Hiring Shaq Doesn’t Guarantee a Slam Dunk

There are few things that delight me more than seeing a poorly conceived ad on teevee. It’s wasteful, and I cringe when I think about the armies of people who tossed wads of dollars into a creative effort that entirely missed the mark. And that’s why I enjoy them — I get to feel superior and write blog posts about it!

The current ad that’s annoying/amusing me is the Epson ad featuring Shaquille O’Neal.

At the outset of the ad, Shaq faces a problem that will resonate with everyone who owns an inkjet printer. One of his cartridges has run out of ink, and he can’t find a replacement.

The solution, according to the ad, is the liquid ink refills used in new Epson printers. But the ad has a gigantic flaw: The issue is that he’s out of ink, which is a problem no matter which ink delivery vehicle the owner is using. If you don’t have a magenta ink cartridge, why would you assume that you’d always have a liquid magenta refill on hand? The challenge set up in the ad — not being able to print because you’re out of ink — is in no way addressed by the solution Epson is offering.

The Epson ad does offer something of a value proposition: Their ink refills contain more ink than a cartridge, so you need to make fewer trips to the store. But two critical questions are not answered: How much more ink do you get compared to a cartridge, and how much do the ink refills cost compared to the cartridges? Hypothetically, the refills may only provide 10% more ink and cost 50% more. 

What’s really frustrating is that there is a glaringly obvious unique selling proposition that’s completely overlooked: ink refills are friendlier for the environment than cartridges. Everyone knows how much metal and plastic goes into a cartridge — what a waste!1 I assume you can just throw an empty plastic ink bottle into any recycling bin. Now, that’s a selling point.

Another frustrating point: The ad doesn’t address a concern many customers may have. Liquids are messy, and Epson doesn’t explain how its solution keeps ink from dripping all over your hands, your printer, your desk, your floor, your guinea pig armor — you get the idea. If there’s a design feature that prevents spills, Epson should have mentioned it prominently. 

I have no idea why an ad agency hasn’t hired me yet in an executive role. I would have put the kibosh on this ad in the ideation stage. Are you listening, Madison Avenue?

1 I’m willing to bet most people don’t know you can mail them back to the manufacturer for recycling.