There’s nothing like the feeling of satisfaction when completing a new marketing campaign and then sending your finished product out into the world. After (maybe) months of work, you hope your campaign does well. Unfortunately for Esurance, their hard work did not pay off in their latest campaign. Over the weekend, Esurance ended up learning a painful and expensive lesson… typography is your friend not your foe, you need to learn and track wisely.
Over this last weekend, Esurance ended up pulling down their latest billboards because their newest tagline suddenly became “not safe for work.” Up close the tagline read “Cover your home in a click,” but from a far the C and L of the word “click” seemed to blur together, thus the Internet and Social Media erupted. Had the entire sentence been properly tracked, the advertisement would have performed the way they expected.
For those that do not know what tracking is…it is used by designers to create or take away space between a group of letters. Tracking out words or sentences has been increasingly popular due to the hipster vintage trend for logos and posters. In the case of Esurance, had they tracked out their new tagline and gave a tad more space between the C and the L, the billboard might have still been up for the public’s viewing pleasure.
We could almost play devil’s advocate and beg to question if the lack of tracking and kerning for the billboard was done on purpose. Even though it had cost Esurance a pretty penny to put up several billboards only to take them down, their brand is now being talked about all over the Internet. Would the ad have generated as much buzz if the ad wasn’t misread? Chances are, not as much.
Esurance isn’t the only corporate brand to have seen a blunder in their recent campaign ads. In 2012, Pepsi released a special partner can design and got backlash for their font usage to promote the new can. At a glance the word seems to form something else other than “AAPE.” Even though this isn’t a spacing issue, this is an entirely different dialogue. What looks to be an underground walkway, it would only take a glance for someone to misread the ad. Since “AAPE” is not a usual word, the most familiar word that came to mind was “rape.” Pepsi made sure to come forward and apologize, even though it was only an innocent mistake.
If designers, marketers, and advertisers, focus on practicing good typography and using legible typefaces, we can avoid the quick perception and miscommunication caused by poor typography planning. We can’t avoid people reading things a certain way at a glance, but we can hope to help avoid any mistaken identity situations. One thing is certain, Esurance and Pepsi will definitely be thinking about the consequences of poor typography planning.