Thursday, July 30, 2009

Lifeless Snoozers

I’m about to do Korean Air (and other major international companies) a grave injustice – I guess. But the example ad above, featuring KA’s “reclining Kosmo Sleeper,” is ink-on-paper proof that The Economist has the most boring ads of any major weekly magazine on the planet Earth. They’re mostly tedious. They’re dreary, lifeless snoozers.

Please leave aside, for the moment, whether the entire Korean Air ad campaign, with TV spots created by director Michael Buckley, is good or bad. (This particular print ad has been called “Stunning” and “Absolutely brilliant.” Blog-posters say they love flying the airline.)

No, what I’m after is why The Economist, a massively important and very well-written news magazine, has such generally uninspiring advertising, week after week.

Well, I guess I know why, but I sort of forgot, and then the magazine itself reminded me. A recent article, “Heated arguments,” pointed out that attack ads are on the rise – in America. But, oh dear, the rest of the world still doesn’t like them: “Attack ads tend to go down badly in Europe and Asia.” And, “Some governments even ban them.”

The article really isn’t news, it’s observation. I learned about Europe’s unease with provocatively combative adverts at the knees of my Dialogue International colleagues.

So there are like these…rules…for ad campaigns that will run internationally. Outside-the-US Rule 1, no English-language puns – non-native speakers often don’t get the jokes and they can hardly ever be translated into other languages anyway.

Rule 2: Make only claims that can be proven in court – and if in doubt, don’t make them at all. So paging through, say, The Economist, you’ll see terribly boring ads for SAP or Royal Bank of Canada. (There’s often fancy watch ads on the back covers, though.)

“Stop the reader” is my Rule 1. I call The Economist ad slate boring because I don’t think the ads bring readers to a screeching halt. This doesn’t have to be done with funny headlines or provocative pronouncements . Use a dramatic photo once in a while. (What are you people paying your ad agencies for, anyway? Sleep-aid adverts?)

Wake up. Get a life. And only read The Economist for the articles.


Richard Laurence Baron said...

BTW, I know that my Dialogue colleagues across Europe are completely guiltless in regards to this post.

I don't personally work for any of the clients whom I am accusing. If they would like to improve their ad campaigns, I will be glad to consult with them.

Ta for Thursday...

Philippe Holtzweiler said...

Hi Richard, it looks like they are rolling out the campaign worldwide: I've just spotted the first ad this morning in Stern, one of the two leading German weekly news magazines with a paid circulation of 1.2 million copies (the other being Der Spiegel). So they really mean it!