Fotolia bold move with only type ad.

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In MacLaren McCann’s new ad campaign for Fotolia, a European-based stock
photo company, typography plays the main, and surprisingly, only visual
role. Armed with a block of tightly cut letters, some very creative writing,
and some tastefully arrogant sarcasm, MacLaren McCann set themselves up for
an ad with award-winning potential – and win they did. At the One Show
Design Awards, they walked away with the very prestigious Silver Pencil
Award alongside some very influential peers such as Ikea, Nike, and BMW.

Copywriter Nicolle Pittman, played to both American and European
stereotypes — and challenged them — to create ten short narratives that
encourage their audience to take the trendy route and join Fotolia’s
Europeanized, uber-cool list of users. These ads contain no images, only
typography and in no more than three colours — a bold move for a company
that makes its money selling images.

Mike Meadus, the typographer for the campaign decided to use Gill Sans
Ultra Bold and give it a screen-printed look by rounding off the corners to
soften it slightly. Meadus is a big fan of slab-type, plus, he jokes, the
font fit the content of the ads because “the capital O’s look like
boobs!” With the circle in the middle of the O being placed higher up, for
example, the font choice evokes a comical feeling, signaling the intended
humorousness of the content. This is important, because if taken literally,
these ads could unintentionally insult Fotolia’s potential clients.

Some typographers may critique the ads due to their hard-to-read nature,
however, what might not be apparent is that this was, in fact, very
intentional. What is unique about typography-heavy advertising is that it
requires more from the viewer than passive observation; it requires an
active participation — reading. The idea was to create a “block of type
out of blocky type,” and in all caps, so that it required cognitive
investment on the part of the reader, and made it memorable. Meadus figured
that the writing was interesting enough that the readers wouldn’t mind
being challenged to get through it, and “given the abrasive, pompous tone
of voice, it was fitting that they be hard to read.”

In addition, the plump look of the typography was chosen to produce a
feeling of indulgence. This speaks to the stereotypical satire of European
character as often viewed by North Americans, further enhancing the humor
and content of the ad itself.

However, the most obviously striking aspect of the ads is, of course the
company’s name: Fotolia. This simple use of colour ensures that at a
glance, without having necessarily read the ad, the viewer is drawn to the
name. Given that no URL, talk of quality or product is involved, the idea
was to put the focus on the brand name to invoke the reader’s curiosity.

The use of typography in these ads is quite innovative given the product
being sold. This stock photography company will definitely be remembered as
the one that rejected the actual use of stock photography in their ads.
It’s amazing how simple typography design choices can change affect the
viewer’s experience of the ad and its message entirely.