Situated inconspicuously amongst fellow advertising panels, near the ceiling of a transit bus, this ad for Lifestyles condoms was trying very hard to get noticed. Through the help of its garishly-dressed model, the ad manages to grab your eye, but it’s unlikely that Lifestyles will be grabbing any new customers.
What’s going on this ad? We see two big problems.
1. The wrong visuals were chosen to support the concept.
Let’s say you and a friend are gossiping about other friends that annoy you. You might say something like, “Too bad you can’t put people on your ‘blocked list’ in real life.” You’ve just referred to a function that exists digitally (in Instant Messaging), but not in real life. A relatively clever metaphor that might garner a few chuckles.
This ad is trying to do a similar thing by referring to an undo button. In the context of the ad, however, the visual expression of the “big blue undo button” doesn’t work…because big blue undo buttons don’t exist, even in computer land. Here is what the average computer user would expect an undo button to look like:
Okay, so maybe those images above aren’t exactly “iconic” looking. But we’re thinking that there’s got to be a smarter way to represent an “undo” function besides slapping a big ol’ blue button on top of a blank white background.
2. The photograph communicates the wrong message.
The man in this ad has been cast as “The Fool.” He is the joker, the guy making the bad decision to not wear a condom, and we, the audience, are meant to avoid being like him. The message is a clear enough, but there’s a small problem: the fellow pictured here is so blatantly out-to-lunch that any self-respecting viewer immediately knows he or she is in absolutely no danger of becoming like him, whether by accident or aspiration.
“I’ll never come close to making the same kind of mistakes as this dolt,” the viewer thinks. “He wears floral shirts, tacky blazers, has awful facial hair, makes devil-horn signs with his hands, and for some reason, thinks there’s such a thing as a big blue undo button.”
This type of extreme is very alienating: since the character seems so shady, tacky and unpredictable, the audience does not even want to entertain the idea that they might be alike. Because of this, the viewer has no reason to see what the character was supposed to have done right in the first place: buy Lifestyles condoms.
If you aspire to work in the design profession, make sure that in every piece you touch, you do everything in your power to choose the right visuals. Sometimes, the wrong photograph or illustrative element can ruin what might have been a great idea.