Because I own a business that makes most of its revenue through selling advertising, I admit that I'm both hyper-aware and hyper-critical of the advertising I consume in every medium.
I'm probably more impressed than the average Joe when I see or hear good ads, and I'm especially puzzled when I see companies blowing their money on bad ads.
For every excellent ad in Milwaukee, there must be 10 terrible ones. Without naming names, I group the bad ones into the following categories:
The egomaniac business owner: You see the ads, usually in the form of TV or outdoor (billboards), in all sorts of categories, but mostly in car sales, furniture stores, jewelry shops and attorneys. Usually, they feature an especially un-telegenic business owner using his or her unspectacular personality to sell a product in which that personality should have no bearing on said product's quality and/or prices. Extra bonus points for the business owner who puts his pets or spouse in the ads, similarly for no apparent reason. Do these companies use professional ad agencies and media buyers? If not, they should. Weird exception: I've been seeing billboards for Johnnie Cochran's law firm. Granted, Cochran was a dynamic figure and should be the face of his ads ... but he's dead. What?!
Products that I can't even buy: I usually hear these ads during Brewers games, and they advertise metal stamping companies or heavy construction firms. That's great, but is radio a great vehicle for business-to-business advertising? These ads would make perfect sense in a trade publication, but I can't help but think these companies are completely wasting their money by hiring celebrity pitchmen to tell me about products that I neither understand nor can even buy.
Delayed call to action: Consumers have very short attention spans, especially when it comes to TV -- since the magical DVR has given us the ability to skip them commercials at will. So when a 30-second spot spends 20 seconds talking about vague metaphors, flowery imagery and basically everything but the product, itself, it's lost me. Branding is one thing, but these ads are actually trying to sell you something -- and totally missing out. You see this a lot in insurance and prescription drug commercials. With the drug spots, I understand why they must be so vague -- that way, they can avoid talking about side effects -- but I still have no idea what Plavix or Nexium is, even though I've seen their ads a million times.
Bizarre banner ads: You see these ads all over the Web, including on OnMilwaukee.com. They're the pitches for teeth whitening solutions, pyramid schemes, free credit reports and more ... I think. Usually, they're so strangely worded and have such bizarre imagery that there's no way I'd click on them. By the way, in case you're wondering why we show them occasionally, too, it's because they're remnant inventory -- unsold ad space that gets brokered out by a third party for pennies on the dollar. But even if they're cheap to run, I can't imagine that many people are roped in by close-up photos of yellow teeth or hula-hooping cartoon characters.
Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.
Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.
Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.