Three new videos from the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) seek to inform consumers to the use, value and control of banner ads. There is good intent behind these spots: Consumers should have the value of behavior-based ads demonstrated, and they should be alerted that there are ways to control the ads they are shown.
Unfortunately the script, sound effects and visuals combine to create three of the most unwatchable ads ever produced. The ads, which were generated for the DAA (a coalition of several advertising groups, including the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the Direct Marketing Association, the Interactive Bureau and a handful of others) were produced pro bono by MRM Salt Lake City. They’re almost worth the price.
The spots use retro ’50s style art and graphics, which serve only to draw attention to the images and away from the message. The scripts go for stunningly unfunny wacky humor, and in the process overshadow the messages the ads are trying to convey. The text graphics pop, pulse, spin and otherwise manage the neat trick of distracting from themselves.
And at between 90 seconds and two-plus minutes, the ads go on way too long, especially in their self-indulgence.
Take the “Meet the Adchoices Icon” ad. The creators clearly have studied their Troy McClure (a hack actor character from The Simpsons voiced by the late Phil Hartman). The voice-over work is clearly an homage to McClure, except without the irony or the writing talent behind it.
Notice that 30 seconds in, a viewer has absolutely no idea what the icon is for, or what is expected in the way of consumer behavior. Next, try watching the ad with the sound turned off: Visually, the message is absolutely incoherent. With the sound on, the graphics whip by too fast to allow a viewer to synch the images with the verbiage.
All this leads to a 90-second spot which leaves the viewer with a sense of confusion.
Then there’s the “What is Interest-Based Advertising” video. This ad starts off with a lurching, flashing set of words which trigger a flight response: This ad does not want to be watched.
Persevere, however, and the reward is… not much. The phrase “A KILLER VEGGIE BURRITO” is what passes for humor, and the creators are so in love with this that it is repeated twice, at both the beginning and end of the spot.
There is an attempt to convey some information about interest-based advertising (which might be more familiar to the advertising community as “behaviorally targeted” ads, although that phrase has come under a cloud of late), but it is lost amid the “Look, Ma, I’m a voice-over actor”-style narration.
See for yourself:
Finally, there’s the “Your Ad Choices And You” spot, which is the best of the three in terms of offering useful information. It’s also the longest of the three, clocking in at two minutes, including a truly bizarre 15-second diversion at the one-minute mark designed to leave viewers utterly confused. (It’s supposed to be funny. It ain’t.)
It does make the point – early on – that online ads supply the revenue that allows for much-loved freebies such as email accounts and customized news and photo-sharing sites. And it does offer a quick lesson on how to use the icon to access ad controls.
But this useful information takes an awful lot of digging and work to get to.
All of the ads could have used a good editor – or, at the very least, a client who was willing to say “no”. But the ads have the distinct feel of “we’re doing this for free, so we can shovel out any crap we want”.
No, you can’t. Not when the issue at hand is the economics of seemingly free Internet services, and Congress, the Federal Trade Commission and consumers need to be convinced of the benefit of self-regulation through clear messaging.