The Return of Bad Ad: Historical Mankind TShirt Subscription?

Bet Henry VIII never thought he'd end up as part of a "HISTORICAL MANKIND TSHIRT SUBSCRIPTION."

Bet Henry VIII never thought he’d end up as part of a “HISTORICAL MANKIND TSHIRT SUBSCRIPTION.”

If you’ve taken classes like ADV2000 (Advertising) or MAR3023 (Marketing), you know the fundamentals of advertising. Advertisers are trying to reach a target market with a message (usually, although not necessarily, designed to motivate the audience to make a purchase) through a specific medium. If these don’t fall into place, the result is probably the dreaded Bad Ad. And here’s one example. Take a look at the full-page ad above featuring King Henry VIII of England, who married six wives and has now appeared in one very bad ad.

In case it’s not immediately clear (it probably isn’t), this advertisement promotes a “HISTORICAL MANKIND TSHIRT SUBSCRIPTION.” It appears that subscribers receive a T-shirt with a giant picture of a prominent world leader on it every month. If that’s not weird enough, the deal is launched by texting to a shortcode; presumably, the subscription fee is tacked on to the monthly phone bill from the wireless provider. It’s a really weird product idea, and because of the phone-based business model, it raises some questions for subscribers (Number One: How can I stop my subscription?).

But that’s not what really makes this a Bad Ad. Let’s count some reasons:

  • Bad spelling. “TShirt” demands a hyphen in this language.
  • Bad design. The typeface selection and printing style just doesn’t look like a serious magazine-quality advertisement. Plus, there’s a total absence of white space, as the ad is pretty much gobbled up by the image of a morbidly obese 16th-century monarch.
  • An unclear message. Exactly what is being sold? It’s not totally clear, and phrases like “5000 YEARS OF LEADERS” don’t really enlighten the reader. It takes some decoding to realize that the product is really a subscription that sends users monthly T-shirts with world leaders. Plus, “HISTORICAL MANKIND TSHIRT SUBSCRIPTION” doesn’t feel like a valid combination of words.
  • Lack of resources for further information. Unless you’re General Motors or a similar mega-corporation, you’re going to need to include links to online resources in your ad – a website, a Facebook page, something. That’s especially true when the product or service is new or unfamiliar. Instead, there’s absolutely nothing to guide an inquiring reader to find more details.
  • Finally, there’s the medium. What kind of target market would want T-shirts with giant images of historical figures? Probably not the target market that typically subscribes to Southern Living, which emphasizes food, gardening, travel, and style for the modern Southern homeowner. Yet the organization behind the “TSHIRT” subscription – which seems to operate out of a P.O. Box in Pennsylvania – chose to take out a full-page ad in this magazine rather than targeting its efforts toward a younger or more offbeat demographic. Just a guess, but it’s unlikely that readers who are interested in cultivating wisteria or finding that perfect jalapeño cornbread recipe will be enthusiastic about subscribing ($12.99 per month, plus shipping) to a world leader T-shirt service. Even someone with the financial resources of Henry VIII himself (at least before he debased the coinage) might not sign up for that deal.
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