Posts Tagged ‘Comic books’

Who’s the Hero?

January 25, 2012

I came across this ad on twitter via @geekforever. (Disclaimer, my wife works at Save the Children and mentioned the DC/Save collaboration previously, but she didn’t show me any examples of the ad work:

A Collaboration between DC Comics and Save the Children

Here’s a link to the obviously good cause  (I might buy one of the shirts or iPhone case).

As a comic book fan, I was really blown away by the artwork, it’s beautiful and striking.

As a person who makes ads, I wondered, this is beautiful art, but it is a great ad?  Yes, it is attention getting which is important, it stands out, especially to someone familiar with the characters. That’s important, and I think it works well enough here that the audience will want to pause long enough to engage the ad and learn more about the message.

But I can’t help but feel it also is off-message. I couldn’t put my finger on it at first, but as I thought about it, I realized the focus here is on the heroes, not on you — the audience member turned hero.

So while the ad is beautiful and awesome does it reinforce the emotions and feelings that DC/Save want? Does it make the audience member feel like a hero, feel like someone who can save a life? I don’t think so.

I read somewhere “design without a message is art, design with message is an ad.

So the ad gets the right kind of attention (interest), but it doesn’t impute* it’s message and emotional content, and in that sense, it’s great art, but only an ok ad.

Addendum:

Thinking some more about the ad as I walked…. The problem really isn’t the art, but the headline. “We can be Heroes.” Of course the Justice League can be heroes, the point is “you” can be a hero.  It’s not about joining the Justice League (the heroes in the artwork), but about you helping when they can’t. So if it was the same artwork, but a headline like: “They can’t be heroes, but you can…” or “Be a real Hero…” or “You don’t need a costume to be a hero” then that reframes the message and the focus of the ad.

[*Impute: My new favorite word —  I picked up reading the Steve Jobs biography, which is pretty inspiring if you ask me. Basically a product or ad should impute to it’s audience it’s message — essentially it’s story and qualities should be obvious on an intuitive level, by the presentation. At least, that’s how I took it.]

Confession time

December 8, 2009

I don’t know if I’ve ever revealed that I’m a comic book fan.  Now, before you judge, these aren’t your father’s comic books — comic books today are actually aimed at an adult audience.  I’ve used all sorts of professional rationalizations, reading them sharpens my visual eye, they’re like storyboards, blah, blah, blah.  All that’s true, but the bottom line is I enjoy the combination of story and pictures, I enjoy reading them.

If you still doubt me or if you’re curious and want to get a taste of some great comics here are some recommendations:

DMZ: New York is a DMZ in a civil war between the government & the conservative forces that are trying to take over the country.

Y: The Last Man: A plague kills everyman on earth except Yorrick, the last man in a civilization gone to the women.

Fables (my current favorite): What if Cinderella, the Big Bad Wolf, Little Red Ridding Hood were real, and alive and living in downtown New York?

Ex Machina: Super hero, turned New York City Mayor.

Walking Dead: Zombies, people on the edge of survial.  Great read, though bleak, I had to stop around book 5 because I was too depressed.

Astro City: (An all-time favorite) The only pure super hero comic on this list,  the art here is beautiful, really gorgeous stuff.  It’s a new take on the classic hero, a blend of styles and tone that’s unique.

There’s also a great book called “Understanding Comics,” that in some ways is a must read for any visual artist.  I bring this up because I’ve seen more and more animated ads recently, and while I have some predilection for the technique, I think it’s an effective story telling tool.

Still not convinced? Take a look at this piece done by StoryCorps for Veterans Day.

That’s pretty moving stuff, animated or not.  It’s not perfect, I would have left out the end photo and text, but it’s pretty damned good storytelling if you ask me.

Look there are always people who are going to dislike something because of their preconceived notions.  I hate comic books or cartoons are for kids, whatever.  To cater to that kind of thinking is to cater to the lowest common denominator.  If I have one point to make with this blog, it’s that ads in general, and political ads in particular do not have to cater to that level.  You can make creatively interesting and challenging ads, that are still effective in conveying emotion and message.


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