Quite Possibly, The Worst Ad Ever. Or One Of The Worst.

We’ve all seen bad trade pub ads, but I think I’ve found the worst one ever. This one, for Matthews Cremation, which ran in the July issue of American Funeral Director magazine. (Yes, we had a copy in the agency today.) Click on the ad to see a larger version:
But it’s not enough to say “this ad sucks.” I’d like to point out all the egregious aspects of this ad that I can spot, and I’ll just start at the top and work my way down:
1) The Headline That Has The First Letter Of Each Word In All Caps. Yes, we do it on AdPulp for header consistency, but in print advertising it’s a completely revolting idea. Actually, I think it was very popular 25 years ago but today it looks like a hack technique. Plus, the headline’s in Times New Roman or Palatino or some other font that came with Microsoft Word.
2) The headline has a cliche (“leaps and bounds”). And it’s a bad play on words. With a see-and-say effect. It tells us to “picture revenue growing by leaps and bounds,” then it does exactly that in the visual.
3) The main visual is a bar graph. Of dogs. Leaping. Why????
4) Actually, it’s not a visual of a bunch of dogs. It’s just one dog, in two different leaping poses, which are then inverted. But that’s not the worst part. The dog is badly photographed and there’s some medium-resolution full-crotch action that’s gratuitous.
5) The chart references “pet owner spending,” which really doesn’t have anything to do with pet cremation. Or does it? Certainly, spending on everything pet-related in this country is in the billions, so I assume the numbers refer to spending on pet death expenses. But again, the numbers don’t specify if that’s total pet owner spending on funeral expenses, or just the dollar amounts by which spending on those expenses has increased. There’s no reference for where they got the information. The only conclusion i can draw is that “pet owner spending” is now about $40 million a year. Where and for what, I have no idea. On top of everything else, it’s ambiguous. Which means it fails to make its selling point.
6) The First Letter Of Each Subhead Word Is In All Caps Again.
7) Two inset photos, one heartstring-tugging pic of a chick and her cat, delicately balanced out by our “look at our equipment” B-to-B photo.
8) The body copy changes tenses. In the first paragraph it’s “We are witnessing…” first-person plural. Then it becomes “…through their Faithful Forever…” third-person plural in the next paragraph. Who’s doing the talking?
9) 5 logos (6 if you count the 2 treatments of the “Faithful Forever” logo)
10) 2 taglines: “Discover the real difference…discover Matthews” and “EMBRACE THE OPPORTUNITY”
11) The last line in the body copy (or is it a tagline?) is in italics, as if the thought carries more power that way. Then, the call-to-action is in bold.
Perhaps you can spot some other dubious ideas. Or maybe some redeeming qualities to the ad. Feel free to add to the list.
Look, I’m not picking on these guys because they’re pushing pet cremation services. I’m sure there’s way to sell it smartly and tastefully. But this isn’t it. The only thing missing here is a mention of bulk rates. You know, for Michael Vick and his friends.

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for TalentZoo.com. Dan published the best of his TalentZoo.com columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. The peanut gallery says:

    We can all sit around and laugh but the fact is that alot of clients would cream their pants with sheer pleasure and ecstasy if their agency brought them stuff like this without being asked.
    Advertising rule #12.75-What the client wants is almost never what’s best for the client.

  2. i love it!
    headline should have read “Picture your revenue growing by leaps and hounds” though.

  3. Imagine The Profits! Hot Dog!

  4. kokomjolk says:

    I think it’s pretty effective. I mean, my dog is young and healthy, but this ad makes cremation look just so darn fun we may setup an appointment next week. Beauty will love it!!

  5. Carl LaFong says:

    “A chick and her cat?” What, are you channeling Steve Hall?

  6. The chart is recording in dog years.