From Nest to Nine West

The last time I fell for a print ad was this spring, when, in a perpetual quest to boost my already-dazzling intellectual firepower, I was reading a fashion magazine. There was a series of one-page, full-color ads from Nest, the hipper-than-thou smoke detector that wakes you with a gentle, “Heads up, there’s smoke,” in a sultry female voice rather than the thousand-decibel boat-horn blast that lesser devices emit.

That said, I discovered last week that the Nest still beeps constantly when its batteries are low, and it was curiously cryptic when it sent a red message to my iPad hours earlier. (“Smoke detected. Emergency call made.”) I poked, I sniffed, I opened every door in the house when I got home, but no evidence of fire. My husband suggested that the cat tried to sneak a cigarette.

coal on carpet cropped

Now I spent years practicing the dark arts of corporate advertising, and I pride myself on knowing all–or most–of its seductive wiles. In fact, I study magazine ads more than the articles. I leave the room for more nachos when the game is on, so I don’t miss any commercials. You won’t find me square in a marketer’s cross-hairs.

Or so I like to think. Then I saw a masterpiece of print advertising: the shoe company Nine West’s four-page insert in Real Simple magazine. The creative had concise, clever copy, sharp, clean design, and brilliant media placement (the part of advertising that most people ignore, but is as fine a skill as creating the ad itself).

The first page was this:

9west starter

Note the clear “Hunger Games” (female hunting others with a bow) and the saucy “starter husband” references. Good fun for the young, who might enjoy the worldly idea of a starter husband, and for the old(er), who know full well that divorce is an expensive nightmare but have had years to make a comic anecdote out of it. The pants are cool and the shoes are fierce.

Turn the page and you get the next ad:

9west shoe2

Sweet (pale pink coat, memories of that first day when the world was young and you were adorable) but not entirely (boss heels, edgy zipper, an adult leaving weepy Kleenexes). A combination calculated to get your attention, tastefully but slyly off-beat.

Then the third:

9west eyewear

Hilarious. Exactly how we all wish we could approach a salary discussion: calm, chic, and a force to be reckoned with.

And finally:

9west watch

It’s after work now, you’re out for some speed dating (fun with no commitment!), your sweater matches your flowers (hey, did someone give those to you?), your jeans, figure, and manicure are flawless, and your watch is a pop of stylish blue. Who wouldn’t want to look like this? Blammo. Nine West aimed and got the shot.

So in four quick, clever, colorful pages, placed in the center of “the book,” with minimal copy, a reinforcing URL, and beautiful images layered with sly references to familiar feelings, Nine West delivered a sexy, fun introduction to its fall line.

There’s a lot of bad advertising out there. But print advertising–like any kind–can be done well, and when it is, it’s a blast.

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