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Bad Grammar: Okay in Advertising?

// June 27, 2011 // Advertising // 4 Comments

When is it okay to use bad grammar in advertising? I’d like to think we have free range and can be as creative as possible, but just because I feel that way, doesn’t mean it’s right.

Recently, I’ve come across two ad campaigns by Fortune 500 companies using the “word” funner. Funner is often misused in day to day conversation (even I’m guilty at times), but according to Merriam-Webster, funner is definitely not a word. That said, I continue to notice the use of the word in advertising on a daily basis.

I was walking through my local Target store when I spotted a large banner that read “Make Summer Funner” – I couldn’t believe the mega-retail store conglomerate would support such a grammatically incorrect advertisement. A few days later, I saw a :30 TV commercial using the same debatable phrase.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qmmc3qXdj0]

Target has always been known for its fun and out of the box campaigns — the holiday Tip Campaign featuring Maria Bamford, and the unforgettable Hello, Goodbuy Campaign from 2007 are two of my favorites, but it’s hard to understand why the major brand would promote and encourage such horrible grammar.

The initial draw behind the campaign makes sense — summer and funner rhyme. The phrase also has a young and playful ring to it, which is perfect for the summer months when kids are out of school and families are generally having more fun. The overall creative is compelling and catches your attention, especially when the boogie boarder jumps into the kiddy pool. Yet, why did Target choose to incorporate a grammatically incorrect statement? Does the phrase ruin a perfectly good commercial? Technically, the campaign could have achieved the same positive reaction by saying “Make Summer More Fun.” This leads me to believe the phrase was used purposely to spark conversation about the use of the word and also work with the playful visuals of summer fun throughout the campaign.

On the flip side…

Yahoo was actually called out for the use of bad grammar in its “Fast is Funner” campaign. Yahoo launched their new email program (which is 2 times faster than their previous one) with this campaign – ultimately receiving a lot of backlash for it, even having to pull it off the internet after the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banned the ad.

The problem with this campaign wasn’t just that it was grammatically incorrect, but also because the ads incorporated an image that angered a lot of people. The image portrayed two young women driving a convertible down an open road. People interpreted this as Yahoo promoting fast driving and the idea that the faster you drive, the more fun you will have. The disconnect is not just with the improper use of the word funner, but also gives the phrase a negative connotation of driving fast and having fun. A bad combination and disconnect all and all.

Ultimately, both Target and Yahoo had good concepts behind these campaigns, but the main difference between the two comes down to the delivery. Target was not scrutinized for its use of funner because its visual made sense with the copy. The phrase “Make Summer Funner” was in line with the concept behind the creative. Yahoo, however, provided an image that was disjointed with its tagline “Faster is Funner”, hence the backlash the campaign suffered thereafter.

What are your thoughts on using bad grammar in advertising? If the visual is compelling enough, should the words and grammar matter?

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    4 Comments

    1. Don’t forget that Apple called the newest iPod touch the funnest iPod in their last run of iPod ads ;)

    2. Michael,

      I was unaware of the the IPod funnest ad. I think funnest and funner have the same stipulation in people’s eyes. Yet, some people say that funnest is actually a word (according to their dictionary) but it’s just poor English grammar.

      But, it is Apple, so they pretty much can get away with anything right?

      -Becca

    3. Using poor grammar seems insulting to your customer. Give them credit for thoughtful execution of your messaging.

      I think it takes away from the creative when people have to think about a word or words in the messaging. It also justifies people using nonexistent words.

      What happened to the days of “gooder” copywriting?

    4. I remember a Michael Keaton movie a while back that was about “Truth in Advertising”. It had some of the best ads I have ever seen, and what made them so great was because they just told it like it was. Wouldn’t it be fun if all ads had to tell the truth/be honest? “Condoms : because she is lying.” Or “We don’t get paid unless we win your case. Our paralegal would be happy to take it…” The Caveman is hysterical – I wish all ads were as entertaining. :-)