It Was the Best of Signs, It Was the Worst of Signs

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This billboard by the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse and the Ad Council is one of the best advertisements I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t qualify as direct response or direct marketing, but it is promotional.

More than that, it’s emotionally powerful. For proud dads like myself, for those who are saddened by the lack of father figures in our nation, and particularly for military families, these 7 words speak volumes.

It’s among the best of signs because it’s targeted, which makes it laser-guided towards specific emotional responses. The imagery aims right at the heart.

Does your advertising evoke the right emotions in your target audience?


I mentioned this sign in an interview I did last year as being one of the dumbest signs I’d ever seen. I went back to take a picture of it in the window of a shop in south suburban Chicago.

The handwriting is nice, but that’s about as far as the positives go. And if I’m not mistaken, that shop is no longer open.

This is among the worst of signs because it is wrongly focused. Businesses cannot walk up to would-be customers and say “Hey, give me some of your money.” Businesses only stay in business because they provide value to their customers.

The business exists for the customer, not the other way around.

The sign doesn’t offer any reason whatsoever for the reader to support the business. I could understand a sign that says “Support American Businesses.” That’s asking the customer to do something that is in the best interest of the economy of his country. That means it’s good for him in the long-term.

This particular sign comes much closer to panhandling than marketing. It’s just asking for support without promising anything unique or valuable in return. What reason does anyone have to support them?

Are you giving your audience reasons why they should do business with you in your advertising? Are you telling them what’s in it for them? If not, you’re completely missing the point.


2 thoughts on “It Was the Best of Signs, It Was the Worst of Signs

  1. The fatherhood ad evokes powerful, noble emotions. It sets the perfect tone. This may be the hardest thing for any advertisement to achieve. Brilliant, and a good cause.

    • I agree, Steve.

      There is nothing that touches a father’s heart like the admiration and love of his children. This ad targeted that “hot button” with pinpoint accuracy. I’ve mentioned elsewhere that the most powerful messages speak to us at the level of our identities, not just superficial desires. I think this billboard is a good illustration of that concept.

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