Friday, September 5, 2008

Believe In Something Much, Much Better Than This Crappy Ad

Does anyone else find the U.S. Cellular billboards to be creepy?

I'm referring to the ubiquitous (in Chicago, at least) billboards featuring a little girl peeping out of a carboard box, with the slogan, "Believe in something better."I do have a degree in advertising, but that's a lifetime of not being in the advertising industry ago, and I'm not writing this from the perspective of an advertising expert. I'm writing this from the perspective of a prospective customer who, instead of being attracted by the ads, is creeped out, confused, and irritated.

I can't really put my finger on why this image disturbs me. The little girl has messy hair, and she's hiding in a box. She might be there because she's having fun...but the expression on her face is more like, "I wonder if the scary man saw me crawl in here?"

And what's with the shanty-town box? Is she believing that someday she won't have to live in a box under the overpass with her drug-addict mom? I'm just sayin'.

I'm also confused by the emphasis on the word something. Why is that word emphasized, as opposed to the more logical choice, better? Even believe would make more sense. But when the design emphasizes the word "something," it sounds like a desperate plea for something, anything, to be better in this miserable world of pain. "Believe in something better," even if it's only a bigger cardboard box, or a better location under the el tracks, where the wind doesn't bite so much in the winter, and there's a little protection from the elements.

It just sounds kind of desperate, you know?

This ad irritates me, probably mostly because I'm peri-menopausal, and pretty much everything irritates me. But also because it doesn't say anything, and it does not even make any sense; and I do not want advertisers cluttering up my skyline with useless, meaningless slogans. "Believe in something better" begs the question: what the H-E-double-hockey-sticks am I supposed to believe in?

It sounds almost spiritual--but for crying out loud. We're talking about wireless service, people. Let's lose the pretentious, and get real, 'kay?

Maybe it's just me, but these ads suck.

What do you think?


The Little League Coach said...

As a former advertising consultant, I agree. There is nothing to that ad that says phones. Even on a second level such as a stranded girl that needed to call someone.

It is a creepy looking picture, not one that makes you want to buy, it's one that makes you want to leave.

My sister is buying a house down here in Florida and we went in a house that had the same effect, it was just creepy. Nice neighborhood, $250K house, but creepy for some reason. She couldn't even stay in the house, had to get out. Said the house gave her a "bad vibe".

This ad is similar. Typical overthinking in my mind. Everyone wants to be the next advertising superstar!

Anonymous said...

I'm with you. I didn't even see that it was for cellular service until I read your post. Looks like a political ad. Or one of those save the poor kids in Guatemala things. No US Cellular here so hadn't seen that.

E. Peevie said...

Coach, I gotta wonder if it's overthinking or underthinking. Don't companies do field tests of campaigns before launching them? I find it hard to believe that this one would have been universally well-received.

Unless maybe the focus group consisted of homeless people and pedophiles.

Rick from St. Louis said...

i'm just a random dude who found your blog on google and this is a great analysis! I was wondering if anyone else thought that. I just told my wife, after seeing one of their dramatic commercials: "I feel like if i use US Cellular i'm only going to have somber conversations with a relative who is in the early stages of cancer."

Thanks for the great read!

E. Peevie said...

Random dude, Thanks for the comment. Props from random dudes are always appreciated.

Oh, and HA! "somber conversations with a relative in the early stages of cancer"==exactly! The ads evoke dreariness--exactly the opposite (I'm guessing) of what they're trying to evoke.

But what do I know. U.S.Cellular obviously did not consult me. Their loss.