my other posts as well as those by my partners here.