Does a Dreamy, Abstract Ad Need to Be Accurate?

Scan_of_ad My Canadian friend Bill (a fellow member of the Cognoscenti), who embraces accuracy and precision in everything he does, sent me a scan of this VISA Signature ad.

It’s a beautiful ad showcasing a dream-like view of the 18th hole that VISA says is on the Pinehurst Course #2.

The ad lists 27 things that you and I should want to do while we’re still alive. Most are abstract things like "paraglide" while some are a bit more specific such as "climb Mount Everest".

Image0023Bill’s observation is that the ONE thing they chose to illustrate from the list is "Play Pinehurst No. 2".

Problem is, Bill knows golf. He knows that anyone who follows the game would remember Payne Stewart’s famous fist pump at the U.S. Open in 1999 took place on the 18th green at Pinehurst No. 2.

The beautiful, dreamy image in the VISA ad is the 18th at Pinehurst No. 4. Entirely different course.

18th_at_pinehurst_2 Because Bill values accuracy and precision (and knows golf), he is disburbed by the ad. Many people would never know that it’s the wrong course and would just take the ad at face value.

The agency should have known that there are golfers in their audience who know the difference between the courses at Pinehurst. After all, they are going after the affluent readers of magazines such as Wine Spectator.

Hmmm. What do you think?

7 thoughts on “Does a Dreamy, Abstract Ad Need to Be Accurate?

  1. Michael Wagner

    First, I think — good question!

    Second, I wonder — is this a simple mistake or a calculated act of the agency?

    We can suspend critical analysis for a movie (or at least most of us can). But normally we expect ads of this nature to an accurate representation of what they claim.

    So my answer is that the ad should not have gone out like this.

    But do we know this wasn’t a simple mistake?

    Thanks for posing a good question!

    Keep creating,

  2. Dave Young

    I think it was probably a mistake. I can’t imagine the benefit of using a wrong image as some kind of flag to measure response, especially when the only people who will respond are avid golfers who value accuracy.

    Thanks for commenting Mike.

  3. Bill Laidlaw

    Dave’s friend Bill here. So surprised was I by this ad that actually spent an hour trying to find an email address of any kind
    for Visa. None was found for any department anywhere, via any search engine. Wow, what or whom are they hiding from. Re: maybe they did it on purspose, maybe? I once called a local car dealer who put the map to their location in a fashion that made the lake ( and all major roads) to our south appear as north on their map. He said he wanted to get peoples attention. He likely did,
    particularily the ones who couldn’t find his lot!

  4. Kelly Hobkirk

    I think it was probably a mistake born of ignorance. Many ad agencies today do not understand how or why they should make sure that there are no weak links in their ads.

    This is, however, more a symptom of the times than it is a reflection of the ad agency. Very few people on the client side actually care about attaining maximum ad effectiveness. This is primarily because of the fact that there is now a whole generation of corporate senior management that has never experienced effective advertising with maximum returns.

    If the clients do not care about the quality of the work, ad agencies, in turn, seem to not care about it either. This is why ad agencies now get looked down upon by marketing consultants, and it’s why corporations are listening them. It is high time there was a major turnaround.

  5. Chris Bonney

    The real question in my opinion is: What came first – the picture or the idea that playing that hole is something you should do before you die? Why would you choose a hole that you didn’t have a picture for or why would you put up a picture and then call it something it isn’t?

    Neither makes sense, but with books in the scores of things you should do before you die as a reference, it seems Visa and their ad agency could have been more creative and respectful to their audience.

    Lastly, all the talk about accuracy and precision it seems has gotten people flustered. I see a typo in the post and in the comments of other people. When does critiquing end and sometimes I wonder to what end it serves?

  6. Sonia Simone

    Lazy agency. I see it all the time. If this kind of thing isn’t managed with fanatical attention, it slips.

    It absolutely matters. The customer they’re trying to reach *will* catch it and will roll his eyes. It’s not a large enough error to create real brand mistrust, but it subtracts points when you’re trying to add them.

    I have to say, I don’t think Amex would have made this mistake.

  7. Dom

    I’m a graphic designer at an agency. My opinion on why this happened is, sadly, the image was probably the best shot they had and didn’t want to pay the money for a correct shot or for a photo shoot. Ad agencies tend to sometimes cut a lot of corners to save a buck when it comes to imagery. Who knows what kind of deadline they had to work with or even who came up w/ the idea of the Pinehurst thing.

    It could very well have come from some big wig corporate guy that didn’t care about accuracy and figured others wouldn’t either.
    I seriously doubt it was a mistake. Usually, you’ve got 5-10 people at an agency reviewing the ad – everyone from production up to the Creative Director.

    They should have known better.


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