Government Ads: Lotteries? Yes. Tourism? Okay. PSA’s? No.

Creating advertising is tough; criticizing it is easy.  And yet sometimes, decency demands you point a finger when the whole damned deal goes horribly, desperately wrong.  In most cases, this results from a well-intended, inexperienced client mistakenly believing that the general public wants and needs to know every last factoid about the product they wish to sell.  However, when the client is the government, the foolishness hits an entirely new level of dumb.

This sad reality hit me no less than three times as I watched college football game this weekend.  Even though my beloved Irish showed marked improvement on defense, this ad–and the fact that it had a ridiculously repetitive media buy–truly soured my Saturday.

This exercise in wasteful government spending comes courtesy of the Illinois Department of Transportation and it’s even less welcome than the traffic cones and lane closures on I-290.  It looks cheap because it is cheap–from the cliched concept right through the Jr. High School Drama Club performances, the entire effort is guaranteed to send right-thinking Land of Lincoln-ites straight to their liquor cabinet with the sole intent of washing the horror from their synapses.  Jack Daniels!  Jim Beam!  Make the horror stop!!

The meager production budget is particularly inexcusable given this spot’s enviable media buy.  Cleaving off even another two percent of that media to fund a legitimate Illinois production company and actual SAG actors would have made a world of difference even on such a ham-fistedly bad concept, but apparently, we’re not paying off the right people.

Technology like hi-def camera phones and iMovie have democratized the production process, making it available to the masses.  But it’s like Jerry Seinfeld’s classic commentary on the comedy explosion of the 80’s: “Before the comedy thing blew up, there were like 200 comics and eight really good ones.  Now there are 2000 comics…and eight really good ones.”

You want a really good one?  You’ll probably have to pay for it.  If not in cash, then at least in time or freedom.

And believe me, given the alternative, it will be well worth it.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


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