Badvertising: It’s All a Matter of Perspective.

3min to read

In this installment of MarketSmiths’ Badvertising we discuss why art directors need to observe the proper use of kerning type. As usual, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!

Esurance’s Bad Typographic Embarassment.

In the fall of 2014, Esurance learned the hard way (no pun intended) that one should look at their ads from all angles when a seemingly innocuous billboard that read:


Looked like this when viewed from another angle:


When someone tweeted an image of the sign that had been Photoshopped in order to make it more clearly say “dick” the Internet went wild:

“God, I hope it isn’t ‘shopped,” wrote one guy  “ ‘Cover your home in a dick’  might be the greatest corporate slogan since Wendy’s dropped ‘Where’s the beef?’ ”

Hey @esurance, I think you meant “click” and not “dick”. Stern words about kerning for your ad agency.

— Sharlene King (@typodactyl)

Esurance was eventually forced to respond to the buzz: “Earlier this summer esurance placed a series of outdoor billboards in Chicago,” wrote Danny Miller, senior manager of communications for the company. “Soon after, however, we discovered that from a distance, the final word could be read as something else. As a result, all of the ads in question were taken down by July 24.” Not true. The “offending” billboards were still being spotted at various locations around Chicagoland months later.

Kerning issues and font choices aside, the marketing take-away here is that no matter how embarassing the episode was for Esurance, odds are no one would have even noticed the bland billboards otherwise, and they got a massive amount of free publicity out of it.

Sometimes being a d**k pays off.


Jim recalls a priceless piece of advice that an English teacher once gave him. Throwing a dictionary onto his desk he said, “All of the words are in there, Yoakum, just put them in the right order.” Putting the right words in the right order has been Jim’s goal ever since, and he has honed his skills over the years to include award-winning copywriting, the scripting of three produced movies, the authoring of numerous novels and non-fiction books—and even a stint as writing partners with the late Graham Chapman of Monty Python fame. He is also US Curator of Chapman’s archives. To make himself even more insufferable, Jim has also produced comedy CDs and DVDs. While Jim does not lament his misspent youth, playing drums in a rock ‘n’ roll band, he does however wish he had back all of those brain cells that he ruthlessly killed.

Digital Strategy by MadPipe

UX by Lucy Dotson

Photography by Chellise Michael

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