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Too Clever by Half?
Kirt's Cogitations™ #238

These original Kirt's Cogitations™ may be reproduced (no more than 5, please) provided proper credit is given to me, Kirt Blattenberger.

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   Cog·i·ta·tion [koj-i-tey'-shun] – noun: Concerted thought or
                                        reflection; meditation; contemplation.
   Kirt [kert] – proper noun: RF Cafe webmaster.


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Too Clever by Half?

Here is an indisputable fact: Most people are not willing to pay any amount for non-essential items they consider to be intangibles. That is to say if such an item is not regarded as having trading or bartering value, then there is usually resistance to paying for it. The behavior is particularly applicable to printed material (information), be it physical in the form of a magazine, or virtual in the form of a webpage. I am that way, and my guess is that you are, too.

Now, just because we are not willing to pay for access to certain information does not mean that we do not want to consume what is being offered, we simply do not care to trade our hard-earned income for it. That is where advertising comes into play. Television (over-the-air) and radio (AM & FM) broadcasts, websites, trade magazines (EE Times, Microwaves & RF, High Frequency Electronics, etc.), neighborhood sporting events, and many other venues that we access on a regular basis have costs entirely underwritten by companies willing to pay to have their message presented to that portion of the public benefitting from its investment. RF Cafe is such a venue.

An argument can be made that just because you do not have to shell out money from your pocket for access, there is actually a price being paid in the form of inconvenience. The presence of advertisements does create clutter and a distraction from the main topic of your interest. Mental processing time is required to separate the information from the "noise." In the case of radio and television, you must endure dedicated segments of advertising (or go do something else), while printed forms are more of a multitasking (even subconscious) effort. As much as advertising can be considered a nuisance, it obviously performs a needed function or it would have disappeared long ago. The fact is that almost all companies (those still in business, anyway) have something that people want or need, so other than word-of-mouth, advertising is necessary. In many situations, particularly in professional environments where vital information is needed to be successful, discovering a new opportunity by virtue of an advertisement can be a (figurative) life saver.

Companies notoriously have paid huge amounts of money to have advertisements designed to maximize effectiveness. Most notable are the recent Super Bowl campaigns where 30-second slots are being sold for millions of dollars. I have never been a big football fan, but in the last few years I have taken to watching the Super Bowl just to see the highly touted commercials. Coca-Cola and UPS would love to read that confession. Occasionally, the intended effect is realized, but often, IMHO, the advertisements fall way short of the intended outcome. Some are downright stupid and do more harm than good (like the Budweiser Clydesdale fart being ignited by the lovers' candle and torching them while they sit in the sleigh). The phrase "too clever by half" applies for many of them.

The pages of our trade magazines are populated with many types of advertisements; some are really good, others are really bad, and most are mercifully benign. I tend to notice the first two types. Below are a few examples of some of the ads that have stood out for one or the other of the two reasons. Company names and product identifiers have been removed. I am hoping the "Fair Use" rule applies to my reproducing part of these advertisements. You will probably recognize many of these. My comments, for what they are worth, are included.
 
Mouser Electronics, Clever COuntry Flags from Electronics Components - RF Cafe

I always like when electronic components are used to for a picture.
Linx Technologies Quiz Banner Advertisements - RF Cafe

Who doesn't love good nerd humor? Linx Technologies hit a home run with these banner ads, IMHO.  (added 1/8/2013)
 
Clever Advertising Effectivenes -Spectrum Microwave Back-of-the-Napkin Design - RF Cafe Kirt's Cogitations

The "back of a napkin" brainstorm-turned-product image has always been appealing to me. This ad does a good job of capturing the idea.
Clever Advertisement Effectiveness - RF Cafe Kirt's Cogitations

As the saying goes, "Brevity is the soul of wit."
This ad proves it. 
Clever Advertisement Effectiveness - RF Cafe Kirt's Cogitations

I have always thought this was one of the cleverest ads around. 
RF Cafe - Kirt's Cogitations - Clever Advertisement Effectiveness - RF Cafe Kirt's Cogitations

I'm not a cards player, but I think this is a good use of a familiar theme - not to mention the implication of the waveforms being four aces - the best possible
four-of-a-kind hand to hold
Clever Advertisement Effectiveness - RF Cafe Kirt's Cogitations

This is another lame attempt at using a metaphor. Sorry - not impressed.
Clever Advertisement Effectiveness - RF Cafe Kirt's Cogitations

A more appropriate image to go with the title would be a cable in a snake form shedding its skin, but most people would not appreciate a snake. As one who has worked with metal armored cables, any means of getting rid of the metal is a welcome sight.
Clever Advertisement Effectiveness - RF Cafe Kirt's Cogitations

Very cleverly done - the graphic concisely illustrates the message using a familiar object. It definitely conveys the idea of the messy results that can come from a lack of attention to details.
Clever Advertisement Effectiveness - RF Cafe Kirt's Cogitations

I hate to be the one to point this out, but in these times of manic concern over global warming and melting glacier mass, doesn't this seem to suggest that the company views the holy ice as an impediment to mankind's progress?  Just asking...

From a strictly scientific standpoint, that ice floe appears to have its volume evenly distributed above and below the water line. My schoolbooks say 7/8 of the mass would be under water.

Clever Advertisement Effectiveness - RF Cafe Kirt's Cogitations

Here is an effective representation of a component "marketplace."
Clever Advertisement Effectiveness - RF Cafe Kirt's Cogitations

The jury is still out on this one - could easily fall into the too-clever-by-half category.
Clever Advertisement Effectiveness - RF Cafe Kirt's Cogitations

This one is kind of corny, but it does use an appropriate metaphor.
Clever Advertisement Effectiveness - RF Cafe Kirt's Cogitations

This one I like - simple, but effective. We techies speak of "learning curves" all the time, and often draw a plot in the air with our fingers while doing so.
Clever Advertisement Effectiveness - RF Cafe Kirt's Cogitations

This series of ads is not bad, but there is not a lot of work that goes into them. The company's previous series with custom artwork was excellent - particularly their wireless cafe "RF Cafe?" ad.
Clever Advertisement Effectiveness - RF Cafe Kirt's Cogitations

Yeah, the metaphor is correct, but for some reason it offends me.
RF Cafe - Kirt's Cogitations - Clever Advertisement Effectiveness - RF Cafe Kirt's Cogitations

Kind of funny, but a bit sophomoric, IMHO.
Clever Advertisement Effectiveness - RF Cafe Kirt's Cogitations

A transformation from a paper airplane to a supersonic fighter. Maybe it's a personal thing since I am an airplane hobbyist.
Clever Advertisement Effectiveness - RF Cafe Kirt's Cogitations

Neither offends nor excites.
Clever Advertisement Effectiveness - RF Cafe Kirt's Cogitations

This should appeal to BASE jumpers and other extreme sports types.
B=Building, A=Antenna tower, S=Span (bridge), E= Earth
Clever Advertisement Effectiveness - RF Cafe Kirt's Cogitations

Another effective metaphor. Like the nature paintings with embedded secondary images of animals, you might at first glance miss the city inside (reminiscent of an old
vacuum tube chassis).
Clever Advertisement Effectiveness - RF Cafe Kirt's Cogitations

This is an unexpected metaphor that, perhaps the only reason I like it because I appreciate fine woodworking, and Melanie plays the violin.
Clever Advertisement Effectiveness - RF Cafe Kirt's Cogitations

Ewwww.....


This is just plain funny - too ridiculous to be real, but then that's why it's funny.
Clever Advertisement Effectiveness - RF Cafe Kirt's Cogitations

Well, maybe if the ringside female support staff associated with professional wrestling was also included in the image...
Clever Advertisement Effectiveness - RF Cafe Kirt's Cogitations

I remember seeing this kind of thing in a Bugs Bunny cartoon back in the 1960s - not exactly original.
Clever Advertisement Effectiveness - RF Cafe Kirt's Cogitations

I'm guessing the creators of this ad are surfers and hope others will appreciate the juxtaposing of ideas. Maybe it does.
   

Send me your candidates with a short blurb about why you like or dislike them, and I will be glad to include them here (with appropriate credit).


- Kirt Blattenberger



1/10/2008

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