12 Offensive Advertisements You Shouldn’t Mimic Under Any Circumstances
When it comes to advertising, there is plenty that can go wrong. Take a lesson from these well-known companies who messed up big time. Never forget one of the most important rules of advertising: don’t offend your audience. This will lead to angry complaints to the FTC, and you could lose loyal customers and all of the money that you invested in your ad campaign.
According to an Adweek Media/Harris Poll in 2010, more than one third of Americans will choose not to purchase a brand due to distasteful advertisements. You can avoid becoming one of the causes of that statistic by following these three simple tips.
The 12 advertisements you’re about to see definitely cross the line. Some of these “what not to do” tips may seem like common sense, but big-name brands have made these mistakes time and again – don’t let it happen to you!
Lesson #1 – Don’t be insulting.
This may go without saying, but consumers are not big fans of being insulted. As if PETA didn’t get enough flack already, they ran this offensive ad on a Florida billboard in 2009. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that calling everyone who is not a vegetarian a whale is not necessarily the best way to recruit new supporters. You should build a reputation for quality products and services, not the most offensive advertising.
Lesson #2 – Avoid the “ist”s: sexist and racist.
Maybe this message is just being misunderstood, but it looks like Mr. Clean was saying, “Get back in the kitchen,” to all moms this past Mother’s Day. What can you learn? If it looks like it can be taken the wrong way, it probably will be. Save your money and your reputation by going with a safer (that’s not to say less creative or original) message.
Intel and Sony really messed up with these ad campaigns. Maybe they were both honest mistakes, but their ads might as well have read “We’re Racists!” Needless to say, consumers were not impressed, and the ads were removed. What can you learn? Be careful using race as a metaphor. Chances are customers will read it as a metaphor for “we discriminate.”
Lesson #3 – Keep it clean.
Burger King ran some suggestive ads in Singapore in 2010, and then experienced a steady decline in sales (thanks not only to this ad, but a whole slew of explicit and offensive ad campaigns). What can you learn? Be aware of your audience. Even though this ad was not released in the U.S., BK seemed to forget that with the power of the internet, their offensive ad could be spread worldwide – and it was. Burger King expected their main audience to be males aged 18-24, when in reality consumers of all ages and demographics enjoy their food and subsequently got a hold of this ad. Whoops! Make sure that your ad campaign is appropriate for your audience so that you can avoid the same marketing malfunction that BK suffered. And don’t forget: if it’s offensive, people can and WILL share it on the internet.
Here are 7 other examples of advertising gone wrong:
Most of these ads were banned and pulled from the public eye, but some of them did make it to consumers – and they were PISSED. I’ll give it to these companies, the controversy may have sparked more talk about their brand…but these are not the kind of brand impressions that you want to make. Make sure that conversations about your brand are positive, and not just a means to bash your most recent ad campaign. You know the saying, “any publicity is good publicity”? Ignore that. Once you cross the line, bad publicity is just that – bad.
What do you think? Did these companies take it too far? Is there such a thing as bad publicity? What other offensive ads have you seen?
Jenna has a much easier time writing about the media and pop culture than she does writing about herself. She enjoys the simple things in life, like puns and typography. She is an avid fan of pop-punk, Halo 3, Spider-Man and origami, with a slight Taco Bell obsession. Her spirit animal is either a bulldog or a panda bear. You can also connect with Jenna on Google+ and Twitter.