You Had Me, You Had Me … You Lost Me, Big Ass Fans

Flipping though a recent New York Times Magazine, I saw this ad. It called to mind the long-form copy of David Ogilvy (“the father of advertising”) that left an indelible mark on the advertising world.

Ogilvy believed — and there’s now plenty of research to back up his hunch — that although most people won’t get past the headline, those who do read the entire ad are the ones who might actually might buy your product.

And while you don’t need long copy to sell a pack of gum, if your product has any technical complexity — or is just really expensive — long copy is proven to be more effective. (Lawrence Bernstein gives a good overview of long- vs. short-form copy.)

But here’s the deal: If you’re going to use long copy, it’s got to be good. So is the copy in this ad any good? Let’s take a look:

It starts off strong by identifying the audience: people who have a lot of money, care about home décor and have a creative bent. The writer deftly works in the yuppie buy word: “different.” As in: Forget everything you think you know about fans and prepare to have your mind blown.

Then he or she backs it up by noting a prestigious award this fan has won and throws around another critical buy word to attract a younger (but still wealthy!) audience. Yes, the new buy word for this audience is “sustainability.”

There’s a lot of over-the-top language here, such as, “We don’t make ceiling fans. We make precision machines.” And the almost reverential tone the writer uses to talk about the “aerodynamic profile.” But I think it works. The subtext being, “Don’t feel guilty about buying this: It’s a piece of art! An investment that showcases your taste and elevates your status among those you seek to impress!”

In fact, I’d say the writer has successfully worked this audience into an excited frenzy: Ready to shout at his/her spouse/partner/pocket-sized dog, “We must buy some art for our ceiling!”

Then comes the fatal mistake that breaks the dream. It’s the final paragraph that talks about the company behind the fans: “Big Ass Fans.”

Not only does this company name contradict the sophisticated air of refinement that’s been blowing around until now, but it makes potential buyers think: “Wait. Do I really need a big-ass fan?”

Most likely they decide they don’t. After all, a “big ass” is something you get rid of — either at the gym or on the curb.

The way I see it, this company has two options:

  • Rewrite this ad in a different voice. To mesh with the company’s name and presumed personality, it can’t take itself so seriously. The copy has to be smart and cheeky, not smart and sophisticated.
  • Leave it as is, but keep the parent company’s name out of it all together. This wouldn’t be too hard. They’ve already created a website for this particular fan: So why even mention made by Big Ass Fans at all? Feels off-brand to me. (And after stumbling upon this video: Big Ass Fans, Big Ass Problems, it definitely feels off-brand. Company should have done an ad as playful as they are.)

Finally, that photo looks like it’s from a ski chalet in Montana. The people who buy this particular fan, I’m guessing, are from New York City and other upscale urban locales. So why not give us a shot of a gorgeous penthouse apartment with sweeping views of the city? Once again, good writing and design all comes down to this: Know your audience.

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