You may have noticed that I’ve been critical of print advertising, especially in general interest publications.  But oddly enough, not that long ago, I encountered a print ad so compelling that I took action.  Repeatedly.  And yet the merchant did not win the sale.  Here’s what I saw in an expensive early page of Fast Company :

I don’t think it’s an invite to move up to Cape Ann.  It’s about the shoes, and I like the look of those shoes, so I clicked over to Rockport’s web site but couldn’t find them.  There were other nice shoes, but I really wanted to learn more about the pair pictured.  I tore out the page and kept it for future reference.  That’s the second action the ad compelled me to take.

The third action was to visit the website a couple more times, and then the fourth was to visit the retail store on Newbury street.  A friendly Rockporter asked, “can I help you find something?” and to both of our surprise, I said, “yes!” and handed over the ad.

He consulted with another, apparently more senior, employee who came over and explained, “That shoe wasn’t made.  We have it but not in brown and not with suede, and not in the store but we can order it.  You’re the third person to come in with this ad.”

The shoe wasn’t made?  Never?  Not even one pair for the photo shoot?  I guess it’s all done with computer graphics these days.  What do you mean you have it but in a different color and different material and not in the store?  Then it’s not really the same shoe, is it?  And if it’s not in the store, then you don’t really have it, do you?  I’m the third person to bring in this ad?  Maybe somebody should tell HQ that there’s interest in this imaginary shoe?

A friend suggested that I should sue for false advertising.  I’m not sure if I really have a case on that, but I must say this is a pretty lame bait and switch since there’s not even much switch.  More like bait and ditch.  Further, it’s not that the shoe played a supporting role in a lifestyle ad or an ad with a celebrity endorsement – the shoe is very nearly all there is to the ad.  The copy at the bottom reads in part (my emphasis), “There’s nothing timid about you – or these shoes.  Torsion(R) system technology by Adidas.”

I guess they didn’t really mean those shoes in particular.  There are at least six pairs of Rockport shoes in my closet (and scattered about the hallway) – there would have been one more. I give this ad and the almost-geniuses at Rockport a grade of fail.