Bland, banal and boring best describes most print ads

I was skimming yesterday’s Wall Street Journal and was just about to put it down when I spied a half-page photo of a woman standing on a street corner. I decided to try and figure out what the ad was about without reading the text.

The woman is looking straight ahead, and is flanked by men walking away from her in opposite directions. She’s in front of a building, sports a conservative pants suit and has a Mona Lisa-like smile creasing her face.

So, what was the ad for? A new line of women’s business attire? A cell phone company? A promotionDoubletree_ad_1   for some upcoming walk for the cure of some disease? An incredibly subtle pitch for the DaVinci Code movie?

It was impossible to tell, so I decided to read the headline: "Work. Dream. We’ll leave that up to you. But, as far as taking care of you goes, you can leave that up to us."

Hmmmm. Was this a subtle move by Sanofi-Aventis to promote its beleaguered Ambien product? Maybe a mattress maker promoting its product? A sleep clinic?

Finally I saw the tiny Doubletree Hotel logo at the bottom of the ad. Ah ha. Then, finally, I realized that the woman in question was flanked by two carefully trimmed trees…..the Doubletree logo. Talk about subliminal advertising.

Print advertising rarely gets my interest or attention anymore. There simply isn’t any time on my part or, in my opinion, credibility on the marketer’s part. How much smarter might Doubletree have been to follow JetBlue’s lead and enact a viral, word-of-mouth campaign aimed at sharing customers’ favorite hotel experiences? It would dramatically heighten awareness, credibility and trust since prospects would be reading real-world stories from real-world business travelers.

Oh well, until then, Doubletree will have to count on people like me to "double back" and re-read their ads in order to figure them out. How that then translates to a buying decision, though, is beyond me.

37 thoughts on “Bland, banal and boring best describes most print ads

  1. One of the things I noticed about this blog is the fact that as soon as anyone brings up a counter-point to the repman, all of the little worker bees come buzzing in and attack the poster, ask for their real name, say it must be all the same person etc., but the fact is that no one ever responds to the points made. Instead of trying to figure out who they are, knock their profession, etc., why don’t you try debating the points made.

  2. lunch, i guess you think that raindog is also part of this conspiracy b/c he hasn’t posted in a few hours either. its great to dismiss alternate opinions as “must be all the same person” to make yourself feel good, but as raindog said, this is the blogsphere. there are many valid opinions out there and while pcom employees must feel obligated to agree with their boss, the rest of us don’t feel the same obligation.

  3. You make a good point, Lunchy. the other rep guy and myself spoke for about an hour before and were not going to post again on this subject, but being there were specific questions directed towards us, i decided to answer them and i guess rep 2 did as well.

  4. Funny that Another Repman and MSE start posting again at the same time.
    Sorry about making a joke about DT’s lunches, I hope that wasn’t considered foul play.

  5. Danny, have you bothered to look at a majority of blogger’s email addresses (on this and other blogs) to see how many actually provide a true address. I obviously won’t post my work address and don’t want spam coming to my yahoo address.

  6. Steve- what comments of mine today would you classify as “non sensical and abusive” exactly? If any of them are (and I am pretty sure there are none) then I apologize.
    In terms of the finders fee, I will send you 10% of all revenue generated from the blog..sound fair?

  7. Another Repman: I just sent an e-mail to your address ( and it bounced back as undeliverable. Interesting that you say you have an award winning firm, but your e-mail is a phony yahoo address.

  8. I-man: There are plenty of blogs that have prompted thoughtful discussion minus your involvement. Sadly, you seem driven to post such nonsensical and abusive comments that it prompts others to follow suit. Also, thanks for using this space to promote your own forthcoming blog. You owe me a finder’s fee for that manuever.

  9. I just got back from a meeting where I was actually working and read through all of this dribble. It’s sad when a good topic gets overshadowed by a bunch of personal attacks and sophomoric posts, including the ridiculous fake e-mail addresses that these people (or person, as I suspect), are using to post.
    Ah, but such is life in the blogosphere and I guess that’s what makes the medium so enticing. It’s truly a place where everyone has an equal voice no matter how bland or immature their thought process may be.
    So, Raindog, Another Repman, etc., whoever you are and whatever you do, be proud of your comments and reveal yourself. After all, this is a blog about reputation management so it would be good to put a name to the reputation!

  10. briza- i am not a hired gun, but maybe i should be. after all, the only blogs with comments are the ones in which this needle hawker gets involved…

  11. Lunch Guy- we actually agree, I like the ad as well. in terms of the blog, i think it will be quite interesting. this guy’s firm is very well known and we are going to model our blog after mike & mike in the morning. it will be funny, informative, and of course balanced. by the way, just b/c i now “hawk needles” as you put it, doesn’t mean my pr experience is gone. im sure that the rep original will vouch for the fact that i was a pretty good media guy during my time served at peppercom.

  12. Hmmm, got quiet all of a sudden.
    I don’t see any synergies between a former PR guy who now hawks needles and a current PR guy who claims to have won many awards. Can’t wait to see your blog. Please keep me informed.
    And for what it is worth, I like the Double Tree ad, and they serve some fabulous lunches there.

  13. Very interesting that the other repman will not identify his firm. Seems he would be proud.

  14. I love the way Another Repman provided some good insight and an alternate point of view, but was immediately set upon by what seems to be a group of extremely insecure and thin-skinned P’com employees who chose to circle the wagons. Why?
    Blogging’s a tough business. Get used to it.

  15. I guess this guy wants us all to guess. Maybe he doesn’t have a solid rep himself? Just wondering…

  16. I’m not sure to be honest. I suppose I could look into it but why don’t you just tell us?

  17. I am getting a real kick out of this. For once, a current pr person can go toe-to-toe on the issues and have a leg to stand on. If you like the new repman’s ideas, you are going to love our blog debuting next week..we will send you all the link when we launch!

  18. Carl- it can’t be that hard, can it. After all, how many firms took home more awards this year?

  19. In the words of Howie Mandel- No Deal. While your firm did pretty well at the awards dinners this past year, ours actually did a bit better. So I think we are in good shape on the latest trends and issues as you put it. We try and promote the merit of our work and PR and embrace our brothers and sisters in advertising- a trend you should look into.

  20. Thank you “other repman” for your comments. Would you be willing to quote me an industry “insider fee” for your crisis services? As for advertising, I’m afraid you guys are wrong. Word-of-mouth, digital initiatives and public relations are the way to go in this new, disintermediated world in which we live. I’m not saying advertising is wrong or bad. It just isn’t as powerful or effective as it once was. Tell you what: we’ll do a barter deal. You provide crisis counseling to us and we’ll bring your firm up to speed on the latest communications trends and issues. Deal?

  21. If you want to start a blog with me, I am ready anytime. How can I contact you to get this started?

  22. Thanks! Another man in the rep industry gives props to the gauze guy. Maybe I should make a comeback to the rep industry and start my own blog. Seems like any blog that has commentary from the Gauze Guy draws attention and action, although I can’t take full credit for today’s action b/c I was out hawking band-aids this morning so others got to this one first.

  23. Steven, a while back you wrote a comment about a word to wise being sufficent. So here goes my word to you:
    Like you, I am in the communications industry and believe in the value of PR. However, your posts about advertising are a poor move on your part for so many reasons, with the chief one being that they are way off. Today’s post was a prime example and thus caused me to post a comment. Posters like Ted, Med Exec and Stacy are dead-on and are doing a number on your reputation as a marketer. So my word to you is to quit while you are behind on the advertising posts before you need to hire my firm to do damage control on your rep.

  24. More advertising and PR firms have adopted the “puppy mill” approach to serving their clients. This ad could work for an insurance company, drug manufacturer, real estate firm- most any industry. And just like the pups who catch your eye in the pet store but quickly show signs of their inbreeding and pass away quickly, this ad is doomed.

  25. Ted-
    Exactly the point I have been making all along in my posts. The repguy clearly either has it out for “his daddy” i.e- the advertising world, or he simply doesn’t understand anything about marketing. He constantly takes jabs at advertising and makes comments like “How that then translates to a buying decision, though, is beyond me.” But if one of his PR teams scores an obscure quote for a client in the WSJ, the teams are high-fiving and ass-slapping one another. Sure, that quote from Joe Putz and X Corp saying “it’s a rough world out there, but we are working on solutions” is really going to translate into a buying decision. Come on rep, I think its time you go back to take some marketing courses and truly understand that big picture.

  26. On the contrary, Ted, I made a point of saying I don’t look at the print ads, but had extra time that particular day. The ad was so obtuse it took many minutes to figure it out. That’s why it, and many other print ads fail today. Because no one has the time to read them. As for my failing marketing 101, perhaps. But, I think you failed common courtesy 101.

  27. To add to Ted’s point, I think this ad is doing what you’ve been telling advertisers to do: Something different. This photo is actually quite nice–many firms are using more unconvential photographers and artists to create images that are appealing to the public (perhaps in a different way). While the ad’s intent may not be overtly evident, as Ted said, it did make you stop and look.

  28. I have a tough time figuring out from your post whether you are sarcastic, uninformed, or simply don’t understand the most basic principles of marketing. The ad did EXACTLY what it was supposed to- it captured your attention, it got you interested, made you spend time looking at it, and even better, now has you promoting it on a widely read blog. I bet you wish that other popular blogs were promoting your work. Talk about a bitter person and someone who has to attack another industry to try and make himself feel good- you must have skipped marketing 101 and instead taken Sulking 101.