Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Here come the mediocre ads

Claire Beale of Campaign raises a good point in Monday's Independent, wondering if the recent controversies over that Snickers ad (above), that Heinz ad with the two men kissing, and a few others are a harbinger of a rise in mediocre advertising. Whatever you may think of the recent smorgasbord of controversial ads, she notes that the globalization of advertising—in which any commercial can be seen in any country—makes controversy global as well, even though some ads that don't offend local sensibilities get pulled because they garner complaints in markets where they've never even aired. The result? Watered-down ads which seek not to offend anyone, anywhere. She seems particularly annoyed at the recent Ad Age poll that asked readers which of three spots offended them (or none of the above). Beale writes: " ... although the poll is running on a site aimed predominantly at a US audience, two of the three ads in the poll are resolutely British. They're written for a British audience with British cultural reference points, British sensibilities and a British sense of humour. Are Americans really qualified to judge whether they're offensive in the context for which they were created?"


Anonymous said...

The writer asked, “Are Americans really qualified to judge whether they’re offensive in the context for which they were created?” What a pompous position, so in keeping with UK sensibilities.

First, in the Snickers scenario, it was an instance where an advertiser presented two questionable messages in as many years. The Human Rights Campaign Foundation was certainly within its rights to wonder about the motivations and sincerity of a corporation that had apologized and promised to change after the first incident. Secondly, it’s important to note the name: Human Rights Campaign Foundation. The issue, like it or not, involves human rights. There’s no need to establish borders. The UK has been vocal on issues involving the US and other countries.

But that’s all over-thinking the entire thing. We’re not creating social policy. We’re just selling brands.

There’s also the professional aspects. That is, shouldn’t advertising agencies seek to avoid placing their clients in negative PR scenarios? This doesn’t mean producing vanilla ads. It just means we should show some responsibility to our clients’ professional welfare. Not all advertisers are like American Apparel.

What’s most silly is the “fear” that it will all lead to mediocre advertising. Why? Take a look at the recent Cannes winners. There are few if any offensive ads. Were people picketing over gorillas playing drums? Or Dove’s Evolution film? As others have pointed out, Snickers has done award-winning work sans insensitivity. So have all the great advertisers and agencies.

It would be nice if people wouldn’t get so concerned over the sensitive types; but rather, consider why some people continue to be so insensitive.

Anonymous said...

Safe is already here. Just look at any recent Wendy’s or Red Lobster spots. What’s safer or waaaaaaay better than food porn with VO?

Not much from the brands’ POV.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, MTLB, but those ads are not “safe” because an agency or advertiser is afraid of offending. Rather, they are safe because the clients are conservative hacks. Perhaps in the case of Wendy’s, the “safe” work is a response to the client’s offense over its own red-wig campaign.

Anonymous said...

Someone had to present the conservative hacks some conservative hackiness though.


Anonymous said...

I stand corrected. Those ads are not “safe” because an agency or advertiser is afraid of offending. Rather, they are safe because the clients AND AGENCIES are conservative hacks.