One of the downsides of working in marketing for 2+ years is that I pay attention to ads now. That's not to say I read junk mail for fun now or unmute commercials for educational purposes, but I notice billboards and company Facebook pages and homemade signs tacked to business doors, and I can't help but analyze what the message actually conveys versus what the marketing team intended to convey.
While driving to work the other day, my gaze fell on a new billboard that said "HOPELESS." There were no images, no small text at the bottom with the company's name and phone number, no flashy colors to draw the eye. Just eight black capital letters slapped on a white background.
Directly below this billboard was another billboard that said something like "1 in 6 people are hungry. 5 in 6 can do something about it." I don't know if these two billboards were working together to create one powerful call to action, but if they were, it was a definite failure on the marketing team's part because the connection certainly wasn't clear.
That billboard bothered me. The word "hopeless" floating in the sky isn't exactly what I want to see when I'm already surly about the fact that it's morning. What is the point of advertising such a destructive word to the world (or, in this case, residents of Midvale, Utah), anyway? Senseless tragedies like the Boston Marathon bombings are enough to encourage people to give up on humanity, thank you very much. The message conveyed in the billboard was the exact opposite of a call to action; instead, it said to me: "Cease action immediately. You can't change anything. Give up."
It's possible that whoever created that billboard was going for the shock approach, hoping to make people like me retaliate into proving them wrong. Maybe they want me to proclaim to the world that our actions do make a difference, that change is always possible, that you should never give up. Maybe they wanted me to see the stark difference between "hopeless" and "hopeful."
If that's the case, then I glare in their general direction.