Friday, March 12, 2010

Advertising Can Go Wrong

Bad advertising is nothing new. It has always been there.  After all the first newspaper advertisement ever was an attempt to sell property in Oyster Bay, Long Island. This ad for Pet Evaporated Milk is banking on the fact that Tuna Pizza would be a big hit. Hmmm... I don't remember seeing it on the menu at Spago.

Sometimes the ad itself is fine but the context is bad. Like if your magazine ad for Valvoline Motor Oil is next to an article about the War in Iraq, or, worse, a story about electric cars. The McDonald's billboard below the childhood obesity billboard couldn't be much worse.

Sometimes ads are just ugly. The product or tagline or even the copy can just seem off, wrong, off-putting, or unsightly. Rarely, however, is it the models in the ads that are the offending party. However, it does happen, and the Pallas Athena ad is a perfect example. Just about everything in this full page magazine ad is awful.

Then there are the ads that try to be bad. Those maverick art directors who want to push the envelope until something pushes back. What they don't realize is that often their client pays the biggest price for running a bad ad. I wonder how many advertisers would run intentionally bad ads for their own agencies or better yet their children's businesses.

Absolut vodka is a product that often pushes the boundaries with their ads. There was the infamous one where Mexico retained most of the Southwestern United States, and there is this one which is just in poor taste. Absolut is a great brand, and they can get away with running the occasional bad ad, but why? An argument can be made that it attracts attention or that any publicity is good publicity. Unfortunately, Tom Cruise and Britney Spears proved that old chestnut 100% false.

The issue here is that advertising can go wrong, and your business needs to question your creativity BEFORE it gets produced. Sure, you trust your agency; as an agency we appreciate that, but do parents who trust their kids still ask, "Where are you and that kid with the piercings going?" You should ask your agency what their intentions are with your brand as well!

Do you have any examples of advertising gone wrong? If so, post links to those, and we'll use them in a future post, and of course we'll give you credit for the discovery!

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