What Impressed Me About this Ad

How to communicate with our audience?

As many other charities and environmental organizations, we look for ways to communicate to the public the issues and solutions we think are important. One of our supporters, Rick Pollay, who is an expert in marketing and advertising, brought this recent ad to our attention and shared with us his impression of its effectiveness.  We thought this might be an interesting conversation and educational piece, so we asked the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition if we could share this image with our readers. What do you think?

— SPEC ED Oliver

Rick Pollay, Curator, History of Advertising Archives, UBC

I applaud the eye-catching color and graphics, especially in a black and white newspaper context, with a strong use of the visual to dramatically convey the message concept of the “watershed moment” in the “go – no go” choice faced. This reliance of the visual, not the verbal, is vital as research shows that most ads don’t get noticed, and even for those that do get noticed, fewer than 10% of viewers get past the headline text.  Far too often advocacy ads rely too heavily on words alone to get their idea(s) across. In ads, as in life, the picture is worth a 1,000 words at the least, especially when the words go largely unread.

The “go – no go” choice is treated with symmetry, splitting the entire image, including Justin’s face and necktie, exactly in half with “climate action” and “climate disaster” illustrated by symmetrical (natural, colored) rays of light vs. (industrial, black & white) smoke stack pollution, the latter visualising greenhouse gasses in a bit of poetic licence. This contrast is reinforced by a single forceful and credible quote for each half, wisely refraining from overkill with multiple quotes, evidence and argument best left to other modes of communication. Of lesser import, but adding to overall efficacy of the ad by resonance, are the word play of “watershed moment” with protecting a watershed; the symmetry of the whole fish and the fish skeleton; the visual references to both air and water issues; the placement of the “natural” choice of the left, and the “industrial” choice on the right.

The message is very personalized to Justin Trudeau in its headline, portrait rendering, direct quotation and “Dear Justin” salutation in the body text from the sponsoring organization.  Their identity, skeenawatershed.com, is left to the very fine print at the very end. While this might have been larger, showing self-confidence and pride in this ad, it is entirely reasonable that the focus of the ad stay on Trudeau and the decision he and his government face, not on the organization authoring the plea, as this can easily be become a distraction. More important, in my view, is the appeal to Justin to “stand with science” and make a policy decision based on evidence, not ideology, and that the evidence weighed include the decision’s impact on First Nations, fish habitat, and greenhouse gasses.