If you can’t handle bidirectional text, don’t show bidirectional text

Some ad companies think they can get better results by targeting the ads to the viewers. Some strategies are matching the ad with the viewed page, while others try to target the audience in different ways, based on location or language. Which makes sense.

One problem is finding the country of origin of the viewer. Most companies seem to have solved that by pretty accurate geotargeting. Though some, of course, are still stumbling in the dark. For example, as a Jew living in Israel, I still occasionally get ads for Muslim dating sites. Or for various deals which are only relevant to US residents. But these are becoming more rare.

When they do detect a location, the basic step is only to show ads relevant to people from that location. That’s the basic step, which most have been doing (or trying to do) for a while.

Ad with the Hebrew text going backwardThese ads often don’t only change content, but language as well. If the advertised product is sold internationally, people from different countries may pay more attention to ads in their own language[1].

One way to do it is to have a set of pre-made ads, and show them according to the location.

Another way, for those wanting to be more… efficient? is to have a single ad, with several localized text strings that can change inside this ad according to the source.

In theory, it’s nice. There is a need to keep only one copy of a picture, or interactive program, and yet still someone from the US will see English, and someone from, say, France, will see French. The main needed investment is to get the text lines translated into the relevant languages.

And then you have those that go the extra mile (backwards, usually, though) and pick languages that are harder to handle. They do the whole design with languages that go left to right, like English, and then put in right-to-left text, like Hebrew or Arabic.

In many of those cases that I saw, they then forget that the text has to be added to the pictures a little differently. And they don’t bother to show the finished result (calculated ad with the language) to someone who knows the language. They probably just verify the initial text strings, thinking that nothing can go wrong since the same exact text will go into the image.

The end result? Extremely unprofessional advertising, when all the words in the text, or even the whole sentence, go backward, letter by letter. ( !stoidi diputS )

Like this image taken from an ad I saw on several websites. It was on a page together with at least one more different ad, by the same advertiser, that contained the exact same problem.

Did I mention that it looks extremely unprofessional, silly, and pathetic? Because, well, it does. And it definitely gets you thinking that if they managed to screw the ads so bad, on something so basic, what else didn’t they bother to pay attention to, and was it important?

So, the advertising company (the one putting the ads, I don’t know who designed them) is fastclick.net , which redirects to ValueClick Media. Nice name, not so much value to the advertiser.

I thought I’d be nice, and let them know. So I went to their site, got the Contact page, and looked for an email address, or a form. No email address, but there is a contact form. A contact form where the required fields include things like phone number, company, location, how I heard about them, and so on.

This may be alright (OK, not really) for people who are potential customers. But for someone who just wants to do them a favour by dropping a quick helpful note? Completely unacceptable. I shouldn’t have to work, and provide lots of details, just to try and help them.

Required fields should be the message content, and a quick subject. Maybe not even the quick subject. Asking for email address is also fine, if the message may need a follow-up, but that should be left to the discretion of the person sending the message.

And this company is supposed to make money by selling things to people?! By marketing?! That’s supposed to be their strong side? Funny.

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  1. Personally it annoys me, and I always feel more comfortable when it’s English, rather than Hebrew or other language, if I read on a computer, but I’m really not representative here[back]

2 Responses to “If you can’t handle bidirectional text, don’t show bidirectional text”

  1. Ted L | California Lemon Law Attorney says:

    Your taking marketing WAY to seriously. The main thing being that the ad was worthless to start with. The copy could be right side up or down or sideways. It’s called "impression advertising." It’s mostly a way to waste ad money with no monitoring of results anyway. And if they screw up the text? It works even better because 99% of the time it would have been ignored. Because it’s backwords it gets noticed as much as 5 times more. And 1/2 of the time, the impression is not a turn off, so because the value was near 0 to start with, screwup’s help.

  2. Post author comments:

    On-line ads are, as surprisingly as it seems sometime, not completely worthless. Otherwise companies would have stopped paying for them long ago.
    We had the phase where most websites were supported by ads, and then everyone figured out that ads were worthless, nobody would pay for them, and this business model will collapse. Now, years later, the model still seems to be working pretty good, and there are many sites and companies who survive very nicely on ads, or who make a lot of money from ad networks. And this means there are still a lot of companies willing to pay for these ads. If they were really worthless, nobody would have kept paying for them for so long.

    In any case, my problem isn’t specifically with the ads. It’s with the main concept of someone who badly screws up their core business, causing damage to their customers by providing a worthless service in exchange for their money.

    And no, screwups don’t help. There is such a thing as bad publicity. After all, if they couldn’t bother to do this right, why assume they bothered to do their main product right? Most of the time it would have been ignored. But this way, it’s hard to read even if you are among the potentially interested few.

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