I came across this ad on twitter via @geekforever. (Disclaimer, my wife works at Save the Children and mentioned the DC/Save collaboration previously, but she didn't show me any examples of the ad work:
As a comic book fan, I was really blown away by the artwork, it's beautiful and striking.
As a person who makes ads, I wondered, this is beautiful art, but it is a great ad? Yes, it is attention getting which is important, it stands out, especially to someone familiar with the characters. That's important, and I think it works well enough here that the audience will want to pause long enough to engage the ad and learn more about the message.
But I can't help but feel it also is off-message. I couldn't put my finger on it at first, but as I thought about it, I realized the focus here is on the heroes, not on you -- the audience member turned hero.
So while the ad is beautiful and awesome does it reinforce the emotions and feelings that DC/Save want? Does it make the audience member feel like a hero, feel like someone who can save a life? I don't think so.
I read somewhere "design without a message is art, design with message is an ad.
So the ad gets the right kind of attention (interest), but it doesn't impute* it's message and emotional content, and in that sense, it's great art, but only an ok ad.
Thinking some more about the ad as I walked.... The problem really isn't the art, but the headline. "We can be Heroes." Of course the Justice League can be heroes, the point is "you" can be a hero. It's not about joining the Justice League (the heroes in the artwork), but about you helping when they can't. So if it was the same artwork, but a headline like: "They can't be heroes, but you can..." or "Be a real Hero..." or "You don't need a costume to be a hero" then that reframes the message and the focus of the ad.
[*Impute: My new favorite word -- I picked up reading the Steve Jobs biography, which is pretty inspiring if you ask me. Basically a product or ad should impute to it's audience it's message -- essentially it's story and qualities should be obvious on an intuitive level, by the presentation. At least, that's how I took it.]