Friday, February 11th, 2000

To me, it seems like the ultimate shortcut in advertising—don’t have anything really important to say or show? Put a picture of a smiling person or, hey, even better, four or five smiling people on your ad, or on your website. They’re just…smiling! They’re exuding…uh, confidence! Satisfaction! Good dental hygiene!
Delta Air Lines redesigned their website recently, and along with the dubious trend of making the type on web pages smaller and harder to read ("look how much we can get on our home page now!"), they’ve added these header graphics that show smiling folks, presumably pleased that they’re either providing or using the services provided by Delta. The smiling woman on their home page (who looks to me like NBC’s Ann Curry) is supposed to be either a passenger or a non-uniformed employee, I can’t tell which. On the first version of the redesigned site (Delta had a public "preview" over the past couple of weeks) the smilers there didn’t have a 767 aircraft superimposed behind them—I think that was added when Delta realized that they were selling air travel after all.
I think websites which use this gambit are also trying to communicate "see, the site is easy to use! Look at that smiling!" And dotcoms that have not much more than vapor to sell usually bring out the generic smilers to basically fill space. You can even buy CD-ROMs full of generic clip art people by the hundreds. Most are, of course, smiling.
Well, it all made me think—and got me clicking on a quick jaunt around some Atlanta companies’ websites.
Coca-Cola: they’ve got an animated series of pictures of smiling people (and polar bears) enjoying their product—but none, interestingly, smiling directly at the camera. By the way, does anyone actually think "Coca-Cola—Enjoy!" is a new ad slogan? Did people get paid for that?
Home Depot: No smiling people (although a photo of someone serious working on a construction project appeared.) The site actually seemed to have useful stuff, categorized in a sensible manner.
Georgia Power: Silhouetted people working on a pole, and again, substantive information. A menu that says "How we can help you…At home, In Business, In Your Community." Not bad, and smile-free.
Equifax’s site leaves no ambiguity on what they’re about—and it’s not smiling. "Changing the face of global commerce," they boast, and the imagery is all financial—money and more money.
Scana—the gas people. They do have a smiling mom holding a kid, who is oddly cropped below the nose. I bet he/she’s smiling, though. Their competitors Georgia Natural Gas Services have a terrifying picture of the Gas Guy smiling and shoving a box of Valentines’ candy—for you, here, take it!
BellSouth seems to have moved past a period where they didn’t know what message to put out, and present a montage of images that connote technology and communications. No smiling, no people.
UPS’s site is also all business. In fact, it’s serious enough I almost wanted a smiling UPS driver to brighten up the place.
Cox Communications (the parent company of WSB) has a smiling white family watching television, of course. In fact, they’re more than smiling—they’re ecstatic to be able to watch this TV. Mmmm…TV good. Brain…turning…to…jello.
Of the broadcast stations in town, WGNX and WSB have smiling anchors right up front, while WAGA offers a smiling whoever-that-guy-is from Malcolm in the Middle and WXIA just offers a big mess.
And finally, I thought a quick click to Kodak might be in order—yep, there’s a grinning dad and son—but I guess that’s one venue where smiling isn’t cheesy.