I saw a very intriguing ad in the latest issue of Fortune Small Business. It's on page 103 of the San Francisco regional edition of the magazine. It features a big old picture of the front porch of craigslist headquarters, 20 blocks from where I live in San Francisco. Here's the ad:
If you're having trouble reading it, don't feel too bad about that. Full size, in real life, everything starting with text under the picture is in type too tiny for most humans to read - except, curiously, for the logo in the lower right.
This ad got a couple things right, and oh-so-many things wrong.
It seems that the copywriter was starting out with an advertorial style profile ad.
The headline, "PEOPLE WHO MAKE GREAT COMPANIES WORK," sounds like we're going to learn something about great business leaders.
Fortune Small Business readers would be interested in that.
Then, a HUGE picture of the front porch, with a diminutive Craig Newmark, the founder of craigslist (and a commenter on this blog), sitting on the ledge with his laptop, wearing his patented inscrutable expression.
Five lines of copy, where they characterize craigslist as "irreverent, spicy, humorous and indespensably practical." They go on for two more sentences to lavish praise upon the business. Then, they quote Craig for three sentences talking about his philosophy of business.
And, what I suppose the ad agency (and the client who fronted beaucoup de bucks for the ad) consider the coup de grace:
Perkins Coie: Legal Counsel to great companies like craigslist.
I don't know about you, but I feel sort of let down. I thought I was going to get an insight into People Who Make Great Companies Work... and, at the crescendo of it all, the only thing I got was this lousy advertising slogan.
Here's what's good about the ad:
- At least it's not all about Perkins Coie. It's about one of their clients. A business person that many other businesss owners (including me) would like to emulate, at least in some ways.
- It definitely grabs attention.
- It has some moderately interesting copy that is at least a little relevant to the person reading the ad.
- The picture is, to a degree, congruent with the headline and the copy. (That's pretty rare in most print advertising. Think about it. Check it out. Beyond retail "sale" ads and direct-response pieces, most full-pagers are anybody's guess as to how one element relates to another.)
- There are a phone number and a Web site on the ad for the advertiser.
And here's what's not so good:
- The headline makes an implied promise that the ad will impart some wisdom, some keys to character, some strategic insights, some something of value about People Who Make Great Companies Work... and you get none of that, at the meat-and-potatoes level. You get a flavor of Craig's thinking, yes, but it's pretty poetic and philosophical. Which is fine, but disappointing compared to the expectation that was set up.
What is worse, poetry and philosophy are not what business readers are after.
- If the story (ad) is about "people," the picture of the person - Craig - should get more real estate on the page. The ad is 7" x 10" = 70 square inches. Craig's image takes up 1-1/2" x 2" = 3 square inches. That's only 4.3% of the ad. The headline focuses on people; the photo focuses on the porch and house. Disconnect. Causing dissonance. Leading to => the seeds of distrust.
- The copy underneath the picture is in 7 point type. For the target prospect who is likely to hire a big corporate law firm like Perkins and Coie - probably over 40 and likely with vision that needs correction - this almost requires a magnifying glass to read. There's no reason to make the type this small. 10 point at minimum. And serif fonts are much easier to read in print than a sans-serif like this ad uses.
- The copywriter didn't work hard enough to figure out or tease out -- and then spell out -- connection between a visionary like Craig / a world-changer like craigslist and the law firm that sponsored the ad. So if I'm shopping for a law firm and I fancy myself like Craig, I don't get the courtesy of being clued in on why this law firm is right for me. Which I would like to know before I call.
- And finally -- and this is why I have to issue a failing grade to this ad - no call to action! True, the phone number is there at the very bottom (almost as if it's embarrasing to list it - in 5 point type) and the Web site is mentioned in 4 point type.
In the publication industry, we call this "mouse type." Is there some esoteric in-joke about computers and mice and... I don't know.
The point here is there is no explicit invitation for the right prospect to make a call to find out if the firm is really a match for them.
So... lots of potential business slip-sliding away.
Hey: Click on the image and you'll see a larger version of the ad. If you have a very good computer monitor, you may actually be able to read it.
Take a look and let me know in the comments section below what you think of this ad.
Publisher, World Copywriting Newsletter