Ad messages come in all shapes and sizes. Some are decent ads that resonate with an audience in a way that isn’t forceful or plain weird. They’re suitable and aligned with the market. However, other ads are different. Some should never have seen the light of day or the glow of the market. They are bad advertisements, whether the creators realize it or not.

I think you know the ad messages I’m talking about, too.

The ads are framed as creative advertising but are little more than weak attempts to grasp an audience’s attention. These ad messages leave a bad or bizarre impression after vanishing from your line of sight.

They’re lousy, and they should have never, never, never met the stamp of approval.

If you’re in business advertising and a few of those old advertisements roll out against your will, stick around. We’ll discuss the worst types of ad messages around today. That way, you can avoid letting them slip past you in the future. With any luck, we’ll slowly convince everyone to do away with these messages in advertising.

First, we have to discuss why these ad messages are so bad.

Ethics in Ads

What is the purpose of advertising? You could say that advertising has many different purposes. You can use advertising to educate your audience, persuade them to take action, or remind them of your value. Really, though, the purpose of advertising is to draw attention to your brand.

That’s why so many businesses value it.

Advertising is an essential weapon. But, as brands wield advertising to fight against their competitors, many feel the sheath of ethics weighing them down. And to gain the upper hand, they may toss ethics off to the side and start making false claims to their audience.

That’s when we start to notice the worst ad messages pop up.

With the ethical lines brushed away by competition, brands will use harmful advertising as long as it generates the most impressions. They want to be attention-grabbing and memorable, even if it’s a bad memory. From the head honcho board room standpoint, it may be fine. However, on the ground floor, a blind man could spot the harmful effects of unethical advertising.

With false claims piling up, audiences will lose faith and interest in a brand. Conversely, ethical advertising allows your brand to connect with people on a real level without stepping over a line.

You don’t have to make alarming or false claims.

Simply avoid misrepresentation and adhere to social norms. Your audience will see you as a trustworthy business, and that will take you further without upsetting anyone. Check out this great article from Forrester about the benefits of ethical marketing.

Never Say These Things in Your Ad Messages

If you retain nothing else, retain this list of 10 things you should never say in your ad messages. If any of these things appear in your advertising, you’ll have nothing but distrust between you and your audience. Ensure you don’t miss anything. You can grab a pencil and paper if that’s what it takes.

As we go through the list, try to remember advertisements with these things. If that fails, just turn on the TV and wait. You’ll more than likely come across an advertisement that is dooming its business right in front of you.

1. Promises

Do not promise everything you’ll deliver. It doesn’t matter if you’re 100 percent sure that you can deliver everything. Don’t promise. Always intentionally leave something out. That extra thing will become the wow factor of your offer. The consumer will think, “Wow, that’s so nice of them! I can’t believe they gave me this bonus.” Meanwhile, you planned to deliver it all along.

What should you leave out of your ad?

It’s up to you. However, be mindful when selecting what to leave out of your ad message. You don’t want it to be the biggest part of your offer. Choose something that says, “We care about you.”

2. Sentences with the word “Imagine…”

If you want to take your audience on a riveting adventure of imagination and storytelling, that’s awesome. But do not start your sentence with “Imagine…” That immediately informs the reader what is about to happen. No matter how you spin or mangle words from that point on, there’s no surprise on the horizon.

Instead, drop your audience into the deep end right away. “Falling from a helicopter, you crash into the deep blue ocean and must…” “*BOOM* There’s a massive ripple through the air. You turn around to see an alien spaceship… ”

You get the point. Be exciting and original. Everyone has seen “Imagine…” a thousand and one times. You need something different to stand out. Leave that word at home and think of something really captivating.

3. Your name

Don’t use your name in an ad more often than you would in a normal conversation. It’s tempting to cram your name in your ad messages as often as possible, but that’s nothing but AdSpeak.

Marketers used that method way back in the day because the average person saw only a few ads daily. They had to bulldoze their brand name in their audience’s mind. But if you try that now, ads will seem like they stepped out of a time machine fresh from the 1940s. Keep things natural.

4. Unpleasant mental image

Fear-based marketing is powerful, but it often backfires. You can easily capture someone’s attention with it. However, that person will associate your brand with that unpleasant mental image you gave them. If that happens, they’ll likely avoid your brand going forward and it will be a hard fight to change that first impression.

5. Challenges from smaller competitors

It’s tempting to cast a light on your smaller competitors to explain how your brand and business are better. However, that will work against you and elevate the audience’s perception of your competitors. They have to think there’s a reason you mentioned them. On the flip side, if your larger competitors mention you, embrace it and get ready for a lot of attention.

6. Exceptional service

Go ahead. Brag about your exceptional service until the sun sets. Most people will never believe you. And those who believe your claim will demand unrealistic service from you 24/7, no matter what. Either way, you lose. Instead, use your ads to highlight objective truths about your service.

7. The recession

It’s tempting to connect with your audience and sympathize with their situation by mentioning the recession (or inflation). Unfortunately, that will remind your audience that it’s a terrible time to spend money. It won’t really matter how badly they want your thing.

8. Unsubstantiated claims with no evidence

Your audience wants cold, hard facts and undeniable proof that your service or product will function as intended. Anything else is just white noise. People hear enough bold claims and outright lies in their day-to-day lives. Don’t force them to hear more of those from you.

“If you can’t prove it, or everyone else would quickly say, ‘me too!’, don’t waste your time saying it.” – Ryan Chute

9. Humor that doesn’t reinforce the principal point of your ad

Do you want to make some jokes and laugh with your audience? Okay, ask yourself this: does the humor force you to recall the central ad message or not? If yes, that’s great. That humor is completely welcome in advertising and will help people remember you.

However, if the humor is baseless and doesn’t help someone remember your central message, forget about it.

You can be as funny as you want, but if people don’t remember your ad, they won’t buy from you.

10. Saying things in the usual way

Nowadays, people see an insane amount of advertisements. It’s everywhere we look. It doesn’t matter if we’re in the airport bathroom. Or looking up in the air as a small plane with a banner passes by. We’re going to see advertisements.

At this point, that’s just another suppository of life.

Among all of those advertisements, which do you think will stand out to a passerby? Do you think the same old boring facts and tactics will keep working? No?

What about a unique advertisement that embodies a brand and captures attention with interesting words? In my heart you already chose this option.

Being interesting is the only way to stand out in this modern-day Sea of Sameness that is advertising. Keep this in mind, Pontiac.

Let us help you ensure your ads walk the ethical line perfectly — without going over. Contact Wizard of Ads™ today to speak with an ad expert. We’d love to help you get your advertisements seen and heard by the perfect audience.