a perfect ad from GQ


I’ve often found the magazine bon appétit one of the best of the best published, either old or new school, but where it stands out is not only from an art direction and layout perspective of a magazine, their advertisers as well have very keen eyes for great ad design. If one were a young designer looking for inspiration I’d recommend this magazine over even some others including ones about graphic design, it’s really that good… oh, and the recipes are fantastic as well.

When browsing through the October 2012 bon appétit edition I was stopped dead by what I consider to be, in my humble opinion, a nearly perfect ad. Perfect, because it does everything it needs to do, actually anything ANY really great ad needs to do, tell you all you need to know, and with less. As I’ve harped on, less is always – ALWAYS – more! Or the opposite if you’d prefer, don’t put 20 pounds of crap in a 10 pound crap sack. An ad should hit the reader, get in, get out… done! Use as little text as possible or heck, no text, compelling image and your logo, add your URL if it’s more complex than your This ad does it in spades and for a savvy reader, it makes perfect sense from every aspect it sets out to do. Oddly so minimal that I believe bon appetit requested or added “advertisement” to the top of it, which was completely unnecessary.

If you look at this ad for GQ and go “I don’t get it,” then honestly, you’re not important to them, you’re not GQ’s target demographic, their [pretty awesome if you ask me] attitude is captured in their current brand tagline, “Look Sharp, Live Smart: GQ.” Which this ad personifies.

If you need 100 words to sell you, you’re old, you’re old school, your thinking is outdated, you probably call a PC an “IBM” and aren’t in touch with how savvy today shoppers think or behave, finally, you’re not who GQ is after for an audience. I say all this 1. because it’s true and 2. because an ad doesn’t have to be everything to everyone, it only has to appeal to a target demographic, specifically the one you want, which GQ masters purposefully and eloquently here. GQ I mainly skim at airports, wants young, savvy, intelligent people hip to technology, trends, music, this ad hits on all cylinders in spades in a simple, clean, again near perfect layout. It has simple makes sense to those with any tech savvy graphics, simple minimalist copy, in short, I’m in love. And would like all my clients to embrace this because this hits the swatch of consumers with money, buying power, and influence. Really too, it makes me want to work for GQ’s agency who did this, because they get it.

I was about to type what this ad is saying then realized if you don’t get what the nine icons are, learn them, figure them out, or be left behind. Seriously. The most brilliant though I’ll point out from my POV:

The QR code to track people’s devices and get a read on user breakdown, though I was surprised they’re using tagr.com, there’s far better options. Sure QR codes are overused, but as it’s rolled into nine panels this one is more interesting as it’s part of the message, not forcing it or laying there to show off they’re savvy or pointlessly used.

Spotify, which I love, to the point I pay for, and I never said I’d use a subscription music service but I have. Spotify is fantastic and brilliant on my Macbook Pro, iPad, and iPhone in my car on the go without dragging along my enormous iTunes library. Why it’s brilliant is it goes along with their brand as a type-of tastemakers so if you go to the GQ Best Songs playlists you get a sense of their music editors tastes. Likewise Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and other obvious icons here I shouldn’t even have to be explaining to you.

Also what’s missing show’s they understand reality, that Pintrest is for women, that’s their core user base, not men, and GQ is a men’s magazine. There’s no point for GQ to use Pintrest (they may have a channel but I’m not going to bother to look), men aren’t into scrapbooking, online or otherwise. Again, know your audience in an ad, target them, be succinct, be brief.

Honestly if there’s any criticism I could lay on this ad it’s that, at the bottom, they felt the need to say “Print. Mobile. Social. Online. Tablet.” The icons above or just common sense make that obvious. I don’t mind the “Connect with GQ” as much as it’s just the exclamation mark to the above graphics.

Again, bravo to bon appétit for being such an excellently designed and laid out magazine; huge props to GQ for understanding and using advertising spot on with a pitch perfect ad for your brand.