Yesterday morning I was just hanging out, innocently scrolling through Facebook on my phone when I was hit with an ad ("Sponsored Post") that caught me eye. Usually their ads catch my eye because of their inherent creepiness. (Two days ago I was researching the Pyramid Arena in Memphis on my computer and the next day I got an ad about a Penny Hardaway documentary on Facebook on my phone. That transcended a "cookie" trail.)
This ad was for an unauthorized t-shirt for my alma mater. And wow, is it ugly! It just might be the ugliest college t-shirt in existence...
Let's have a closer look at that design, shall we?
"It cannot be inherited. Nor can it ever be purchased. I have earned it with my blood, sweat and tears. I own it. Forever the title: NU Graduate." [I added punctuation because, of course, I'm a pedantic Northwestern graduate.]
The shirt is not in the school colors; it's obviously just a generic template where any college can be swapped in. The English feels a bit broken (the whole "I own it forever the title" thing doesn't really flow). It also seems to misunderstand the fundamental principle of college: It's totally and completely purchased. I could've gone there and put in blood, sweat and tears for a decade but they weren't giving me that degree without getting their pile of sweet, sweet money.
But I'm in now. I'll click through and get more information.
Oh no, it gets worse! It turns out that logo just takes up the upper 50 percent of a t-shirt that appears to be the length of a dress. It's still not in purple.
The sales numbers are also odd. They claim they "[SOLD 85++ LAST TIME]" but lower on the screen, they say "10 SOLD" along with a timer. I think this is all supposed to be (1) social proof and (2) a ticking clock, but both are executed quite poorly. I'm not sure that seeing 95 of my fellow alums bought this t-shirt makes me feel like I have to have it or I'll be left out. I also don't think anyone believes they wouldn't happily sell one 10 hours, 36 minutes and 44 seconds from now.
But their post has a lot of likes and a few comments. Let's see what people are saying...
Do people really respond to ads by asking "How to order?" often? Need to investigate further...
It turns out the targeting on this ad wasn't so sharp (shockingly) and they didn't just go after Northwestern University grads, they also went after people who graduated from Northwestern College in the Philippines and North-West University in South Africa. Neither of those are "NU." That explains some of the confusion, since they may not be English speakers.
Of course, the real question is... do I buy it?
It's so awful. It's boastful, but it's like boasting by someone who's really bad at it. It's got a 30 percent Affliction feel to it -- just enough to be poisoned, not enough to be worn as a genuine parody. It's ugly, but is it clearly ugly enough to the average person that I could wear it as a joke, like people do with 1970s Denver Nuggets jerseys? Is this bit worth $23.45 plus shipping -- and, even worse, encouraging this company to keep up the "good" work?
I could be swayed. For now, I'm holding strong with my other 360+ t-shirts.
This post was originally published on Tuesday, May 5, 2015 at 11:00:00 AM under the category Personal.