Judge an Ad By Its Copy (Among Other Things) / by Tze Hern Yeo

Now let me preface this by saying I'm no top-tier designer. I'm merely noting my observations on design because I have an interest in it and believe the one way to get better at it is to learn from real world examples. Let's get right to it.

I've noticed this particular advertisement at the MRT station on my daily commute to work for the past few weeks. What struck me when I first saw it was just how jarring the entire design was. I mean just take a look.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

To begin, the average passenger standing in line at the door would first take notice of the top half of the advertisement. Rightfully so because it's positioned at the eye line. Anything else below would only be seen if the person even bothered to look down in the first place. 

When I first saw this ad, I noticed the Freddy Krueger type and struggled to make out the copy. My eyes were then drawn to the ninja illustrations and finally to the centre where the product was. You'd notice the element of scale at play and just like in newspaper design, everything 'above the fold' first caught my attention.


Then I started to take a closer look. I'd admit I only did this because I had nothing else to do while waiting at peak hour for a less crowded train to arrive. The use of four different typefaces was the next most prominent design choice that felt out of place. 

Finally, if we were to use the formula of three in this ad starting with first the product then copy, the third and final component would be the call to action. Unfortunately it's placed right at the bottom left corner in a very tiny font size telling the consumer where to find the product. 

With all the prime real estate on this panel relegated to the ninjas, there's really not much else holding the attention of the average passenger.

In addition, I realised that the copy at the top was basically a rehash of the copy on the packaging of the product. I get that repetition is key but using less than readable type can render it moot.

So what then can MRT ads do to get more eyeballs? This could be a question of choosing the right space first. In the context of panel ads like this one, I think the high footfall at MRT stations is a plus but the memorability is overall low since every other station carries a different ad. The average passenger can only remember that many brands at one go and that's only if they're paying attention and not buried in their phones.

The best ads are the ones that are punchy, relatable and most importantly well-researched. Perhaps clients can take a cue from this and reconsider the importance of location, location, location.