Bad Print Ads and Ways to Improve Them
Bad print ads are everywhere. From magazines and billboards, to EDDM postcards and posters, we’ve all seen print ads that cross the boundaries of good taste and design. As a printing company, we’ve seen things you wouldn’t believe.
Don’t think that only inexperienced businesses make bad print ads either. Creating them can and will happen even to the best of us. Even top ad agencies have occasionally been remiss, delivering print advertisements that don’t seem to account for the audience or the restrictions of the medium. It’s easy enough for any one person to have the wrong idea. It’s hard to believe though. that many of the bad print advertisements below had to be approved by more than one person.
This collection of bad print ads isn’t just so we can have a laugh or feel good about ourselves. Seeing how others failed provides us with an opportunity to see how we can improve our own work.
1.) Tito Meyer, attorney-at-law Billboard
Let’s start with something subtle. This billboard ad actually does kind of work. Where it does fall flat is the execution. The font and color choices could use some work, and the text alignment is off. If the only change they made was to set the middle text for right align, this ad would be much improved. In all honesty, this could very well be a business card instead of a billboard. But they might be better off going with a totally different idea to begin with.
2.) Giga Naturally Brochure
Lots of things going on in this brochure. Most of it is acceptable to the normal viewer. The vines in the background are the worst offender though, making the text difficult to read. By having the text obscured, it makes the act of enjoying a brochure that much more infuriating since it can’t be enjoyed at a more entertaining level. A more thoughtful layout would have allowed them to retain the vine detail if they wished and still have a readable brochure.
3.) Minnesota Office of Ombudsman for Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Brochure
Yes, the header image could be improved, the fonts could be less basic, and the picture could look less like a regular stock photo. But the biggest error here is the highlighted hyperlinks, which you wouldn’t really be able to click on a printed brochure. Create something that leaps off the page and attracts customers and use text that looks nicer than the basic fonts but aren’t intrusive that damages readability.
4.) Bad Boy Buggies Postcard
There’s a lot going on in this EDDM postcard. You can tell there was at least some effort to make the buggies and the text stand out, but ultimately there’s no balance, no dynamics and no compelling reason to read through this. The background is just a collage of white flower details over a standard field background. A better way to create this type of ad is to de-clutter the background and keep it simple. Keep the images on the postcard less to avoid more clutter. Keep the text in one area of the postcard and have it be aligned to one side to avoid scattering texts.
5.) Carpet-RX of Louisville Postcard
Source: Carpet RX Louisville (Closed)
This company has thankfully rebranded since they put out this EDDM postcard. Nearly everything about this postcard is wrong, from images, to the clutter, to the the almost painful text color combinations. A simpler design would’ve helped but the overall postcard would’ve needed a lot more work done to get it ready to send out.
6.) 1st Bank Flyer
Source: Bad Ad Weekly
Like we said earlier, bigger businesses are also guilty of producing bad print ads.This example isn’t necessarily bad per se, but it seems to try a bit too hard to be clever. The tagline “worry less about your mortgage and more about your free time” was potentially powerful, but it’s pitifully underplayed. At times like this, keeping the message simple and concise would have worked better. Would you even bother reading the entire ad?
7.) Unknown Booze Delivery Service Business Card
Source: College Humor
We’re not really judges of what’s funny or not funny. But given how sensitive a topic substance abuse is, there might be a better way to do this. Besides that, this business card doesn’t say anything about what they do. Is this service something to help combat substance abuse or is this service an enabler of said abuse? The inconsistent message and the very basic design is laughable and if that was their intent, it worked. But if their intentions were serious, more care would be needed to make whatever message they wanted come across better.
8.) Coca-Cola Ad?
Source: Bad Ad Weekly
It’s clever. But then again, it’s still a bad print ad. It does not really reach into what makes Coca-cola special. It seems more like an ad pitch than it does an actual advertisement. Nothing in this ad directly references it’s product and would just as well be an ad for any other product. Being too vague can still cause problems when trying to advertise your product.
9.) JCPenney Billboard
It’s not clear if this was intentionally a visual in-joke alluding to a well-known dictator, but it always helps to have a pair of fresh eyes go over your work before printing. It might very well save you from having to explain something like the ad above.
10.) Marriott Hotel Sign
Occasionally there’s nothing technically wrong with a bad print ad. But sometimes the entire premise of a promotion has to be dismissed. It’s doubtful any marketing department or ad agency could have saved such a disastrous idea.
11.) Azure Urban Resort Residences Ad
Source: Azure Urban Resorts Facebook
The tagline might be racy, but conceptually it’s fine. However you could probably get rid of Paris Hilton and about 90% of the text and you’d have an ad that is not only stronger and makes more sense, but more aesthetically pleasing as well. No offense to Paris and Paris fans intended.
12.) Reebok Flyer
Source: Business Insider
The Reebok rebrand a couple of years back really threw off a lot of its older brand advocates. It seemed that it wanted to be more than just another sports brand, to one that really takes “fitness” seriously. Unfortunately, they seemed to have implied that unrestrained egotism really is at the core of the fitness movement. Being a fit jerk isn’t something most people want to be. Don’t alienate your core demographic by trying to be “edgy” or “hip.”
13.) Saucony Ad
Source: Runner’s Web
This is much more acceptable in my opinion than the Reebok ad, but I suspect it followed an earlier trend set by Apple’s grammatically incorrect “Think Different” and the US Army’s “Army Strong”. But “Find Your Strong” sounds neither colloquial nor snappy, making this particular bad print ad less than it could have been. A better slogan would something like “Inner Strength” as it comes off the idea of having the best motivation from your product leads to discovering your inner strength.
14.) Seven Clans Casinos Ad
What does the image in the middle even contribute to this bad print ad? Seven Clans Casino’s ad is much more comparable to the less great small business print ads. The font, outdated looking gradients, and low quality images contribute to a forgettable ad that’s hard to like. This is why you should always try to locate high quality images to use so that they aren’t damaging to your product.
15.) Chase & Sanborn Coffee Postcard
This overtly sexist ad hearkens back to a less enlightened era, where men could openly treat women like objects. Fortunately we live in better times, right?
What makes a bad print ad?
In nearly all the examples, it seems that there was little or no regard for the people who might actually see the ads. They wasted the reader’s time, offered no excitement, lacked believability, or were simply in bad taste. That is supposing they were attractive enough to catch attention in the first place. Even the ads that attracted attention often offered a poor call-to-action. Some ads seem to have been made to impress other advertisers rather than get customers. At that point, the advertisement has lost its purpose and the company should swiftly move on to another, more meaningful ad.
These and other ads like them demonstrate two things:
⦁ Even the biggest players in the advertising game can get it wrong.
⦁ Technical aptitude is no substitute for understanding your customers.