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June 7, 2005 12:08 AM

Broken: Unreadable print ad

Gray3Speaking of light gray text on a white background, I scanned in this print advertisement that I've spotted in two major publications - The Atlantic and The Economist - this week.

This SUV manufacturer is paying a LOT of money for what's actually a two-page spread in these magazines. The only problem is, the whole ad is light gray text on a white background. Which means you can't actually read what the ad is saying, or what it's about. But that's what all the cool designers are doing, right? Wow, what a kewl waste of ad money!


ok thats just too light.

Posted by: Dragon at June 7, 2005 01:06 AM

If you talked to people responsible for business advertising in Japanese corporations it'd be a miracle to find a single person that actually understands that money spent on advertising MUST lead to increased income/revenue/profit... or it's money ill spent.

More money goes into ad agencies than the ad agencies generate for their clients. And the trend is growing at an alarming rate.

Posted by: Sheriff In The East at June 7, 2005 03:53 AM

don't they have proofers for this very reason

but then again maybe it was done intentionally a reader who is not be interested would by-pass the ad anyway whereas an interested consumer would need to focus more after much eye-strain and headache from the text your eyes would focus on the auto a sight of relaxation and style.

just a guess

Posted by: kent at June 7, 2005 04:04 AM

*peers very hard* "Hitler Gronkle's eleven-year-old couch was on a movie droid." What?

Posted by: Alden Bates at June 7, 2005 06:56 AM

Alright, MH. Light gray text is broken.

It looks like it DOES say Hitler Gronkle etc. etc. But, is this just your scanner? or is it actually this bad? The weird background and horizontal lines just make it harder to read.

Lose the background and make the text darker, is what I'd say.

Posted by: Bob at June 7, 2005 07:06 AM

The text isn't broken, the cheap scanner used to scan this document is broken. Break down, go buy a scanner that can correctly scan this document and any references to Hitler will soon be gone.

Posted by: Tim at June 7, 2005 07:13 AM

The horizontal lines in the background are actually the BLACK text on the *other* side of the page coming through on the scan. That should prove that there's nothing wrong with the scan or its contrast.

Posted by: Mark Hurst at June 7, 2005 07:39 AM

I got this month's Atlantic and thought the same thing: incredibly broken. I can attest that it's not the quality of the scan...this ad is simply unreadable.

However, I looked closely at the dot gain in the print, and it looks as though it may have been a print error...the type is made up of loosely arranged, light gray halftone dots, suggesting other colors were missing.

Not to defend the ad: the printer's proofs should have given fair warning to the advertiser that something was amiss. A two-page spread in a major magazine doesn't come cheap. This kind of sloppiness should cost someone their job.

Posted by: Michael McWatters at June 7, 2005 08:48 AM

The first word is hidden, but MH it might help if you increas the resolution of the scan because it is very pixlated

Posted by: unknown at June 7, 2005 11:28 AM

Maybe they don't want you to actually read the text. They just want you to THINK they put a lot of time an energy into the copy, but really had nothing. Basically, the consumer is supposed to say to themself, "Hey, there's a lot of words there, I can't read them, but it must be a good car!" LOL. Broken big time.

Posted by: tcfrink at June 7, 2005 02:46 PM

Forget for a second about the light gray on white. Do they have real expectations that people will read that amount of copy and text?

I work in advertising and it is well known that people won't read an ad unless the graphic or the heading really got their attention, and if they actually go and start reading the body of the ad, normally they won't read more than 5 or 6 lines or bullet points.

And now, to make things even worse, the light gray on white..... what were they thinking?


Posted by: sam at June 7, 2005 03:38 PM

only the big font on top is supposed to be read, the bottom part is warning you that if u actually buy the car, Hitler will hire an eleven-year-old named Gronkle to sit on your couch and watch a movie with really cheesy special effects with a droid. Err... yeah, something like that.

Posted by: real_saddam at June 7, 2005 03:54 PM

It really doesn't look like a very intuitive ad to me. I would say that the grey stuff is disclaimer like at the bottom of lonelyplanet's sites: , but there isn't any other text that could be body text. Definately broken.

Posted by: no one at June 7, 2005 06:17 PM

I have no problem at all reading grey text on white background. To me, that pic is a really bad scan. Look at the picture on the page.

If I can read grey on white with absolutely no problem, then what is really broken? My vote is that everybody that can't read it has broken eyes. YOU are broken!!

Posted by: Me at June 7, 2005 06:24 PM

I just can't stand people like "ME". Their stupidity is beyond me......

Posted by: sam at June 7, 2005 07:06 PM

It's a very simple and common marketing tool.

If something is hard to read, you'll concentrate to read it.

If you concentrate to read it, you'll remember what it said.

If you remember what it said, you'll have a better chance of choosing their product over another.

Posted by: Jim King at June 7, 2005 08:21 PM

Oh wait sam, I guess I should say everybody else that can't read it is "disabled" and entitled to more of my tax dollars... leaches

Posted by: Me at June 7, 2005 09:38 PM

Hey sam, i think the poster ME got ya, you should really think about what you are typing before you post it!!! LOL BTW this is broken, the light gray on white is really annoying...

Posted by: notme at June 7, 2005 11:17 PM

But, Mr. King, if you have to concentrate to read it do you really want to read it at all? Especially old people who have to concentrate to read everything anyway. Seriously, do i want to strain my eyes to read a full-page ad?

Posted by: Bob at June 8, 2005 08:48 AM

Try running your mouse over the text and see if it's easier to read. (Well that usually works on my computer screen, anyway. Don't know about paper...)

- Precision Blogger

Posted by: Precision Blogger at June 8, 2005 01:06 PM

Does an old person who can read the page really want a car?

It is not safe for them to be on the road. I am sorry if I offend anyone but it is just not right.

Also this ad is not an ad, it is an article.

And the article brings up a good point, why can robots drive on Mars but not on Earth???? Then it goes on to talk about flying car with GPSs, or something to that extent...

Posted by: Invalid Atribute Index Bob at June 8, 2005 01:21 PM

Oh, for crying out loud, THIS IS NOT BROKEN! I can read it perfectly well. It says:

"Hitler Gronkle's eleven year old couch was on a movie droid. She became the robot girl, infinitely shorting her man robot inspiring. Anbot, right out of M3. Today, her abbots wear site kills. Wolf like smile, triplict sumps in Afghanistan Gears minefields. Girls malls. Robinet's Roberts vacuum cleaner has even appeared to a silicon.

Aztec top of Reebok's composite mission southernmost Buick cool stiff. Rebate "audi" has already kept from the lots to the vogel it the Lincoln filegator. Prisms its buttons used the Navgaloo coins alive. The lifthype sprints and clove by recruits. The thief sine users fold flexi his side missions wiggle in med nut. Running bonds subliminally oxtext end subset. The rear burger server's octivate sonar to settle objects behind you. In Newtfetish Severely ninja GP5 data end espeeds to UNI splice cofercoils, wading stat dissipictions nutty by turn.

Will robins sorrieboy moviti right into she shriver's skid? Fubrists may yet. But my Greshner says not so fuel. "Myself, I kow driving, as why would I want to inlot charge my SUV for sue? Unless, of courbs, it malutes drawing man more fur. Maybe someday me if all be closing be shringking small paintings our eyes to sheer.

"Also in the ffuture," also surnames, "ultra-widelaced communicultural told elbow your car to talk to alter ears. Nogotaner with then, overt Who Tubes the turn four? I'm sitting you sniff, I've you're hot" This stupid promote gravity colic efficiency betting cars handle vocal rage? Sounds like programs. But for maw, clarity not be involved in the lacivious calvin of the Novigatus.

See Inisole com and discover how, with so much embargoed intelligence, the Univeil nosigalar continues evcling for beyond the were SUV."

See? Crystal clear!

Posted by: Erich at June 9, 2005 01:26 AM

Wow! Ultra-widelaced communicultural told elbow your car to talk to alter ears? That's amazing! I sure wanna buy that car, if only for the communicultural ears.

Posted by: Bob at June 12, 2005 10:34 PM

Hey, if a web site does this it's a pain in the ass.

But if it's an ADVERTISMENT THAT I REALY DON'T WANT TO SEE. This I don;t care if they print it like this.

Posted by: adfasdf at June 12, 2005 10:49 PM

But it's stupid, you see. I think that any company featured on here probably deserves to go out of business.

Posted by: Bob at June 13, 2005 01:50 PM

This is not broken. You are not supposed to be able to read the text of the ad. You are supposed to focus on the vehicle pictured and see the text "Travel Well". Pretty simple ad IMHO.

Posted by: nugod at July 29, 2005 03:32 AM

I appreciate Erich's comments. I used to get copy like that using "Dragon spicke and spiell", until I found that my wife could write like that on purpose. Maybe I could interest her in a career in advertising?

Posted by: rob at August 5, 2005 09:55 PM

The "see-through", as it is known in printing, in the scan of the gray text is not the fault of a "cheap scanner", but is a perfectly ordinary thing that happens with expensive scanners too.

The way to scan and avoid see-through from the side of the page not being scanned is to put your page to scan face down on the platen, then put something like light brown paper over the reverse side, then lower the lid.


How dark your paper against the reverse needs to be depends on the level of contrast of the print on both sides of the page and how thin the paper is.

Posted by: greenmorpher at December 4, 2005 06:43 PM

I just posted under "greenmorpher". Then it struck me that this is a serious discussion, so there is no need to hide behind pseudonyms.

I described scanning and cutting out see-through or show-through. I used the technique described, which effectively removes contrast on the reverse page showing through (normally there is a bright white backing thing on scanners, which reflects very well the light which passes THROUGH the paper -- by putting in a dark sheet, you prevent this light being reflected, or enough of it to matter) for all the scans in a book I publish and to which I contributed: "Type & Layout: Are you communicating of just making pretty shapes" by Colin Wheildon.

Check the website for some samples of the book in PDF.

Colin Wheildon carried out research, still the only publicly available research, on a number of factors related to type choices and layout and their impact on the comprehension of material by readers.

He didn't do gray printing on white, but DID do black on a screen and some colours on screens, which might be considered analagous. The results speak for themselves. As contrast is lost, reader comprehension collapses.

I have quite a number of "broken" ads featured in the book, including some of very low contrast.

Posted by: Geoff at December 4, 2005 06:54 PM

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