*is it time to pwn l33t ads?*
Hey, as a copywriter, I completely understand wanting to speak your target audience’s language. And in recruitment advertising, that audience is so well defined that, sometimes, maybe we take “speaking their language” a little too literally.
Here’s two excellent specimens from the last two weeks:
Now, to anyone but their target, these ads are gibberish. However, it’s important to point out that they are 2 distinct types of gibberish. But both forms have seen the light of day before.
The dingbat ads are literally written in code. Once the dingbats are translated to their corresponding letters, the message in the ad above reads, “Mac based typographer wanted. Award winning ad agency seeks help with its design work. West End space provided in exchange for negotiable hours of work. Contact Daryl Corps on 07802 499 658.” (No, I’m not a master typographer, though I’ve occasionally played one on TV. The translations of the ads, which all say the same thing, are here.) It is, at its heart, a dry want ad that has been made interesting by its encoding. And the encoding is, at the same time, a test that weeds out all but a few readers with a particular skill set.
Awesome idea. And as with many awesome ideas, it’s been done before. With ASCII decimal codes in C++, for EA:
With ASCII hex codes, for BMG (posted with permission of adland):
And most recently with prime numbers, for Google:
The EA board reads, “Now hiring.” The BMG poster reads, “Does your publisher understand you?” And the Google board sent you to 7427466391.com, which congratulated you and then sent you down a rabbit hole of mathematical puzzles. All puzzles designed to deliver simple messages to only the talent that can easily solve them.
The Navngo poster belongs to a different type of L33T. Instead of being an actual encoded message, it uses the semantic structure of a computer programming language to create a pseudo-coded joke for programmers. Again, a great idea. Again, pretty well-trod. Dice did some banners written in pseudo-Java that adland turned up in their great badlander (which discusses many of these ads). And job listings in Craiglist have done similar things, too. (This one uses the semantic structure of c#, but notably also contains a puzzle for applicants to complete, a la Google.)
So my question is this: When will this type of recruitment ad become so popular it backfires? When will the target audience (smart cookies, all) see these sorts of ads as simply attempts by corporate entities to “speak geek”? When will L33T become lame?