Back when I was in advertising, one of my team’s clients was a well-known Irish Airline. They could only afford an 1/8th-page ad in the travel section of the paper. But my partners and I didn’t think creativity was dependent on budget. We were determined to deliver great ads for them—ads that would make a viewer look, even though the ad was tiny and was surrounded by other ads.
So we created a standout campaign for them—the kind that would not simply be noticed, but would also make travel-focused consumers smile and encourage them to buy tickets.
We blew up our tiny layouts and mounted the enlargements on illustration board, for an impactful creative presentation when we met to show the client the work.
The great day came. The work was good, and we had rehearsed our presentation to perfection. We booked the conference room, had the client’s favorite snacks and beverages spread out when they arrived, and sold our little hearts out as we presented.
The lead client blinked, cleared his throat, and finally said, in a thick Irish brogue:
“I’m afraid it’s far too clever for our needs. It calls too much attention to itself on the page,” he explained—as if getting a distracted newspaper reader to notice his company’s message was a bad thing.
The lead client asked us to set “Ireland $399” in bold type, stick a shamrock in one of the 9s, and call it a day.
Fear of getting noticed is a terrible thing. It’s also a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Clickbait headlines get a deservedly bad rap in digital marketing, but you know what else should get a bad rap? Blind, boring, infinitely ignorable links and titles, that’s what.
Crafting messages that get noticed and acted upon by their intended audience—the people for whom you create your company’s digital products in the first place—isn’t a crime. It’s your job.
Hat tip to Mark Mazut and Tim Irwin, my fellow passengers on the above disaster. Bit o’ nostalgia for those who remember The Ad Graveyard.