Smiling Faces

Cheryl Catts

April 19, 2011

I’ve lived in Salt Lake since I began my professional career, so my detailed study outside of this market has been fairly limited. That said, here’s what I do know: Salt Lake isn’t a small city, but it’s not a big city either. We’ve got lots of transplants.  There’s an interesting hybrid of extreme outdoor enthusiasts and the born-here-die-here-pioneer-heritage natives. Sometimes advertising is political. Sometimes it’s religious. And sometimes it’s just like anywhere else.

There was one thing I didn’t know about us, however, that came to my attention just a few days ago. My parents were visiting from Colorado for the weekend and while driving from point A to point B my mom called me and asked, “Why are there so many faces on your billboards here?”

Hmmm… I guess I hadn’t noticed. Since she obviously called to talk to the ‘expert’ I felt like I really needed to come up with a whiz-bang answer to impress the people who helped support the college degree that got me into this position of ad wisdom. So, I did what any good account service rep does, and made something up. They seemed to buy it and fortunately that was the end of it.

Since then, however, I’ve taken notice and given this question some thought. What is it about this market that makes us want to put a face with our products and services? National brands hardly ever do this. Try to think of one. And no, celebrity endorsements don’t count.

What it seems to come down to is ego. This is a city with closely-knit communities, so the chance that your whole neighborhood will see your billboard and comment on it is pretty good. What this breeds, however, is a false sense of security that the ad is good. “I saw your billboard.” does NOT equal “What a compelling advertisement that makes me want to consume your service or product.”

But smiling faces are easy. We justify their use by saying they make the brand more personal. But do they? Those who do break out of the mold have the opportunity to get noticed. And isn’t THAT the point?

So let’s move past ego-marketing. Real advertising is creative, and compelling, and thought-provoking. The best part is, we’re capable of it. So from my smiling face to yours, here’s to raising the bar!