Jigsaw LLC


The student section V.3. Vet it, so people get it

— Culture & Observations —

I remember reading a quote early on in my career from an ad guy talking about his work. I think it went something like, “I don’t care if you like it or not, I just care if you get it.” It really resonated with me, because as an insecure copywriter or art director, your whole world was based on whether your creative director and your peers liked your work. You wanted acceptance and you wanted it from people you respected.

Of course, I still want that. But the quote changed me. The very core of what we do is communication (duh). And we must always look at our work and ask, “What will the consumer/end user think when they read this?” For students, this is essential. Always ask yourself how you think people will perceive your message. The more you leave open to interpretation, the more chance you have of your message failing to get through.

We receive input every day from clients and before we slog the type into an ad or a spot or a website, we always ask ourselves how the consumer might interpret the message. Especially when it comes to statistics. We’ve seen them all:

“Top 5% in patient satisfaction.”

“More babies have been born here than any other hospital in the state.”

“Ranked by U.S. News & World Report as first in Midwest of doing the best job of educating undergrads.”

The list goes on. These stats are pretty self-explanatory and the claims they make, at least in my mind, are pretty clear.

Then recently I saw the poster, pictured above, at the health club I belong to. My neck snapped back a couple times before I could totally take it all in. “8 out of 10 CHS students prefer to date non-drinkers.”


I took a picture of the poster and showed it around. I asked numerous people what they thought it meant, and why such a message would exist. It seems like a strange way to say that 80% of your students are against drinking. Wait — isn’t underage drinking illegal? Shouldn’t the number be closer to 100%, especially when you’re asking students about their “preference?”

One wisecracker said — “The 80% who prefer to date non-drinkers are heavy drinkers themselves, and need to date someone who can give them a safe ride home.” Ha ha.

The best interpretation I could muster is that it’s a message for students only — telling them if they don’t drink, they have a better chance of getting a date. If that’s the case, why isn’t it an internal message only? Or maybe they want the stat to impress parents of potential students and recruit.

Really, what this poster means really doesn’t matter a whole lot to me. It is a very good example, however, of how lack of clarity can lead to confusion. If one has to explain what they mean by their message, their message isn’t clear enough.

Posted by Jigsaw