Category Archives: look-a-likes

Odd couples.

I’ve been a Wired reader since Issue 1. Back in the day, it was not only interesting, it was beautiful, with typography, art direction and production (6-color printing!) that kicked ass.

Today, Wired is still a geekfest, if more mundane looking, and also chock-full of ads in categories I can relate to, which, I guess, is the whole point of media planning.

But anyway. The following ads were all in the May issue, pages apart, which allowed my mind to group them into amusing pairings. Here’s one pair:

wired002

wired001

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Viagra ad is what it is: a legal necessity, and an ad in name only. For those paying attention, and we won’t go into why, the background is an image from one of the blue-on-blue TV spots. It hardly matters, given the copy mandatories plastered over every square inch.

But when the new E-Trade ad showed up a few pages later, it got me thinking. About how much I miss the baby, for one thing. About how “Type E” could actually be the premise of something good, except that didn’t happen. But mostly I thought, some agency made this ad look like a pharma fair-balance ad by choice-not because the FDA forced them, but because they thought it was a good idea. Does E stand for Erectile?

Here’s another pair:

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wired003

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talk about a study in contrasts! We all want to be (or at least feel like) the blissed-out dude in the Virgin America ad. They took a minor amenity—a complimentary glass of bubbly—and turned it into a visually arresting, amusing ad.

Now consider the KLM ad. They should have had an easier time of it. After all, they were advertising business class, not a tricked-up version of steerage. Yet the ad is a study in depression. A white guy is curled into a fetal ball, making his lie-flat bed look cramped and unforgiving. Next to him, another white guy stares out at the dull Dutch landscape below. Between them, an odd metal divider that appears to be riddled with bullet holes. People! You are the country of kick-ass weed and Vincent Van Gogh! Loosen up!

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Something in the water.

These are versions of a font called Neutraface. Look familiar? They should. The Neutraface font family was introduced in 2002 and has increased in popularity every year since then, with 2009 being some kind of tipping point. Now you see it everywhere. Here’s an ad currently running for Wells Fargo:

That’s Neutraface slab in Roman and italic. Here’s AT&T Wireless:

Neutraface demi text italic.

Between these two brands alone, Neutraface probably has north of $200 million behind it.

Why am I geeking out about a typeface? Because type is one of those unseen forces that shape fashion in graphic design and advertising. Back in December, I wrote about how it is that ads wind up looking like other ads, often in unrelated categories to different audiences. I touched on factors as lofty as parallel evolution and as banal as common thievery and client dictate. But the fourth factor, which I called “something in the water,” I left for a later post. Well, type is something in the water. You toss it in, everyone drinks it and in a couple of years, art directors everywhere are showing the symptoms.

Color is another unseen hand. Every year Pantone and a few other influencers decide what the on-trend colors for the next year will be and everyone from fashion designers to paint manufacturers to designers take a swig. Here’s this year’s color, by the way:

Honeysuckle. Bet you didn’t see that one coming. But now that you know, keep your eye peeled. You’ll be amazed how often you see it.

A last thought on this subject (for now): how many adjoining boxes containing type, background colors and artwork did you see in ads before Quark, with its text and picture boxes, appeared in the mid-90s?