Saturday, January 26, 2013

Just Sayin' – Hopefully In The Right Way

Whether you're a kid posting a message to friends on Facebook or a large organization posting to the web; you gotta be careful about how you say things. Because people can take offense. Not only that, but these days with interactive media, they can let you know in no uncertain terms. Very quickly.

An incident this past week hammered this home. An advertiser released a commercial that they obviously thought edgy and humorous. One that portrayed a gentleman's anxiety that prevented him from leading a full life. It showed him unable to function, unable to eat, sitting forlornly in a chair in a backyard. The 'cure' was the company's product.

They launched the commercial on national television, posted it on YouTube, announced it on their Facebook home page and their web site and had it covered by the national trade magazine. The CEO and VP tweeted its launch. No doubt they were proud of their campaign. But it came off as though they were belittling people's health conditions in order to sell their wares. And overnight they became "the company that makes fun of sick people."

The condemnations poured in. Comments were posted on all social media sites that mentioned the campaign. People were livid. Multiple "it wasn't our intention" replies were sent out. A few days later, officials of major health associations posted their concern and the next morning the company finally announced they were pulling the ads. Major newspapers covered the scrubbing of the commercial. In the end, an expensive lesson learned and people will remember this company for a long, long time for all the wrong reasons.

It's a big world out there and there are some advertisers who are willing to push the envelope of good taste in order to cut through the clutter. Most ad creatives know that making fun of a minority, religion, race etc. and doing things like depicting women as sex objects is a way of getting attention akin to pulling down your pants in public and expecting people to still respect you – let alone want to hang out and do business with you.

The danger is that humor in advertising, because of those who have used it poorly, will become something people will shy away from. In fact, humor is a very effective tool for capturing people's attention so long as you're not belittling others. Inviting someone to laugh with you is totally different than laughing at someone's expense.

When properly used, humor is friendly, positively engaging and begins a relationship with a smile on everyone's face.


  1. I am amazed at the number of people who do not find this ad distasteful, those who only see the humour and not the belittling.

    1. Very right Lynn Marie, I was amazed at the comments that berated those who took exception at the ad and told them to "get over it", for it is only a psychotic society that doesn't care about the feelings of others.

  2. Besides lacking sensitivity, it isn't even a good ad. Good for you and everyone else who wrote in to get rid of it! This is the kind of mess that happens when we let corporate types start getting their own ideas.

    1. ...or perhaps creatives thinking only of the awards that it may bring... Not saying this is the case here but it is part of the game in some circles.