good ads, bad ads and the struggle for the soul of advertising

Please come have a look at my latest piece at the Harvard Business Review blog in which I compare this ad to an ad of such deep and enduring stupidity I dare not clip it.  

Please leave comments!  

Hats off to BBDO Atlanta for their brilliant work.

7 thoughts on “good ads, bad ads and the struggle for the soul of advertising

  1. Bram

    Seen those AT&T ads plenty and, while you have some good points, two things trouble me:
    – in the diner spot, the guy’s obnoxious enough to be talking on his phone and ignoring his waitress
    – in the office spot, it’s just the old standby Incompetent Male character

  2. grant mccracken

    Bram, great objections, both of them. The first one is I think forgivable, especially because the guy is so “that’s money in my pocket,” “Kenny, the restaurant’s on fire” likeable. And yes, we have seen enough of the incompetent male. This guy does it so beautifully (“I’ll call you when I’m on the way. I’m ON the way”) that again its forgivable. I mean, how did they get that moment. It’s so true to life and impossible to see in the strategy or creative brief. But worthy points, to be sure. Best, Grant

    1. Bram

      And maybe that’s why they irk me — ’cause I had thought about this before your post — is that the performances and dialog are so good.

  3. srp

    My problem with the AT&T ads is that I had no idea they were for AT&T. I watched them a few times and enjoyed them, but I couldn’t for the life of me told you which firm was responsible or why their product was different from all the others in the telecom sea. Verdict: Bad and ineffective ad. Need to be more comparative, stress the U in USP, and realize that our memory capacity is limited.

    I’ve never seen the Claritin ad, so no opinion there.

    1. grant mccracken

      Steve, this is the single biggest problem with contemporary advertising, there is an inclination to “go for the funny” whether or not this actually creates meanings for the brand. In the case of the ATT ads, it feels as if “funny” humanizes the brand, so some foundational meaning is created. If this is all the agency does, well, that’s not enough. But as I say,in my opinion, its something. Thanks. Best, Grant

      1. Bram

        Way I understand the ads is that AT&T allows you to talk and go on the Web simultaneously on your smartphone. Not being a smartphone user, I have no idea if this is a big deal or not, if it’s truly a USP.

        The diner one, I think, is better because you’re following both the conversation and Web search for the answer; in the office, the guy is just doing … something online.

        But if that message isn’t getting through, then it’s clear these aren’t good ads, no matter how entertaining.

        1. grant mccracken

          Bram, my feeling is that an ad has to do more than sell the USP. It’s got to make meanings for the brand. It’s got to engage in the transmission of information and meaning. IMHO. Best, Grant

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