Mass Effect: Andromeda is what the industry calls as AAA-title. That’s a top-tier release by a major publisher which is expected to sell millions of copies and make roughly a quadrillion dollars off an already multi-million dollar investment.
It’s the blockbuster of the video game industry.
Knowing this, it makes me wonder why I keep seeing dollar-store adverts for their product on my phone.
Now, it’s possible it’s supposed to be an animated GIF, but since there’s no way to tell on my phone (it never loads those properly), but all I have to work with is what I’m given. And what I’m given is honestly pretty sad.
Why this advert sucks
The simple answer? It’s the ad copy.
Are you fucking kidding me? That’s the best your writing team could come up with? Who did they assign to put this together? A first-month intern from another department because everyone else was too busy?
“Buy now” is of course marginally better than, if perhaps not quite as hilarious as, “You buy now.”
But it’s close.
Often, advertisers try to hide the fact that they are so greedy for your coin, by using wording like “try for free” or “no obligations” or even “Yours free, for 14 days.”
These aren’t particularly compelling or valuable statements, unless the product is really self-evident and you’ve already made up your mind that you need it (but haven’t decided on them or their competitor).
For instance, a new line of bread called SuperBread hits the market. No one is sure what makes it super, but everyone is sure they love bread.
“Try for free.”
Ooh, free sample! Yes!
Now that I think about it, “SuperBread: Yours free, for 14 days” would make for one hell of an interesting ad to think about, but that’s for another time.
Back to our copy.
“Buy now” is the even more arrogant version of these statements.
It speaks a language of its own, a language that’s so self-evident it suggests whoever was reading the ad was either an idiot (“ads are for things you can buy?“) or simply waiting for the moment when they could buy the product.
For instance, I can see the ideal scenario for this ad playing out like this:
Day 1: Can I buy it now? Not yet. Okay, me wait.
Day 2: “Buy now!” Shit! Time to buy! Thank God I saw that advert on my phone. Because I totally click ads on my phone and buy shit on the bus.
Sarcasm aside, you can probable see the problem. Ad copy like this ignores the fundamental “givens” that come with all ads.
When we see an advertisement, we already know the basic premise. It’s pushing something we can buy.
It might as well just say: “Mass Effect Andromeda: You can buy this.”
We know this. Everyone who has seen an ad knows this. So why re-iterate it?
Instead, use that precious ad space to say what’s missing. You know, the next thought that goes in everyone’s head:
“Okay, but why?”
Better adverts answer this question.
Ad copy is supposed to inform the consumer why they should buy this product.
I’ve always felt that the most compelling ads are the ones that make a clear value statement or proposition to their audience; or at the very least, deploy copy that lists the benefits of the product.
You know, the benefits of buying something.
By focusing on how it benefits the consumer, advertisers are employing the most basic tenants of seller psychology.
They’re also effectively arguing that their product is something that people ultimately want, need, desire, right?
“Buy now” is not a benefit for the consumer. It’s a benefit for the advertiser. In fact, it says nothing to the consumer, and offers just as much. Ditto.
For instance, let’s compare Mass Effect: Andromeda’s very real ad campaign to a fictional one I’m going to make up on the spot for a new company called SwiftBroom.
The marketers at SwiftBroom had to put out ad copy. At their first meeting, they realized could either go with:”SwiftBroom: Buy Now.” And post a picture of their product.
Or, they could go with: “Start brooming.”
Or even: “Start cleaning.”
Hell, during their round table talk, one intern even asked not make it super direct?
“Clean your damn floors.”
As asinine as these ads would be, they would be better than what we got for Mass Effect: Andromeda, because now I know what I can do with my SwiftBroom or why I should buy it.
Or let’s take a real-world example that’s closer to home.
Ontario, everyone’s favourite province. On their license plates as well as ad campaigns they use the provincial slogan:
“Yours to discover.”
As tacky as it might seem, this is actually good ad copy. The use of “yours” makes it personal and intimate.
“Discover” is an active verb, something yet to happen, ripe with potential.
Together, the slogan clearly states the benefit of visiting that province.
Discovery evokes places to visit, things to see, secrets to uncover and memories to make.
Hell, Ontario effectively made every single license plate they issue into free ad copy for their tourism industry.
So, good job, Ontario.
Can you imagine if their slogan was “Discover now” or “Move here”? Pretty lame.
“Ontario: Buy Now.”
To re-iterate, by telling the audience they can buy it, all the ad is doing is telling them what they already know. What it’s not doing, is telling them what they haven’t decided yet or are unaware.
In a dark sort of way, Mass Effect: Andromeda’s ad copy is a fairly pure statement. I mean that it’s one of those rare glimpses at the dismal, submerged, underbelly of the advertiser’s desire distilled down to its bare essence.
Buy this. Spend your money. We want it. Now.
“Buy now” is arguably the least-bullshit laden statement to ever come from a marketer.
But it’s also bad copy.