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 could lead to angry complaints to the FTC, the loss of loyal customers, and the money 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!
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. Calling everyone who is not a vegetarian a whale is not necessarily the best way to recruit new supporters. Building a reputation for quality products and services is the better route to take!
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. An industry standard tip for all: 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.”
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). To avoid repeating their mishap, it’s helpful to always 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 your ad campaign is appropriate for your audience so 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.
Most of these ads were banned and pulled from the public eye, but some of them did make it to consumers – and they weren’t happy. I’ll give it to these companies, the controversy may have sparked more talk about their brand…but these aren’t necessarily 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.
Remember even the best promotional products can’t make up for a bad ad. Sure, you can have some pretty nifty coffee mugs or stylish phone accessories, but you’re already got that bad publicity. Make sure you make your branding rated PG.
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?