I drive I-80 a fair amount. There is a billboard along that road—I think it’s a little east of West Branch, heading west—that says “Oops” on it in big letters. I always find this funny, in an ironic sort of way, because the billboard itself is an incredible oops: It’s way back off the road, obscured somewhat by trees, so whatever else it says other than “Oops” I’ve never been able to discern. Yet I’m sure there is someone, somewhere, sending a check to the billboard company every month to pay for that oops, and should that billboard ever become available to rent again, the billboard company will tout that 87 million people drive past that location every day. What excellent advertising! Just ignore the fact that no one, not one single solitary person, has ever been able to receive the advertising message you are sending out. It’d be like if Z102.9 decided to start broadcasting via microwaves instead of radio. Hey, 87 million people have a microwave! Ignore the fact that no one receives advertising through the damn thing!
Similarly, I went to an airline website today. On a lark, I asked to see seats available between two cities, let’s call them City A and City B, both of which were on the airline’s own drop-down menus. It told me no seats were available for the dates I selected. I changed the dates; still nothing. I made the dates like a month apart; zip. It soon became apparent that, despite the fact that they let me choose to check for a trip between City A and City B, they don’t actually offer any way for you to take that trip. Well done. I went looking for their route map so I could confirm my suspicions; that wasn’t anywhere obvious on their site. Thank God Google knew where it was. Nope, they sure don’t fly between City A and City B. They fly to cities within a couple hundred miles of City B from City A, but I guess they didn’t find it worth the trouble to help me out by pointing that out either. Now I have a negative impression of their airline for no really good reason, but there it is. Very good marketing.
I need to find a way to become a consultant, to point out to businesses the stupid missteps they make, like a Secret Shopper, only for marketing. I’ll tell you where you’re going wrong. I’m a nit-picker, I’m a skeptic, I believe that if you want to sell me something you ought to make it easy for me, and I believe if you are going to advertise, you ought to, you know, actually have a consumable message that someone could take action on. I refuse to mention which airline this is because, the heck with them, they can pay me to help them fix it. Until they do, I’ll just avoid them. I can’t mention the Oops billboard company, because I can’t figure out what it is.
That Oops billboard is the worst of the lot, but so many billboards are simply horrible advertising. They’re a hundred yards off the highway in a type size far too small and cramming in far too much information for me to read at 70MPH. The billboard companies sell based on how many people drive by each day/week/month/whatever, and yet most of them have zero impact on me when I drive by because I am—call me crazy—watching the road, not reading a manifesto a football field away on a billboard. The trucker all hopped up on White Crosses, the teenage girl texting and driving, I’m a hell of a lot more worried about them than on figuring out just exactly what Oops is about. I’ve driven past that thing ten times and still have no idea. If I ever figure it out, I’ll let you know.