What has become of advertising?

Posted: October 5, 2014

I could not believe my eyes when I opened my New York Times this morning and saw this:

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It’s an expensive double page ad for Canon.

Now, the fact that Canon thought it was worthwhile buying this space to convey one of the oldest clich├ęs in advertising – they don’t believe in ‘It can’t be done’ without ever saying what “it” is – was not my major complaint.

My complaint is the writing.

To sum up this vacuous notion that Canon is a company that never accepts defeat, it manages, first, to be insulting, telling the reader, “We don’t see what you see.” Yeah, that makes sense – tell your potential customers they are not as smart as you. Nice.

But the major offense is the theme line at the bottom of the ad: AT CANNON, WE SEE IMPOSSIBLE.

Think about that for a moment. Does it even makes sense? Is it even English? Maybe it does and maybe it is but it certainly does not mean what Canon thinks it means.

If you see impossible (shouldn’t it be ‘the’ impossible?) it means you acknowledge the existence of impossible. The very opposite to what Canon thinks it is saying.

They think they are saying that with Canon anything’s possible. They are not. And there have been so many variations on “See what’s possible” in corporate advertising to recycle this cliche but get it wrong is amazing.

This ad was written, I assume, by someone whose job title is writer. It was approved by someone whose job title is Creative Director. It was approved by someone at Canon who felt this message merited two whole pages even though the only visual element is a giant version of the Canon logo.

See impossible? I think I just did.