Tue | May 31, 2016

It just doesn't ad up

Published:Wednesday | January 30, 2013 | 12:00 AM

André Wright, Opinion Editor

No, the headline doesn't have a spelling error, so vacuum in as much Ventolin as you'll need from your asthma pump or self-medicate with an over-the-counter sedative called 'Calm the Hell Down'.

Headlines are odd little things. Page designers are indoctrinated that brainstorming for the perfect headline will reap rich rewards. Headlines will magically woo eager eyes from that traffic light that seems stuck on red or that hottie's derrière dancing to a beat that keeps pace with your racing pulse.

The subeditor is supposed to rustle up a teaser that can be seen by a man on a galloping horse (or in an X5) while condensing the ethos of a story so long and intricate that it educates the man from Mars. Talk about Mission Impossible.

Simply put, headliners are supposed to be great advertisers. And Gleaner readers aren't hesitant to scold us when we come up short.


I've done a bit of advertising myself. It generally involved my mom's red Suzuki Swift that made me feel, as a typical testosterone-tipsy teenager, that my manhood increased with each rev of the engine. My first ad gig involved showing my former driving instructor just how good a job he'd done transforming me from a learner lunatic to a fully certified lunatic.

Brother Burrowes was dutifully instructing a female learner along Molynes Road when I, his proud graduate, drove up alongside his car and stupidly started to wave for attention, with the noble intent of him probably saying to her, "A me teach dat bwoy, y'know."

Suddenly, an oncoming vehicle emerged from the Queensborough Gully horizon, and 'proud graduate' veered towards his rabbi's car, clipping the side. Instead of beaming with pride, I suspect Brother Burrowes told his frightened student, "I wonder which eediot teach dat bwoy fi drive."

Also as an idiot teenager, I advertised for Hot Hunk in Hot Wheels when I picked up a church girl I was dying to impress. And I really nearly died impressing her. Letting the engine rip for 40 metres from pickup to drop-off on a wet Mannings Hill Road, I skidded and almost cannoned into the church gate to the tune of Nearer My God to Thee.

The product may have been good, but my advertising was terrible. And that's exactly the fate of many advertisements on Jamaican TV. Day in and day out, TV audiences have been treated to a menu of half-baked, cliché ads that make you wonder if creativity went out with Tyrannosaurus rex.

Too many of our ad executives get high fives and backslapping 'big-ups' for recycling worn gift wrap from the 1980s and '90s to market products and services of the 21st century. The knee-jerk surrender to 30 seconds of dancing girls, corny singalongs, and bad acting must end.

News flash! You actually don't have to repeat the name of your client 10 times in half a minute for viewers to remember it. If you do, trust me: the ad is a dud. It didn't hit the head or heart and won't have an explosive marketing impact. Call in the rewrite rescue team!

Yeah, yeah, I know your response: Jamaican audiences aren't 'sophisticated' enough to understand nuance and innuendo. But that's a cheap shot and a cop-out.


The real rub is that some advertisers, especially for television, are too conservative and straitjacketed. In a world of competitive marketing, safe advertising won't achieve the wow effect that will make a product, and the ad itself, a talking point at water coolers, bus stops and during girls' nights out. If the ad doesn't appeal to viewers, it won't have the snake-charmer effect of inducing a shopper to pull out that debit card and swipe like there's no tomorrow.

It's amazing that with such exposure to United States television ads, and the appetite to imitate all things American, sections of our ad industry seem, unfortunately, fully immunised against catching the Great North's flu.

It's not about how many words you can squeeze into an ad. Sometimes a dramatic pause, or random analogy that doesn't directly relate to a product, can speak loudest to consumers.

Bottom line: If out-of-touch ad professionals don't stop acting like loony Suzuki-driving teenagers, they run the risk of turning ads into minuses.

Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.