Tuesday, October 12, 2010

No Mime Needed

Dark billboard with a mime in a white shirt that says LIVE UNITED. Headline says I dream of teaching people job skills but no one seems to want my skills. Followed by the United Way  logo
The first time I saw this billboard while driving along a highway, I slowed down to about 40 mph in order to figure out what the heck it said.

Maybe that could be considered an effective design since it got my attention, but I don't think so. It's more likely to cause car accidents than inform anyone about the United Way.

There are so many things wrong with it!

First, there are 15 words in the headline. Two on the shirt. Five more in the tag line, plus two in the logo. That's 26 altogether, when the general rule for billboards is under 10 words.

And what's with the mime? Does anyone take advice from a mime? Are we supposed to identify with his lack of useful skills? Did someone think this was funny? Really?

Worse yet, his black sleeves disappear against the dark purple background. This leaves the white-gloved hands -- turned to unidentifiable flipper-like objects by the way their fingers are hidden by the angle -- as ambiguous floating shapes, tilting off of armless shoulders.

The "Live United" slogan itself seems a bit off to me. Live is one of those words that should be avoided in slogans, since it can be read as either rhyming with give or dive, and readers have no way of knowing which is correct until they've read it through once. And even then, I'd argue the slogan is a bit ambiguous.

A much more effective billboard would have used just the tag line and the logo:

Billboard redesigned to say just When You Can't Do, Donate. with United Way logo
No great shakes from a design standpoint, but it sure scans a lot better when you're driving down a highway.


Ms Sparrow said...

I agree wholeheartedly! Some ads are so ambiguous than even after repeated viewings on TV, it's hard to get the point.

David Steinlicht said...

I thought the guy had little wings -- an angel mime.