Pieces of … baseball

3 minutes / 593 words

I love a pithy headline. They’re my favorite thing to write and though they’re shorter than, say, a blog, fewer words does not translate to easier writing. I’m especially proud of some, like “Clark Kent at 16. Imagine the Hormones” for the premiere of Smallville on The WB.

As a headline aficionado, I love driving in Atlanta because it’s a big outdoor advertising market. Visual pollution? Not to me. On second thought, my wife and I recently commented that almost all are for attorneys, and — they’re not good. In fact, they’re so bad that I’ve seriously considered hanging a shingle as an outdoor consultant. These people need help, and if they’re using agencies, they need to fire them. But I digress.

At one company where I worked, someone created an ad selling swag to employees with a picture of a woman, an acutal employee, modeling a hoodie with the headline, “Cuddle Up.”

Outdoor typically falls into one of two categories: lead generation and brand. Lead generation is all about new business, and brand is about positioning your business in a consumer’s mind. Fail #1 for these attorney boards: the majority need a call to action like a phone number or web address. Hello, are you gonna make a consumer look for you (because they’ll take the path of least resistance and move right along) or make it easy to find you? Fail #2: they’re unreadable. They’re filled with text, and it’s often too small to read quickly.

And then there’s this doozy.

One attorney in town brands himself as a strong arm. He’ll fight for you. Expect justice because he’s strong. This year, he paid a hefty sum to sponsor the Atlanta Braves. The billboard creative mentions the sponsorship and includes a team logo. He’s wise to take advantage of it. There’s a big picture of him with a bat slung over his shoulder. Most people will see this as a great image. A strong arm, a strong batter. That’s not what I see, though.

I see a man boasting about strong-arming someone with a bat over his shoulder, looking ready to use it, not for baseball. It cries out of mob violence, and because he’s Caucasian, it could be seen as problematic by people of color. The creator could have taken a picture of the attorney with a ball and glove and called it a day.

Too often, marketers, myself included, fall in love with an idea, and then we’re off and running. In doing so, we risk being insensitive and missing what’s right in front of us. At one company where I worked, someone created an ad selling swag to employees with a picture of a woman, an actual employee, modeling a hoodie with the headline, “Cuddle Up.” Would the same copy be shown next to a man? It’s even worse when a business tries to brand itself as cool using culturally appropriated language. Please stop.

In fairness to us marketers, society’s rules are ever-evolving. From time to time, businesses have genuinely altruistic intentions but shoot themselves in the foot when they don’t see an issue. Damage control ensues when the public sees it, and they usually do! I’m not talking about small businesses with bats — this happens to big companies with multi-national ad agencies. McDonalds, Nike, Pepsi, Dove, and others have inadvertently crossed lines despite their best efforts. It’s an even bigger issue today in our polarized political climate.

It’s good to feel like the attorney you hire is on your side. Still, in such a competitive industry, maybe simple marketing is the most effective strategy. And bigger picture, advertisers need a better lens lest they wind up at the end of consumers’ proverbial bats at the cash register.

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One Comment

  • Nicole Giles

    So well said. You make me want to start back writing every day. To this point, yes my first thought on that board was “Ill break your knees!” To play devils advocate, I ask the question, is thise where we are? In this post Covid climate of seemingly endless aggression, outrage/anger, does a white man with a bat read “winner” to people? 😳 yikes. I’d be interested to know if they tested it all. Let’s move on to the lawyer board for #Law. I believe it may also be a bus wrap. His photoshopped head on bare chested, nicely built, tan guy. I’m torn…it’s funny but so bad. And it’s kind of an intentionally bad.?. Not sure. But does that read, “I want that guy in court with me?” 😁