Marketing Design: How One Artist Inadvertently Created the Best Poster Ever. Or was it?

(inadvertent, that is)

Many of us by now have seen this poster for a music night at an English pub, presumably created by Dave Blackhurst @DaveABlackhurst. Designer Tom Wysocki tweeted it out and since then it has amassed 28,000 retweets and 70,000 likes.

Digg sets it up this way. “When the owner of The Friars — a pub in Bridgnorth, England — approached a designer about promoting a handful of upcoming music nights at the pub, he probably didn’t know he was already starting the design process himself. Thankfully, Dave the designer never wastes a moment.”

Or did he? 
(we’ll get to this in a minute)

But first, let’s get into what it is that actually makes this a great poster:
It’s hard to tell if Wysocki is being facetious when he calls the poster “brilliant.” But I would argue (or agree) it’s a genuinely clever poster — for a number of reasons (the fact it’s gone viral further proves these points).

  1. The presentation of chat as a poster is unusual to begin with and so on a very basic visual level it grabs our interest that way. We’re just not used to seeing it.
  2. Size alone suggests importance. My thinking is that viewers will see this poster and assume if someone cared enough about the chat to blow it up to poster size, there must be something pretty juicy here!
  3. It appeals to people’s voyeuristic desires to eavesdrop on other people’s conversations.
  4. We’re already primed to want to read things in this format. Whenever this sort of thing appears in our social media feeds, our expectation is that there’s going to be something noteworthy about the dialogue — something funny or offensive. It might be a conversation with an unwitting parent, a case of mistaken identity, an angry lover, a fake conversation with a pet, an awkward breakup, a celebration of the previous night’s revelries, an auto-correct mishap, etc. Either way, we assume there’s going to be something there that’s appealing and fun to read. In this regard, the poster does not disappoint.
  5. Like Dave, we enjoy feeling superior to Tom because we possess hidden knowledge, the knowledge that he’s just helped create the poster without even realizing it. Also, we enjoy Dave’s cleverness at realizing the message thread can be enlarged to poster-size. Why not? All the crucial facts of the event are there. We also enjoy the fact that Tom, meanwhile, has no idea he’s just been made the butt of the joke, and the final “I love you” acts as the perfect naive punch line. In other words, it works like a prank show, comedically speaking. The viewer gets to be in on the exclusive shenanigans while his colleague, Tom, is the unwitting butt of the joke.

Unless things are not as they seem. Unless there is no Tom. Unless the whole thing is a “brilliant” contrivance.

My genius-designer wife is convinced Dave Blackhurst knew exactly what he was doing and created the image from scratch. She says the font positioning doesn’t look right. On closer review, I realized the native Messages app UI doesn’t even look like this anymore. Harley Tamplin of agrees, “Sadly, it might not be completely genuine as the font looks slightly wrong and both the wi-fi and 3G symbols are showing in the top corner.”

Of course, this doesn’t lessen its ingenuity. “Reality Television” is anything but. As a medium it’s just as contrived as scripted entertainment. Nevertheless, it’s still unavoidably engaging.

How do you feel about the poster? Legit? Designed? Like it? Hate it? Let us know!

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