Sunday, April 25, 2010

Ads That Work In Spite of Themselves

Every Sunday morning I flip through the Times magazine in search of blog fodder; an ad that I can praise or mock. Fashion ads are easy targets. (See here.) But this morning, a busily designed ad kept me staring for a long time. (Click image for very large.) On the surface this is throwaway crap, if your idea of a good ad means pretty photography and limited copy. But the more you study it, the more intriguing it becomes.

It starts, strangely, with the words "Om Sai Ram" in the upper left corner. I had to look that one up. It's a spiritual greeting used by followers of Sai Baba, a South Indian guru. Then we have the very generic headline "The Million Dollar Look," and the equally bland subhead, "Dress for Success." Then some copy telling men that if they want to be successful, they should have these custom clothes by Hong Kong Grand by William Sani. And your mind goes, "Oh, a Hong Kong tailor, like in my grandfather's day, when people who could afford to went to Hong Kong to get custom-fitted for a suit." Hong Kong tailored suits were some sort of badge of success, and people who wore them would not be shy in telling you where they came from. I'm sure guys still do this. William Sani is from Orange County, California though, and that's him on the far left dressed as a 1960s British banker, and again second from right, as James Bond. His son is the little man second from left. No clue on who the guy far right is, but he's got a phone to his ear, and that spells success. Here's William's Facebook and here's his website, where you can also see his wife, daughter and the family dog. I assume that the cityscape behind the men is Hong Kong. Then William gives you his "direct cellphone" number, inviting you to call him for an appointment. (In a later mention of his cellphone, he gives hours that you can call, but fails to mention a time zone.) Or you can get in touch at one of his two AOL email accounts.

Then we get to the catalog-styled portion of the ad, which forces the suit-buying man to study it to see which package he would prefer, compare prices and offers. Is he a President, a CFO, a CEO? Just how successful does he want to be?

Then, the nationwide barnstorming tour dates of Mr. Sani are offered, where in less than a month he will visit 21 hotels, racking up some serious Marriott Rewards points and presumably meeting and measuring the suit-buying public for their successful clothes made in Hong Kong. He asks that you call him the day you want an appointment. Scheduling is apparently not Mr. Sani's thing. Day to day, city to city, Marriott to Marriott. Then I guess he sends those measurements to Hong Kong, where his team of seamstresses whip up your order and ship it to you. Then, at the party, you constantly but casually, as if by accident or searching for your pen, reveal the inside of the left breast pocket to display that telling Hong Kong Grand label.
It's not hard to find former customers of Hong Kong Grand who were deeply disappointed in what they received for their money, but Mr. Sani has apparently been doing full-pagers like this for quite some time. So he knows what he's doing, at least as an advertiser. I suppose his suite at the Marriott will be a revolving door of men hoping to look successful, Mr. Sani in shirtsleeves and tape measure, ordering up lunch from room service.

To finish off the piece, we get something you never see. The ad's designer signs his work at the very bottom, even offering his phone number.

If nothing else, an intriguing ad. And it's probably working.

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