I happened to have brought along a spreadsheet showing the results. The ad was outselling its more pleasingly-designed predecessor seven-to-one. "Keep running it," growled the client.
Don't get me wrong. I understand the importance of design. I understand that the look of your advertising reflects upon your brand. And bad design is certainly never an objective.
But sometimes bad design is a valuable tool. In fact, sometimes bad design outsells good.
Consider all those ugly ads in in-flight magazines. You know, the full-page ads crammed with three columns of 8-point type without the slightest regard for design. Know why they never go away? Because they sell oodles of products.
Sometimes successful direct marketers run ugly ads because, starting out, they don't know better and/or can't afford a designer. When profits roll in and they spruce up the ads, they often find the improved look makes no difference in sales. Sometimes the makeover even drives sales down.