This blog may be offensive to some!

By Jeff Bowman

A business isn’t safe today if it has products that target certain sectors of a marketplace. Carry that one step further, how far away are we from any piece of marketing or advertising being sucker punched by some small special interest group who makes it their goal in life to find something wrong or offensive within the marketing piece.

Having seen almost 50 years of marketing efforts in a variety of media types I can honestly say that ads today are far more creative than they were in the 60’s and 70’s.  The ads that featured pristinely dressed housewives, rugged cigarette smoking men and movie stars hocking everything from life insurance to alcohol are long gone.  No more cigarette ads, they are bad for your health. No more alcohol ads because of alcoholism. No more June Cleaver because it demeaned women.  There are many good reasons for eliminating ads as society changes, and I support them.

What I don’t support is the lunatic fringe that envisions naked intertwined bodies in ads for noodles, the words sex spelt out in ice cubes in a glass, and those that claim we are being hypnotized by certain words and colours in media ads. You can see others here. McDonalds was once again under fire this week for offing small toys in kid’s meals. Just 6 months ago if you remember it was the claim that Ronald McDonald had us all brainwashed, to the point where a special interest group was demanding that he be retired! (No, I’m not kidding) When will this end? There are hundreds of other examples of products that offer toys as an added value.  Kindersurprise has been around since the mid 70’s.  Cracker Jack has been around since the 1890’s and was even immortalized in the song Take me out to the Ballgame. Where is the uproar of malcontents for these products? What about those dreaded vending machines that offer sticky eye balls, superballs and the like? They are screaming out for your kid’s money and surely they encourage gambling since you never know what you’ll get. Who do the kiddie rides in stores and malls market to. Why if you don’t put your child on one they’ll scream all the way home, behavior modification if you ask me.

Not offending anyone is impossible so the marketers of the world have their job cut out for them, especially when anything can go viral in seconds. Maybe the secret is to offend someone, because it certainly does get ears and eyeballs glued to them. PETA – They’re NAKED!, Superbowl ads are viral almost before they are aired, and the ones deemed offensive become instant Internet hits. Europe is way ahead of the curve in advertising, I guess they learned years ago how to reach a target audience.

Marketing has made huge strides over the years in what is socially acceptable to an audience. You will never be 100% accepted.  There will always be someone claiming political incorrectness. Reach your audience using the mediums and messages they use and understand, and “Damn the Torpedoes”

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Filed under advertising, Branding, Jeff Bowman, Marketing, Media, Sales

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