No thank you, said the editor to the ad.

Posted: Wednesday, May 1st, 2013


“You’re worthless.”

Did that ad just tell me I’m worthless?

As an editor I’m constantly clicking through—finding articles, checking on new worksheets, looking at content much like one of our members might. And like anyone on the Internet I’m moving fast. So I was already waiting for the next webpage to load when I read that.

I laughed and joked to myself, I think I just got bullied by our website.

A week later I saw it again. It might have told me “Everybody hates you.” This time I was ready; I stayed on the page. I waited to see what it would say next. The banner flashed “You’re worthless” at me (yawn; you used that insult already, Advertisement). Then it flashed a third image that finally revealed the point:  Our kids can face hurtful words like this, constantly. Let’s take constructive action and help teach them to act.

I see the intent, and it basically worked—I even clicked to the advertiser’s website. But did the banner ad get to its point too slowly? Was it too much like a Magic 8 Ball of insults? Had anyone else at work seen this?

We’re not fans of bullying at Last year we worked hard on our anti-bullying resource center. And we were really excited to work with filmmakers of the movie Bully, and be part of The Bully Project. (The movie is available to stream on Netflix Instant Play now if you want to check it out.) So when I faced that fleeting message as I clicked through the site I was curious but, had a bit of context.

And then … a real user on asked about it. This started a round robin discussion in the office of what this ad was for, from whom and what we thought of it. I learned two interesting things.

It’s for a great cause!

The “Be More Than a Bystander” campaign, orchestrated by the nonprofit Advertising Council, underscores the problem with a series of television, print and online ads and a Web site promoting the idea that if witnesses know what to do, they can take various steps, such as moving the victim away from the situation or reporting the treatment to an adult, to defuse the bullying.  -NY Times, “Campaign Tries to Help Defuse Bullying” brings attention to cyberbullying and has so many ideas and resources for adults and kids to cope with this epidemic of social abuse.

A crash course in advertising placement:

Think of a webpage as having spots, kind of like seats in a car. In some ways a website is a chauffeur to advertising. Like any taxi driver we have to make money in some way to stay in business. Pretend you definitely know who is going to be in the driver’s seat, you even know who is going to be in the backseat on the passenger side of the car. And in the open seats, whoever is most relevant will show up and sit there. Relevance might be governed by what is at the website or by what has been recently looked at by people on their own particular computer. Have you ever searched online for “Mexican restaurants” and then started seeing ads for Mexican food when you’re on Facebook or some other site? It’s like that.

Back to that taxi driver analogy: we fill the seats we can, directly, cause we like having friends in the car. But not all seats get filled. And when that happens, third party advertisers will show up based on relevance. It’s like the friend of a friend’s friend.

In the end we didn’t consider this ad as effective, though we now understand and completely agree with its message. But what do you think?

Have you seen any of this campaign on TV or online? How did you react to it?

Was this specific ad effective or did it miss the mark?

Effective or not?

Effective or not?

One Response to “No thank you, said the editor to the ad.”

  1. Anthony Silva Says:

    Although the message is a good one, the method is negative and shocking. Didn’t their mothers ever tell them that two wrongs don’t make a right? The point of bullying is bad by acting like a bully, even if the intent isn’t genuine, is still a poor message. Perhaps advertising a campaign of tolerance should advertise itself as such. Make the viewer believe that change is possible by being the change.

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