Welcome to Vanity Fair 2011

For weeks now, the newspapers have been carrying huge, full-page ads for Beauty City , an event(?) that will take place at Tel Aviv's fairgrounds, officially called The Israel Trade Fairs Center, (Merkaz HaYeridim @ Ganei HaTa'arucha, June 22-24, 2011.

For a token(?) entrance fee of NIS 30, women (well, I bet it'll be mostly women) will be awash in a sea of cosmetics and toiletries of every brand and kind. Heavily made-up sales representatives will probably be offering free makeovers, cute sachets of samples, and tempting(?) discounts. You know, the kind that make all the difference in the world: A 30-shekel cream sold for 20 shekels, and a superior(?) 800 shekel cream on special for "only" 600. Or maybe buy three, spend an arm and a leg, get one free, it'll come in handy instead of that missing arm or leg.

Hey, listen, I love wandering in the scented aisles of the Perfumery & Magic-Potion section of malls and duty-free shops. I inhale deeply, pick up pretty jars, read some ingredients and pipe-dream promises, appreciate the good copywriting and sneer at the bad texts. I consider the significant difference between Autumn Rose, Dusty Pink, and Plum Surprise shades of lipstick and their possible contribution to my general appearance and attractiveness. I hesitate between Desert Beige and Sandy Peach shades of powder for my reddish nose. I lament the fact that I can no longer use mascara because my eyes object in no uncertain terms and my skin reacts with a rash to anything more scented than baby soap. Then I sigh, pick up an unscented facial moisturizer with SPF 30, queue up, pay and leave.

"Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity."
Ecclesiastes 1:2

Down with Awful Copywriting – Example 4

Local car importers/distributors strike again.
Or rather, strike out again.

Yet another Israeli advertising agency has blundered.

The ad in question this time is for Fiat 500. Cute little car; there's one parked on our street. Looks perfect as a runabout for errands in and around the city and parking in tight places. No, I do not think it would be the first choice of some Italian contessa or principessa.

The ad in question bears the title: BEAUTIFUL. ITALIAN.
Beneath which is a photo of a bejeweled, prettyish woman, supposedly Italian looking, supposedly with a seductive expression and finger-to-lip sexiness.

At the bottom right is the toy itself, which looks – due to the angle and proportions of the illustration – as if it would barely accommodate two of Snow White's dwarfs. (They were chubby, you will recall; at least in the Disney version, which is what most of us recall.)

Bottom left is the horrendous copy, translated literally from trite, ill-conceived Hebrew copy. I'll spare you the pain and just give you the questionable beginning and the flawed end:

"The Italian beauty will attract you. It's hypnotizing. It's overpowering.
[7 more lines of bla bla, yadda yadda] … which combines beauty with character. With the company of a gorgeous Italian..." [Hint hint, nudge nudge, say no more!]

Did they by any chance mean "in the company of a gorgeous Italian"? Who knows.

Just compare that fatuous babble with the less pretentious, spot-on description of the car on the official Fiat site in Hebrew; briefly, it says "it warms the cockles of your heart and brings a smile to your face."

Down with Awful Copywriting – Example 3

Weeks ago, I saw a full page ad, in English, for the new VW Passat: run-of-the-mill looking car in an empty street of a nameless, gold-colored foreign city. Okay. I can live with that. Boring, unimaginative, but not offensive.

The title-slogan says:
The new Passat.
It gets into you.

What on earth got into them? What did they mean by that?

Google to the rescue. Seems there's this clip, the brainchild of one of Israel's largest advertising agencies, that's presented as an example of Israeli advertising at its best.

I watched the clip. I've seen better, I've seen worse.
But the telltale error of their ways is revealed at the tail end.

The voiceover says: The new VW Passat. It gets into you.
And the Hebrew subtitles read (I transliterate): hee mashpi'ah aleicha.
Which means, gentlemen, it gets to you.
Vive la difference.

And this, dear readers, is a true representative sample of Israeli car advertising at its typical blundering "best".

BTW: This ad's rating on the above-mentioned site is 8.8/10, gained through a very generous 19 votes. I wonder how many of the voters were native English speakers. (I bet none were finicky editors or QA people.)

The clip also appears on YouTube, but without the Hebrew subtitles which give it away.

Down with Awful Copywriting – Example 2

Cars. They are so much more than just a biggish, expensive device to get you from A to B. And competition is fierce. So naturally manufacturers pour a lot of money into outdoing each other with creative ads.

All this effort goes down the drain by the time the ads make it to Israel, and the local importer/distributor asks his advertising agency to make a Hebrew version of the ad.
More often than not, the agency apparently decides that the ad created for Europe or North America simply won't work in Israel, and opts for a made-for-the-average-Israeli-macho version.

The results range from acceptable to lame to downright awful.

Example? With [dis]pleasure.

Go to the Volvo XC90 page and click on the link 5 Things to Know.

That's just plain good marketing writing; nothing extravagant. Tells you good things about the car. That's for the sake of background information.

Then Google "Volvo XC90 ads" and look at a few. The artwork is beautiful and the slogan is simple: Life is Lived Better Together.

Or if you want the humorous version, try this.

Now, if you have a Hebrew daily handy, look at the ad that's been running in Hebrew papers for weeks. The Hebrew text is low-brow, crass and coarse, which is bad enough. The English translation is … I can't think of a suitable adjective: Unprofessional. Literal. Yuck. Blargh. It doesn't even capture the spirit of the Hebrew. (I don't know if that's good or bad, in this case!) See below: (The text of the ad is all upper case; not my doing.)


Sadly, this "opportunity" has been repeating itself for weeks.

Down with Awful Copywriting

Baby-leasing or hair styling?

Those were the two options that crossed my mind when I first saw the name of the luxury accommodations offered to new moms by Lis Maternity Hospital in Tel Aviv.

Babylis. I ask you!

Okay, so it's a challenge for the copywriter to think up a pithy name for it. So give the task to an imaginative, creative person. I happen to know we have several here in Israel.
The word "bliss" just begs to be used in this context, at the risk of slipping down the slippery slope of mushy-mushy.

The name Babyliss, pronounced in Hebrew (at least in my teens) bah-bee-lees, was one of the first I heard in the world of hair coiffing, when my friends and I had our hair done every Friday afternoon, in time for Friday night's party. Girls like me, with straight hair, had their hair put up in rollers to give them "volume", while girls with curly-to-kinky hair spent hours straightening their locks with bahbeelees.

As pronounced in Hebrew, the name Baby Lis sounds alarmingly like "baby-lease", and you're left wondering how it works: Can you lease your baby to someone who is babyless and wants one for an afternoon stroll, to show off in the park? If you're in need of a baby, can you apply to Baby Lis and get one on lease for a limited period?...

As for the place itself, though my eldest is at the moment there with her partner and exquisite (naturally!) newborn baby boy, I haven't been there yet, so can't vouch for its being luxurious. A luxury in terms of cost it definitely is.

To my daughter Daria, and everyone else at Lis Maternity Hotel: Mazal Tov, Congrats, enjoy your stay!