The following is a bus stop ad that I've been seeing a lot lately around Chicago. It's for the Field Museum, which is a stellar natural history museum in downtown Chicago. Now I don't particularly enjoy posting about ads for non-profit institutions -- something I mentioned in the comments section of my admittedly unfair attack on a cutely overreaching ad for Detroit-area museum attraction The Henry Ford. That doesn't mean that museums and colleges and foundations and the like don't screw up, though. Let's take a look (I apologize for the quality, it's taken with my phone):
When I first saw this ad, I actually liked it. The image of a colorful collection of shiny gems is a fun one -- makes me want to learn more. But it's rather disrupted by the huge gray combination lock in the middle of the image. I have several problems with this:
1. The lock is either floating in the middle of the image -- like, just randomly hovering above the gems -- or the lock may be on a glass-fronted safe. This makes a little more sense visually, but then presumably that's how the Field Museum locks up their gems at night. "Just toss all the jewels into that safe. Really cram 'em in there. They're not breakable or valuable or anything."
2. This ad suggests the Field Museum protects their jewels with a Master Lock combination padlock. "Don't even think about trying to steal our precious gems, jewel thieves -- you'll never guess our wickedly complex three-number combination!"
3. Somehow, a gun-metal gray, numbered dial doesn't mesh well with a sparkling, rainbow opal. Why not just show a picture of variety of fantastic gems without muddying it by cutting and pasting a cropped image of a lock. It's uninviting -- the opposite of what you want if you're a museum. Unless you don't want people coming to your museum.
These are minor points, but remember this ad is eight feet tall! You have people staring at this for minutes on end while they wait for their bus -- you want these ads to be good. I realize non-profits like museums probably don't have huge marketing departments, but why greenlight something that's obviously goofy? Just show some of the highlights of your gem room and let us know when the thing is opening. No need to art direct a clumsy ad just for the sake of being unique, or clever, or something.
Despite all this, I highly encourage everyone to go visit the Field Museum if you find yourself in Chicago -- the gem room is incredible. Just ignore the ads.