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Don’t bury your message

How often have you watched a TV commercial, laughed at it, but at the end you really couldn’t remember what it was advertising?

I would venture to guess that this happens far too often. Agencies or advertisers get caught up in the creative and lose sight of the message. Yes, the ads are entertaining and may even become part of our pop culture, but they aren’t very effective at selling.

Case in point: Old Spice Body Wash. Who hasn’t seen this wildly amusing ad starring the guy with the washboard abs? And this follow-up ad? We’ve all seen them but how many of us are buying the body wash? It seems not very many. According to this article on, sales of the body wash have actually fallen 7% this year. Is this because the ad actually distracts from the product or because of Old Spice’s “old timer” image and ability to conjure up images of your grandfather putting on his aftershave? We may never know, but either way, the commercial isn’t doing its job.

There are countless commercials that fall victim to the same offense. How about those creepy ads for Boost Mobile?  Would that ad really make you want to run out and get a phone from them? There are too many examples of “too clever for their own good” ads to count. How about the obscure ads for that appear in every Super Bowl? I think they just leave most people scratching their heads.

I’m not saying you can’t be clever. This spot for Bud Light is really funny, but I think you’re made very aware of the product it’s hawking, right from the start. This one works.

Go ahead and have some fun but please make sure your advertising delivers a clear message. That way you and your CFO will both be smiling at the next management meeting.

3 Responses to Don’t bury your message

  1. I agree with your concept of clearly getting the message in your ads, but the Old Spice commercials worked for me and caused me to go out an buy quite a bit more of their product than I wanted to. Reason why is that while I will always have the stigma of associating Old Spice with old man, the Old Spice product line has greatly improved over the years and their current advertising makes what should not be cool, somewhat cool.

  2. The prophet of Communication said it best with his notion of “The Medium is the Massage (Message”. Marshall McCluhan taught this very basic concept in COMM 101 – Don’t lose the message in the medium! 🙂 Thanks for the reminder!