As long as I can remember, I’ve always been fascinated by ads; pulling into a trance and ignoring everything else whenever an ad came up. It’s not like I’m a big consumer or anything but I enjoy their attempt to persuade me or even brainwash me into buying their product. I lay down my defenses and take in every pixel of the images, convincing slogans and luring jingles; just to see what it’ll do to me, the after effect of a short term -and voluntary- trance.

However, as time has moved on and the market place has expanded, the purpose “to convince” has gotten out of hand. Every trick which promises you victory is considered to be licit; the very reason of the emergence of nasty ads we’ve been coming across lately. Companies and brands can no longer settle with subtle ads and wait for the message to get caught. It has to be fast to keep up with the technological improvements and rapid expansion of the market. It has to be fast, it has to be simple; it other words it has to be bold. Make it bold. Make it big. Print it in red. Shout it out loud. Bad mouth your rivals. Do anything. To sell sell sell. Cause we are living in a material world.

I find this strategy very aggressive and repelling. Who knows, maybe there IS a difference between a good ad – a bad ad after all.

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I’ve been searching through the web for -in my view- the most creative direct marketing examples of “how to get the message across”. It all started with me coming across a few creative business cards and developed as I became obsessed with collecting them. As my obsession grew wilder, the variety of my collection widened, leaving me no other chance but to categorize them generally under “great examples of direct marketing”. I’ve downloaded loads of examples, eliminating as I proceeded; once through with downloading I compared and contrasted what I’ve got and eliminated them once again so that I’ve got the juice of it. So, this is what I’ve come up with and found it worthy enough to present you; I hope that you’ll find these as influential I think they are. Tell me what you think!

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March 15, 2009

Haha. . I almost laughed my head off while watching this video I’ve found on youtube. So, here you go then, I don’t want to ruin it for you.

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Zeynep Kınlı

Istanbul, 19,01,2009

This paper will argue how challenging it has become for the marketers to grasp the attention of the target customer and turn their blank gaze into the look of a spectator. For the marketing industry is increasingly more complex to dish out a product/idea serving it on a golden plate, having polished it with exclusivity, secrecy, entertainment, subliminality and tricksterism. The daily experience of a human being has become a bombardment of images; that attempt to capture the attention of the individual. In this context it takes more and more shock value and guerrilla advertising tactics within a heavy loaded visual culture to dazzle with creativity and originality the viewer. More and more has to be done by the marketers in order to stick out of the hullabaloo of the advertisement sector which has lost its sparkle over time.

Considering the reign of visuality in a world conquered by television, internet, photographs, video cameras and use of ambient space; one cannot deny that greatest number of audience can be reached through the visual channels of communication. Since the “megaphones” of visuality is agreed upon, the art of building up a visual message should be mastered; calculating the sociological and psychological aspects and foreseeing the consequences. In the 21th century, the persuasion and the manipulation of people into buying a significant product or taking action in a particular way requires much more innovative thinking than placing ads on the traditional visual channels.

This paper will analyze, compare and contrast some examples of the usage of visual language in several advertisement campaigns which have broken the traditional guidelines and resulted in extraordinary outcomes. These experimental campaigns have set new standards and therefore opened a new chapter for the advertisement sector where everything is possible.

Keywords: Visual channels of communication, bombardment of images, me-too campaigns, capturing attention, innovative thinking, shock value, guerrilla advertising


A shift from the textual world to the visual world was first signified in 1820’s with the invention of the camera obscura and the pinhole camera. In the modern world this was considered as a step onto new grounds since the homo-sapiens painted on the walls of cave Lascaux and Michelangelo painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The resemblance of the reality had become much more convincing and the human experience more visualized than ever before; in other words, “world-as-a-text has been replaced by world-as-a-picture”1 after all.

“The centrality of vision and the visual world in producing meanings, establishing and maintaining aesthetic values, gender stereotypes and power relations within culture”2 along with creating pleasure and displeasure, inspiring contemporary style and boosting consumption summarizes the modern tendency of the industrial society of 21th century. For “beauty is in eyes of the beholder”, such an emphasis on the visuality requires the ability to internalize and decode visual information from its audience. This habit does not come with nature but nurture and builds up like a snowball rolling down the hill as we learn to see and link ever faster. To spectate and to read an image both enriches our visual experience and challenges our visual literacy; proving the impossibility of explaining everything through textuality. However, in means of searching for explanations, the visual arena itself is not very reliable either. In a world where “seeing is more than believing”3, we no longer can rely on what we see because visual material can easily be manipulated causing continuous distortions in the meaning.

Living in such a crowded world which has surrendered to the merciless chaos of competition – survival of the fittest – one must lead a continuous struggle in order not to bite the dust. Since “modern life takes place onscreen”4 as suggested by Nicholas Mirzoeff it is our viewpoint together with innovative thinking that brings forth creativity and differentiates our offer above all the me-too style products or services.

This act of “showbiz” was firstly written on by Frank Baum, America’s best-known writer of children’s books of the time, “in his work The Show Window, which after 1900 evolved into The Merchandise Record and Show Window, then into Display World in the 1920’s, and finally into today’s Visual Merchandising”5. Focused on the sweeter part of capitalism; promoting consumption through continuous razzle-dazzle, the time to advertise is considered to be all the time. To advertise all the time and to advertise everything, as a legendary adman of the 20th century Elbert Hubbert defended passionately in 1911; “Everybody should advertise while they are alive. The man who does not advertise is a dead one, whether he knows it or not. Life is too short for you to hide away mantled in your own modesty.”6

The advertisement business is greedy for attention and is the last place on earth where you would search for modesty; yet it would not be so tempting any other way. It is the profession of never-ending masquerade, handles all the glamour and the razzle-dazzle of the visualized world; by revealing a little and concealing a little lures the consumers into its web just like the Sirens do with the desperate sailors.


“In the Guerilla marketing, the focus changes from the volume of advertising to the impact of the message”7 as explained in The Guerilla Marketing Handbook by Jay Levinson and Seth Godin. It is all about the benefits of the customer according to which everything is shaped around. Aware of the positioning concept, the Guerrilla method avoids challenging the market leader as a daredevil would, but repositions him instead for its own advantage. This smart method of advertising mesmerizes its audience when tuned by a skillful advertiser; has the effect of a slap and then you turn the other cheek for more.

1When it comes to grim competition and the rules of survival of the fittest apply, companies may not hesitate to reveal to public how “fiercely competitive” they actually are. For example, in this billboard advertisement of SGIC, an Australian insurance company, the advertising agency has decided to add extra shock value to boost SGIC’s sales rather than just coming up with a plain poster. Pretending to place “Sascha from the customer services” within the display of the billboard a playful mood is achieved while stressing how much SGIC takes its business seriously. In this way SGIC has been differentiated from the other insurance companies whom offer the same service; only, in a boring and soon-to-be-forgotten way.

212The study of semiotics, which is originated by the Swiss linguistic analyst Ferdinand Saussure, is an examination of how the language works through its usage of the “key principles of the sign, the signifier and the signified”8 and the blood within the veins of the advertisement sector. Advantages of the semiotics are most emphasized in simple and minimalistic advertisement designs. For instance in this poster for Hut Weber company two man, whom can be easily recognizable worldwide, are depicted; Adolf Hitler on the left and Charlie Chaplin on the right. The tagline “It’s the hat” promotes that it takes a hat to differentiate disaster from laughter, and not just any hat but a Hut Weber hat as the logo of the brand reminds us in a subtle way.

3Speaking of subtlety, a bold way to advertise has to be mentioned as well; this commercial for Amstel, the beer of Netherlands, is the result of a bold idea to place a huge billboard in a crowded section of the country. The billboard is used to expose a map of the area and the bars that sell Amstel within a few miles range are marked on it with the brand logo. Then, the classic “You Are Here” point is circled in the middle of the map; followed by the witty question “But Why” framed in red. In this way, the billboard gains interactive quality since it proposes a question and instantly the audience begins to search for an answer either consciously or unconsciously. They wonder why actually they are there, when they could have been in one of the bars that are spotted on the map, having a beer; and once again not just any beer but an Amstel. Moreover, since that billboard is flashed there 7/24, another message that is communicated through it is “the time to drink Amstel is all the time”; by shouting out “You are here, but why?” in every direction.


An example to a guerrilla attack for the attention of the target market would be this billboard prompted up on a busy street, lacking any kind of explanation or brand logo. Nothing hinted to prove that this billboard served as an advertisement; therefore the audience had every reason to consider it as what it seemed to be, the ultimate revenge of a scorned wife. As the advertisement company had predicted, curiosity killed the cat, through the channel of the “word of mouth” news spread out at astonishing rate and soon everybody had heard of this billboard. It was discussed between friends, on news, reality shows, featured on blogs and websites; however the advertisement agency took its time to reveal the truth about the billboard. By revealing a little and concealing a little, the truth about this billboard turned into a masterpiece of a show of striptease; gathering the attention on it like a magnet. Soon, to everybody’s surprise, the billboard turned out to be an attempt of Court TV to create a buzz about the upcoming second season of its Parco P.I. series; depicting a real-life detective, Vinnie Parco, who specializes in cases of adulterers. “For a tiny budget, the team achieved nationwide coverage, and the campaign was a Promo Lion at Cannes”9; all thanks to the curiosity of the public and the word of mouth spreading process.


The Guerrilla Girls, promoting themselves with the tagline “re-inventing the “f” word – feminism”10 have been the subject of plenty of media coverage. In their website they define themselves as “a bunch of anonymous females who take the names of dead women artists as pseudonyms and appear in public wearing gorilla masks.”11 They have produced books, posters, stickers and organized protests against sexism and racism. The secrecy element of the advertising concept is taken advantage of by the Guerrilla Girls; their concealment of their identities with the use of gorilla masks has attracted the attention of public, provided them media coverage, forced focus on the protested issues rather than the identities and introduced the “could be anyone, could be anywhere” concept.


Another example of a “great idea” would be the advertisement of an environmentalist organization of Hong Kong, called “Friends of the Earth”. This organization has attempted to visualize the invisible, laying parallel to TELECOMWORLDWIRE’s project design of “mobile pigeons to monitor air pollution”. In the billboard that they have rented, Friends of the Earth has posted – what seems to be – a blank poster. However, as the days passed by, the image and the message on the billboard became more and more visible and readable; that was because the message and the image were printed in sticky white letters and air pollution colored these sticky areas grey. In this way, they had let the air pollution “speak for itself”, almost literally. This advertisement campaign was especially interesting for it made the invisible, visible; succeeded in attracting attention and resulted in surprised gazes of the pedestrians and drivers slowing down to examine it as they passed by.

In conclusion, how challenging it has become for the marketers to succeed in grasping the attention is obvious; is the invisible which has become visible. The question is; can they achieve their aim by being able to differentiate themselves from the bombardment of images that are exposed on our minds? Through innovative thinking and the usage of countless marketing techniques, they surely can. It is the continuous razzle-dazzle and glamorous atmosphere created by extraordinary admen which sticks to our minds, and at the end of the day it is the idea and the product the buy and is the ad that we glorify and love.

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