designing for debt

The TTC is currently (and has been for a while) running ads for debt management. There are two companies that are running their ads, and Let’s compare.

Starting with the subway adverts:

Credit Canada

Credit Canada Subway Advertisement

This is an awesome ad. Large clear font, extremely legible, perfect spacing. The hook is the ad copy, “like hell money doesn’t buy happiness”. This literally compels you to look below and get more details. The details are also clear. Motto/slogan, followed by website, followed by phone number. Done. Message sent, message understood.

They have a number of these on the subway cars, and each one had a different ad copy, one of them reads, “Rags to?” . It’s clever, it makes you think, and once you have, you know someone else put thought into it.

In Charge Canada

*apologies for the picture below, it was taken by my phone camera. I need a spiffy camera like the one that was used to take the picture above.

In Charge Canada Subway Advert

There is so much that is wrong with this, I don’t know where to begin.

Let’s start with the distribution of information. It’s all crammed in. The spacing is awful, there is no breathing room. The mini paragraph is useless, because it’s small and hard to read. Also because it has no flow, the capitalized and bold words are used way too much, breaking the rhythm of the sentences. If your sentences require this much emphasis, they’re probably wrong.

The background color is too close to the empty lighting cover in the back, this doesn’t help draw any attention to the ad.

There are pictures of people. Big Mistake. At least in my opinion. Because I’m thinking, “ah so that’s what people who were in debt look like”. And if they are the same race or the same type of person as me, I wouldn’t be too pleased. Who do you put there? White people? Black people? Brown people? seriously, keep people pictures out of debt ads, or at the very least cleverly cover their identities.

The next part I really really hate. There are mini-flyers hanging off the ad that people are supposed to rip off so they can remember the phone number and the website and other details. First of all, the ad is so bad that they realized they should probably have some physical take away for people. Thanks, but do you really want me to get up, walk up to a terrible debt management ad and rip off your mini-flyer in front of all these people?

“Oh haha, yes, this isn’t for me, oh no no, this is for a friend, she’s addicted to gambling”.

Ummm… no. Get a better ad copy so that people remember your ad without having to exert too much effort, not to mention face possible public embarrassment. You should be grateful that someone even bothered to look at your ad.


InCharge: Debt Solutions

CreditCanada: Debt is Manageable

Sigh, yet once again. CreditCanada completely nailed it, their slogan gives you hope, it’s as if someone is talking directly to you. InCharge’s sounds like corporate drivel, like “Web-based Solutions” what does that even mean?


It’s interesting how the design philosophies of each company is not only reflected in their subway advertisements, but also in the design of their website. InCharge is all crammed up as well, while CreditCanada is lean, clean and very well spaced out.

I land on the InCharge website and I think to myself, “what? what should I do next?”. When I land on the CreditCanada website I think, “hmmm… I want to find out more about X, and gee look, I know exactly where to click to find it”.

InCharge is too image heavy, while CreditCanada is text heavy, which is great for search engines. Taking a look at the code, InCharge is table based, while CreditCanada is using proper CSS based layouts. HTML validation shows CreditCanada to have 5 errors (minor things, really), InCharge has over 60 errors.

InCharge was way too many menu options, and the side bar on the right distracts from the content. CreditCanada has excellent consistency in the pages, and has a simple side menu.

Think about it, if you’re in debt and you visit one of these sites. If you visit CreditCanada, it seems open, lots of room to relax and breathe, and you can use that since you’re in debt and all. InCharge, however, you feel more cramped and uneasy.

If you had to choose a company to help you get out of debt, who would you choose?

7 thoughts on “designing for debt”

  1. To me the first one reads “Like hell! Money doesn’t buy happiness” with the meaning of “yeah right money does buy happiness” which is kind of true I mean people who aren’t in collections are a lot happier than those who are.
    the sign needs a comma.
    “like hell, money doesn’t buy happiness.”
    But I’m just curious what that means specifically.
    does it mean hell doesn’t buy happiness like money doesn’t buy happiness?
    or money doesn’t buy hell?
    what does hell have to do with money?

    I would prefer the top sign to the bottom because of the design just like you said.
    but I’d be so stuck on what they eally mean by the catch phrase that I’d forget the number.
    I like the “rags to?” one. I’d laugh at that one.

    Interesting post. I love to contemplate what people try to say with signs.

  2. i’m going to look at the two websites later, and then follow along with your analysis on that point.

    but for now, i’d like to say this was my favorite line from your entire post:

    If your sentences require this much emphasis, they’re probably wrong.

    that is all.

  3. yasmine, I’m glad you liked that. hahaha…

    it’s so true though, there’s so much fluff. This is something I find myself falling prey to a lot of times. There’s great value to being able to summarize your message, and I generally go into long monologues when I’m trying to get a point through. I feel sometimes that people won’t understand what I have to say if I don’t give them the entire background.

    people don’t care about the fluff, their time is valuable. If they have any questions, they’ll ask. So summarize, and don’t waste people’s time.

    Something I have to train myself in.

    Advertisements should do the same. Don’t waste my time.

  4. i completely agree with you on the incharge mini-flyers. it’s like the company’s admitting that their ad is insufficient and needs some sort of supplement. sad, really.

    also, i sense discrimination against short and physically challenged people, who just may want to tear off a flyer for their “friend(s).”

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