Sometimes our industry gets a little too clever for our own good. In the search for clever headlines and concepts we sometimes deride others to be a bit funny or witty. Wells Fargo found itself in the witty quagmire this fall.
In the past, this little writing philosophy prompted a giggle or laugh, but now, you can receive a firestorm for even the most innocent of efforts. The campaign was to promote teen financial education day. The ads featured cute kids working in STEM fields. So far so good. The headlines said, “A ballerina yesterday. An engineer today.” Or, “An actor yesterday. A botanist today.” The end of the ad featured a copy point saying, “Let’s get them ready for tomorrow.”
In the New York Times, Wells Fargo said the ads “were intended to celebrate all the aspirations of young people and fell short of that goal.” One of the tweets the Times published was from Donna Lynne Champlin (@DLChamplin), “2016’s highest paid actor at $64 million vs highest paid botanist at $165,049. @WellsFargo, u sure ur a bank? #math.”
“Clear is the new clever.” I’m not sure who originally said this, but it is extremely relevant in this social media world. Loud and literal beats understated elegance on the internet. So how to avoid this PR pothole? Remember that if you are picking on someone else to make your point, you will lose on social media. This ad was suggesting the sciences are better than the arts. Really, a need for the comparison? The better strategy is when you remove yourself from the internal issues and start thinking like the customer—spend a little more time thinking so that you can say, “I am not throwing away my shot.”