I adore being a copywriter—getting to be creative, getting to write, getting to help companies connect with customers.
And I truly appreciate good advertising. Advertising that’s clever, provocative, or poignant; that’s honest, informative, and compelling. I love advertising that makes me laugh. I love advertising that makes me think.
But then, there’s the other kind of advertising. The kind I detest.
I'm not just talking about bad advertising—ads that are cluttered, or confusing, that use ugly fonts or horrible photography. I'm talking about ads that truly irk or even enrage me. These tend to fall into a handful of categories:
Unwelcome and annoying advertising. The only thing more irritating than a pop-up ad? An ad that starts playing unwelcome sound. Pop-up ads make me angry; noisy ads make me homicidal.
Creepy advertising. Let’s say I write about Silly Putty in an email to a friend. And then I suddenly get a Facebook ad for Silly Putty. That is some sneaky, spooky, skulking subterfuge right there. It makes me want to run away.
Wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing advertising. Advertising that poses as editorial content is a special kind of sleazy. (“Doctors Shocked by Amazing New Immortality Pill,” etc.) I appreciate whichever lawmaker it was who required such “advertorials” to disclose themselves as “special advertising sections.” Because it turns out that there are some gullible people out there. Believe it or not.
Mousetrap advertising. Sometimes I encounter a certain kind of article that I just know is a minefield of advertising traps. I have… to be very careful… about where I…. click, because what looks like a benign slider arrow… might actually be… ACK! Suddenly, I’m shuttled off to some huckster’s website, when all I wanted to do was look at photos of a young Elizabeth Taylor.
Price-of-entry advertising. I’ve seen some mighty cute clothing on the right side of my Facebook page, let me tell you. And back when I was naive, I’d wonder how much some alluring garment cost, and I’d blithely click on it to find out. NOT SO FAST, the retailer would say, demanding my email address before I could go any further. You know what I say to advertisers who do that? Goodbye.
Poseur advertising. I got a sponsored post the other day—I think it was on Facebook. “Dear Friends,” it began. “I’m Josh…” Guess what? If you have to tell me your name, we’re NOT FRIENDS. Whatever you’re selling, I don’t want it. Ever.
And don't even get me going on companies who send me long surveys every 45 minutes, ostensibly because they're so focused on serving my interests. If you cared about me, you would either leave me alone or pay me generously for my time.
Advertisers simply need to keep the Golden Rule in mind. Treat potential customers with respect and kindness. Ask yourself, "Would I like it if an advertiser did this to me? If the answer is "no," then don't do it. Please.