Last time I took a look at an internet banner ad suggesting that I get my credit rating, I overlooked something pretty major. I was so distracted by the moods of the various dinosaurs being depicted that it didn't even occur to me that the background colours being used might have some relevance. Luckily the very same credit check agency people have put out a new series of ads that focus entirely on those colours, giving me a second chance to look at just how bizarre and confusing these ads are.
A word of warning first. These are just images, not real ads. Do not click on them. Also, if you see the real ad versions, don't click on those either. You're just rewarding poor design.
Look at that. Now, I know that this scale is based on the clolur-coded Homeland Security chart that America put out after 9/11, but in trying to grab up some of that easy familiarity they seem to have missed the point of the chart. In the original chart, included below, the point was that we start out good at the bottom, and then the threat level is 'raised', moving gradually from green to red. In this situation, the top of the chart is a bad place to be.
The credit chart even improved on the homeland security chart in one key way - they got rid of the idea that blue was somehow worse than green. Logic would suggest that blue is a cooler, safer colour than green, and given that the entire chart is based on the rainbow's order of primary and secondary colours, flipping the order of green and blue in a rainbow just seems incredibly wrong.
So why was the green/blue switch made? And why does the chart start at the bottom and go to the top? Simple - they needed the chart to be immediately understood by anyone who looked at it, regardless of their education level or linguisitc ability. So they made it look like a traffic light. Green at the bottom = good, Yellow in the middle = wary, Red at the top = bad.
Simple, easy to understand, and exactly the opposite of what the credit companies want to get across. Since I don't have the greatest grasp of just how a credit score works, to me that chart makes a persuasive argument that not knowing your credit is the best possible thing for you, while having excellent credit would be a disaster!
Things get even worse in the next credit ad, which takes the concept of the dinosaur ad, and adds a colour-based wrinkle.
All of the faces are smiling!
(slaps hands over eyes)
Okay, better now. What were they thinking here? Just how little effort do these advertisers plan on going to? Would it really have been so hard to craft a half-smile for orange, flat line for yellow, and frowny-face for green? I don't know how to use Photoshop and I'm pretty sure, that, given an hour and without being paid money for my work, I could manage it.
See"? How hard was that? Ten minutes and I have no idea what I'm doing. Another ten minutes and I'm sure I could have flipped the colours as well.
With identical facial expressions taken out of the equation, the next thing we're trained to look for is colour, and, again, the green makes a far more positive impression than the red. Yes, the words attempt to state that red is good and green is bad, but since no one is really sure what the credit numbers mean, the text proves less persuasive than the clear association of a green smiling face with the low number and the red smiling face with the high.
It's telling me that, like blood pressure, lower is better.