What the heck is happening to transit advertising? I used to be able to kill a ten-minute subway ride by reading the ads. They were never particularly good, but they amused.
Lately, I have to fend off the “experiential” marketers and their 20 second facials. Or bypass the freshly-wrapped turnstiles, ticket booths and slow- moving transit employees promoting ketchup-flavoured chewing gum. But once in the subway it’s an advertising wasteland featuring questionable medical schools, government reminders to wash my hands and kind offers to help me lose weight while I eat cheese in front of the TV. B2B marketers know to steer their meagre budgets well clear of transit, don’t they?
Uh oh. Forgot about commuter trains. At least on commuter trains you have a pretty good chance of landing in front of a bored P-Cuber, G-Spotter, or F-Worder. Here are two ads, presumably targeting these folks, and guess what? The space cost just the same for each of them:
This is a good ad. It targets managers or IT people in medium-sized companies who are afraid (aren’t we all) of the day the Muppets finally turn on us and attack our server arrays. They’re aiming for a movie poster look and don’t quite get there but they manage to achieve a lot. The headline is: The World Can be Unpredictable and it’s nicely placed by the angry monster.
The subhead pops up in just the right spot and proposes the resolution as we travel downward to see our confident Productivity Prevention Engineer heading out for lunch. (If you click the image, you can see more).
It’s visually arresting and, trust me, there isn’t a lot else on that train car to look at. The strong visuals convey a pretty clear value proposition, even if you’re two rows back watching the guy across from you drool in his sleep.
The copy manages to stay away from cute and delivers the benefits statement in just a few words, which basically say that locusts and stupid people can mess with your systems and this company can help you mop up the mess and stop it from happening.
Here’s where I think they hit a home run. In the call to action we have our toll-free number and email and, interestingly, no URL. But the QR code, which has become my personal symbol for disappointing wastes of time, actually tells you what you are getting if you click. The copy tells you that you’ll see an interview with a customer talking about their high-availability solution. And it does. And it’s great.
What we’ve learned: Put a description beside your QR code to drive clicks.
Then there’s this ad:
Like the monsters it’s visually arresting. Who doesn’t want to be that guy flying across a beautiful ocean on his sailboard? I’ll bet everyone who looks at that ad knows deep down that dudes like that don’t ride trains like this. Imagine the Possibilities, the headline reads. Okay, okay, I’m imagining the heck out of the possibilities at 7:15am. Wait, the possibilities of what?
Oh, I see the possibilities of a rewarding career. As a windsurfer? Is that even a job?
I have to call to find out, apparently. And who’s John? Is he the windsurfer? He’s not. John is a sales guy at Freedom55 Financial. John wants you to open a Freedom55 office near you. Or, failing that, he just wants you to give him all your money to invest so one of you can go windsurfing (it’s not clear which). Dude, you could have said so in the ad. Or at least buried it in some mouse text at the bottom. Guess how inclined I am to call you now, John?
But even before a bored commuter indulges their diminished expectations by clicking the code thingy, this ad fails. There is no connection between the image and the product. There’s no connection between this ad and the product. There is some naïve creative thought that, on the strength of a compelling image and copy that echoes the Success Without College matchbook covers of my ill-spent youth, that a reader will take action.
What we’ve learned: Don’t do this.
I hope John didn’t pay too much for that campaign and shame on the agency who gave him that atrocious creative. They’re probably at the beach right now waiting for a decent onshore breeze.
Bizmarketer is Elizabeth Williams
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