Communique Newsletter


How To Create The Worst Ad Possible

Tobacco Companies Roll Out Court Ordered Ads


If you’ve watched TV or read the newspaper lately, there’s a chance you may have seen an ad warning you of the dangers of smoking. There’s probably a better chance that the ad slipped by without catching your attention. Oddly enough, it was undoubtedly the intent of the ad creators, who ignored all of advertising’s best practices on purpose, so that you would ignore it.

These ads, which were more than a decade in the making, are a result of a lawsuit by the Department of Justice in 1999 against tobacco companies. The suit contended that tobacco companies had actively deceived the public about the dangers of their product for decades. As part of the 2006 ruling against the tobacco companies, they were ordered to disseminate “corrective statements” about the health risks and addictive nature of smoking. Legal wrangling and multiple appeals dragged out the implementation of ads until November of 2017.

Tobacco companies were ordered to run these informative ads on major networks during prime-time TV and as full-page ads in national newspapers for a year. The 18-year legal battle has worked in the tobacco companies’ favor. The intent of the advertising was to warn younger people of the dangers of smoking before they developed an addictive habit. But the media habits of young people have changed. They no longer watch major networks or read printed newspapers. The landscape for media consumption has shifted to mostly online.

Even though there are fewer potential viewers, tobacco companies made sure to create the most bland ads, so that they would be noticed by as few consumers as possible. Prior to this tobacco ads were known for their catchy headlines and eye-grabbing design. Now the companies were intent on breaking all the rules of advertising and fought hard to make the ads as invisible as possible. The result was “tombstone” advertising with a plain white background and tightly-spaced black text. A monotone, automaton-like voice over is used for the TV commercials.

The campaign includes five different ads with corrective statements divided by category, such as the manipulation of cigarette design, the addictiveness of nicotine, adverse health effects of exposure to secondhand smoke and that smoking can result in death. Each ad starts with a statement from Altria, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Lorillard and Philip Morris USA stating they have a federal court order to inform consumers of the health effects of smoking.

Unfortunately, due to the ad design and off target media placement most young consumers will never see the ads. While most saw the lawsuit decision as a win for consumers, the tobacco companies knew how to comply with the letter of the law without losing the battle.

Facebook Being Sued For Tracking Faces

Class Action Lawsuit Filed Over Facial Recognition


Ironically, Facebook may be in legal trouble for storing data of faces. A federal judge in California has ruled that Facebook can be sued in a class-action lawsuit brought by users in Illinois. The complainants say, that without their consent, Facebook used facial recognition technology on their uploaded photographs.

The lawsuit was filed by Jay Edelson of Edelson PC, a firm based in Chicago, which specializes in suing technology companies for privacy violations.

The lawsuit contends that Facebook has “secretly amassed the world’s largest privately held database of consumer biometrics data,” and is seeking penalties of up to $5,000 for every time a user’s facial image is used without permission.

The potential damages could amount to billions of dollars. The case concerns a feature, which was introduced in 2010 by Facebook that analyzes users’ photos and then suggests names to go with the faces in the picture from the users’ lists of friends. The lawsuit contends that the social network violated an Illinois law, called the Biometric Information Privacy Act, by storing images of its users’ faces without obtaining their permission and also did not make it clear how long it planned to keep the digital data. The Biometric Information Privacy Act says that information that uniquely identifies an individual is, in essence, their property and specifically prohibits a private entity from selling, leasing, trading or otherwise profiting from a person’s biometric information.

Facebook has issued a statement saying it continued to believe that the lawsuit has no merit. Now it’s up to the courts to decide who will win this face off.

AdAbility Helps Launch Statewide Municipal Internship Program

PA MIP Logo.jpg

The creative team at AdAbility has been collaborating with the Pennsylvania Municipal League (PML) to launch the Pennsylvania Municipal Internship Program (PA MIP). Overseen by the Governor’s Center for Local Government Services (GCLGS), PA MIP provides an opportunity for college-level interns from across Pennsylvania to actively engage in handling municipal operations, projects and decision-making, thereby preparing them for a career in municipal government. In return, municipalities will benefit by receiving skilled, knowledgeable college students that can address vital projects. In addition to developing the brand identity and website for PA MIP, AdAbility is helping to promote municipal government participation and student recruitment for the program. Social media efforts will help connect college students with municipalities across the Commonwealth.

Creativity Is Hard Work


“VCU class of 2018. Hello… You have a gift, a gift that can’t be bought or sold. You have dedicated the last few years of your life to growing it. And it will repay you in spades. But, creativity is a fickle beast. It gives us the extraordinary ability to make something from nothing.

Now, it’s work. Hard work. But it pays off. It gives us the pride of a job well done. The relief of getting that idea on paper, on screen, on canvas, out of your head. Then, it turns a corner, it makes us vulnerable. In bringing creativity to the world we confront the fear of the new, the power of the familiar, the ease of “No, I don’t like it” or “That’s weird.” To make, is a risk…"

Let Me Tell You Why.

It takes heart, and passion, and grit to make something artful—something wholly new. And to you, that’s just homework. But man, it takes guts to show it to people. Being an artist is to be completely vulnerable. So why do we do it? The world is a crazy place.

We bring context to confusion. We bring insight to instability. We challenge. We celebrate. We see the unseen. We offer new ways into hard ideas, big ideas, old ideas. New ways of seeing that only we have the vision to bring to the world. And bring it we must…”

Excerpts of VCUarts Commencement Address by: Bobby C. Martin Jr., founding partner of The Original Champions of Design


AdAbility Welcomes Summer Intern

AdAbility announced the addition of Mikaela Paris as their Summer Intern. While interning at the agency, she will have the opportunity to gain real world experience developing and implementing marketing communications across different industries. Mikaela is currently a senior at Kutztown University pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Communication Design.