As these are not actual questions which anyone has ever asked, much less frequently, it would be false advertising to label this section an FAQ. I just thought people might like to know...
In the Beginning
My sister used to live a few states away, and she and I have always had the same cynical sense of humor concerning advertisements -- ESPECIALLY those found in the Sunday paper and those envelopes of coupons they send you in the mail. We'd collect our favorites and send them to each other, with colorful commentary. When I learned to build websites in '98, it seemed that the web would be the perfect medium to share these ads with friends and family. My friend Brad offered me space on his server, and dumbads.com was born.
The site started with only four ads, and it took about six months to get my first 300 visitors. As I said, mostly just friends and family, to whom I had emailed the URL. Traffic was slow, but I wasn't selling anything anyway, so I didn't care. But I kept getting junk mail and the Sunday paper, so there was no end to the supply of material. As the site grew, friends would save stupid things or email me ads for use on my site. The site's traffic stayed steady at about 50 - 100 hits a month.
One day in early 2001, my site must have appeared as a link on someone else's site. The counter showed over 9000 hits in a single day! Brad installed some tracking software, and it showed that the counter wasn't broken. I averaged about 5000 hits a month after that initial explosion, and had visitors from an average of 25 different countries every month. Of note: one month, I had a visitor from the Cocos Islands, population 628. 3 radio stations, no TV stations, 287 phone lines, and someone from there visited Dumbads. I was humbled.
I've gotten emails from all over the world about the site. Where appropriate, I've included their comments specific to one page or another. Most notably, I met Janina, a graphic arts student in Florida who profiled me and my site for a school project, and we became pretty good friends. As well, a professor from the University of Oklahoma contacted me for permission to use my site in an advertising class there. Apparently, the subject of the lecture was "What is and what isn't bad advertising." He set up a terminal in the class and, for a couple days, the class viewed and critiqued my site, page by page.
I'll bet Amazon hasn't ever been the subject of a class lecture at the University of Oklahoma!
Where'd the site go?
At the end of 2001, I got too busy with work and life in general, and let the site go. But thanks to Brad's reminders, I kept hanging on to the domain name. And of course, every time I watch TV, listen to the radio, read a newspaper or open junk mail, I keep thinking, "Dammit! I need to share this level of stupidity with the world!" So after some rebuilding, I am happy to have the site up and running again. Some things have gone away, some things are new, but the ads are still as dumb as ever.
Who the hell is that guy?
Richard Stockton, of Norman Stockton, Inc. of Winston-Salem, N.C., apparently. He's from an old 1968 ad in a mens wear magazine, for the Middishade line of clothing. The ad was dumb, but the dude just looked like such a geek I had to adopt him as the Dumb Ads mascot. A guy whose father was affiliated with Middishade back then found my ad (and used MY scan, no less) and commented on my use of it on HIS site:
"I found this ad on somebody's web page entitled 'Dumb Ads.' Aside from his lack of ability to judge advertising quality, I don't know why he had to go back to 1968 in order find examples of dumb advertisements."
The owner of that site and I had a lively email discussion, and all is well. He has no quarter with my leaving the ad up, nor using Richard as my mascot; I have no problem with his comments about me on his site. But he does bring up a good point for discussion:
What qualifications do I have to
None at all. (And let me point out here that not everything on this site is a Dumb AD, per se, but some warrant mention because their packaging is stupid, or the product itself is ridiculous.) I have to rely on gut instinct and people's feedback Sometimes my opinion about one of the ads here changes, and I realize it wasn't that stupid, so I take it down. But when I see an ad on TV, hear an ad on the radio or see an ad in the paper, and I find myself saying, "What? What the hell does that mean? How in the name of all that is holy is THAT supposed to make me want to buy your product?" I think, "This ad is pretty dumb." This happens to me at least once a day, and I would like to share my frustrations with the world.
By no means am I saying that the old, tried-and-true advertising tricks of using completely unrelated subjects to sell a product are bad or stupid; they're not.
I see a guy on TV yelling at me to go buy cars from his lot, it annoys the crap out of me, but is it Dumb? Not really. It works. The next time I need a car, their company's name is probably going to bounce around in my brain.
We can all see a Carl's Jr. ad where a hot girl is spilling ketchup on her blouse and we understand three things: 1) Sex has nothing to do with Carl's Jr. burgers. 2) Buying a burger is NOT going to get me sex. Yet, 3) This ad is going to sell burgers. Pointless and sexist, yes. But not necessarily a Dumb Ad.
In fact, two subjects which seem more diametrically opposed to one another than any two others worked fantastically: Boobs and web hosting. Godaddy.com paid $4.8M for an ad to run twice during Super Bowl '05, about an amply-endowed young lady with a shirt that was too tight. They paid to run it twice, yet Fox broke their agreement and ran it only once; however within a couple months, GoDaddy.com became the world's leading webhost. Like it or not, boobs sell everything. Doesn't make it a dumb ad.
Bears takin' a dump against a tree, however... that's a pretty dumb ad.
"Qwest is smoother?" Dumb ad.
Are any of the ads on this site altered?
The ads (or packaging) are scanned, cropped, resized, and brightened or cleaned up ONLY for the purpose of keeping them legible while keeping file size manageable, but not significantly altered;
that is, "brightened" refers only to the color and
contrast in the image,
I do pixellate or blur vital information on "local" ads, such as phone numbers or addresses. If it's in a national publication though, they're just going to have to live with whatever attention they get.
When absolutely necessary, I have "rebuilt" a text block taken from the ad to make it more readable, but the text is copied verbatim, and nothing is taken out of context.
I have never found it necessary to alter an ad in order to "stupid it up" (or "dumb it down.") Whenever I fear I might be running lean on material, I need only to pick up a magazine, buy a paper, or wait for the next coupon mailer in my mailbox. While rebuilding this site, for instance, I found the Holiday Inn breakfast ad in the Sunday paper. You can't make up that level of stupidity. And some ad agency got paid big bucks to create it!
I get cheap hosting, so I'm not too concerned about making money off this site. I guess I just enjoy complaining, and having a bunch of people listen. I reply to every email I get, and haven't yet received any negative feedback or death threats, so I guess people enjoy the site.
Text content and original graphics c.2006 by T. Graff / All ad images and scans copyright their respective owners.