Billboard Review: 20th Century Fox’s “This Means War”February 17, 2012
Today, the 20th Century Fox release “This Means War” hits theaters nationwide. If you’ve seen the trailer, you know that the plot is essentially a love triangle rendition of “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” but if all you have to go on is this billboard, you may be understandably more confused.
The concept itself is sound: highlight the rivalry between the two men, and allude to the fact that the object of their desire is oblivious to their true nature. The copy is simple and reinforces the film’s title with the play on words, “Make War, Not Love.” Visually, the use of contrast makes the copy and the images stand out, with the film’s star and title drawing the eye.
What Doesn’t Work:
The design seems solid in concept, but the execution of this ad leaves much to be desired. The fact is that most viewers will look at this billboard for 1 or 2 seconds, and many will totally miss the handguns that blend into the dark suits. But the greatest failure of this ad has to do with the plane on which the characters are positioned.
At a glance, this billboard appears to say, ‘Go see this film or these two guys will murder Reese Witherspoon.’
For the design’s basic concept to work, her character must be standing either clearly in front of or clearly behind the two male characters. Otherwise, the result can be a billboard that tells the wrong story, like this ad for “This Means War.” 20th Century Fox can do better.
The image below shows the original ad next to a version we edited based on the above recommendations. You’ll notice immediately that Reese’s character is standing in front of the other two characters. Thanks to this simple change, the ad now conveys the right story – that Reese is not a hostage, but may be involved with two handsome but secretly dangerous men. We also lightened their suits to make the pistols stand out more.
When it comes to your brand, whether it’s a film or your personal Facebook profile, don’t just go half-way with your messaging. The information you put out should quickly and clearly convey the intended message, and at the very least shouldn’t leave viewers confused. The original billboard works in concept, but as with so many other elements of marketing, how well your concept is executed is the difference between success and failure.
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