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What's in a Name? Only Your Company's Success

Make sure your moniker captures readers' attention in an ad.

Welcome to the "Noticed Your Ad" series, where our self-proclaimed design snob discusses the ads that catch his eye -- for better or worse. Kevin welcomes your virtual high-fives, gripes or general commentary.

Ad: Element Condominiums

Agency Responsible: The 7th Art, New York, Dubai

So what's in a name?

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David Byrne -- of Talking Heads fame -- got it right in a recent blog post: "No matter how seductive a print ad is, it still relies almost exclusively on the reader remembering it in some vague way."

The name is the first thing customers learn about a business and usually the only thing they'll take away. This condo ad doesn't offer much for the taking.

"Element" is one of those words marketing executives might think inspires emotion and meaning when it just confuses and dulls. I could see it working for an unimaginative vegan restaurant, but for a condo complex?


designers in the business should consider these cryptic words difficult territory for an over-stimulated John or Sally Q. Public," says Brian Lightbody, art director for New York ad agency

JWT. Essentially, buzzword blandness bores.

Humble Suggestions

You know what makes a successful name for a building? The Address -- like 10 West End Ave. going up right next door -- or something that actually speaks to the space -- like The Plaza, a relaunch handled by the same advertising team.

The blame cannot rest entirely on the shoulders of The 7th Art, as projects usually come with baggage such as an extant vision or a history of prior advertising.

Beyond the Name

So the name doesn't do much for me, but a good designer should be able to put enough shine on a banal name to make it glow in the dark.

Instead, the print ad focuses attention on a full-bleed photograph of a clothed woman swimming in a pool. The photo is grainy -- and not in an ArtHaus kind of way -- and above the image is an awkward, multicolored and difficult-to-read logo.

The typography is -- I'm guessing -- some sort of Helvetica knockoff. I don't recognize the font, because most designers I know don't choose to work with it.

First-year design students are taught the basics rudiments of hierarchy: People are going to look at the picture first, then the big type, and then -- if they're still interested -- the fine print. The Element ad waits until the fine print to mention that residences of any kind are involved, but by then one would be lucky to not be in a coma from the crashing boredom of the whole thing.

In the end, though, the work The 7th Art did for Element Condominiums doesn't really matter. With its prime West Side location two blocks from Lincoln Center, Element needed to do little more than shout loudly in the street. When I called Element's business offices -- just two months after it started selling residences -- I was told the campaign was finished because all the residences were sold out.

Had The 7th Art pushed the envelope a little, it might have created a more memorable image for the client -- you know, the thing that all advertising should do. Instead, they snoozed their way through it, and so did we.

Kevin Allen Jr. is a graphic designer for a health care advertising agency. A graduate of the School of Visual Arts in New York, he is also the author of the forthcoming

Sweet Agatha

, a work of interactive literature.