When creativity just gets in the way

9 May 2012

Last night, I’d taken my son to his gymnastics lesson. There on the wall was a poster. I was all set to ignore it because the headline didn’t chime with me — ‘Follow your dreams’ or some such nonsense. But then I noticed the image was of people in headphones with a background of national flags.

These visual cues suggested to me that the poster might be advertising language lessons — something I’d been looking for for my son. But that headline had been a deterrent.

I’m going to argue that that precious commodity that we know of as creativity can — quite often — get in the way. Now, you’ll probably counter that the headline had nothing to do with creativity. It was just a bland and bad headline written by a bored printer’s graphic designer.

However, I would argue that the only acceptable headline in that instance should have been ‘Learn a new language here’. It contains a verb, it contains a venue, it makes a promise and it does exactly what it says on the tin.

It’s about as creative as creosote. Yet it does a job. It’s probably effective.

This is a beef that I’ve always extended into recruitment advertising. I used to write regular recruitment ads for TMP Worldwide. I always refused to write headlines. When they asked me why, I told them that, when people are scanning job ads, they’re looking for three things — the job title, the salary and the location. They’re the bricks you need. Anything else is dust.

Creative headlines — brilliant or brick dust? You decide.

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