Controversial Ads

Posted By Bartel Scheers On Tuesday, October 26th, 2010 With 2 Comments

Creating an emotional connection is crucial to effective marketing campaigns. One common technique is to arouse the feeling of shock.

Some of these ad campaigns really push the limits of what could be considered an effective visual. They include print ads, TV spots, online virals and guerrilla marketing campaigns. Many are disturbing, and most are controversial.

Regardless of one’s own interpretation, these ads do what they’re meant to do: they evoke emotion in order to create buzz. They get people talking. The ads circulate and the brand name is mentioned repeatedly and awareness is brought to the company. Whether you agree with the term or not, these advertising campaigns rest on the saying that “all publicity is good publicity.”

Here are a few of the most outspoken ads published around the world.

Public Awareness Brazil: Wikipedia defines Shock Advertising as “a form of advertising where social or moral boundaries are pushed in order to create buzz and controversy. It depends on the mantra “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.” In this example from the Brazil government, you can see that the definition of shock advertising is embraced.

Anti-Whaling: If this doesn’t convey the message, nothing will. This very graphic ad against whaling was done up by the Republic of Everyone, the art direction by Happy Soldiers. The photograph of a whale whose guts are literally oozing out is meant to speak out against the unethical fishing of whales.

PETA: PETA has decided to alienate their target market, humans. Their latest ad features slaughtered humans in order to draw out their feelings about humans slaughtering animals.

Thailand Public Awareness: These creative public awareness ads from Thailand relay an important message. Girls & boys, always have a pepper spray ready in dangerous places. The campaign smartly plays on the tag line “When they can’t see, they can’t hurt you” by blackening out the attacker through the range of the pepper spray.

Running Free: This is a controversial ad campaign that has sparked much debate. It’s an ad for Running Free support bras. It needs to be noted that they were not actually created by Running Free. DDB had pitched the idea, but the bra company refused to be associated with the imagery.

Stella Espresso Coffee: This is an ad from Stella Espresso Coffee which seeks to express to coffee drinkers in Italy just how strong their coffee is and how much “bite” it really has. The scorpion, which is made out of coffee beans, is crawling up the woman’s nose and lingering around her mouth to graphically represent that “bite”. I am a coffee drinker but that’s way too much bite for me!

Sony PlayStation Portable: The “Retry” Ad for Sony’s PlayStation Portable player gives you a gruesome visual with limps and organs all over the place; a retry is most welcome! The ad was photographed by Kaustubh Kamat with art direction by Pavel Roy for the Sir JJ Institute of Applied Art advertising school, Mumbai, India.

Tom Ford: In Tom Ford’s risque new campaign, just like his last ad, (see below) a very nude woman is featured wearing nothing but the product. This time, instead of being placed between her cleavage, it was placed between her legs.

AIDS Campaign France: These very graphic, extremely disturbing ads are actually part of a real life AIDS campaign in France. The print advertisements consists of images of a man having sex with a giant, black scorpion, and a woman receiving oral sex from an enormous, hairy tarantula. The ads created by TBWA Paris are disgusting, but that’s the intention of shockvertisements. They work on levels of unexpected, controversial imagery that is remembered, talked about, and evokes an emotional response.

Family Violence Partnership: This poster of a grotesquely well developed child is part of a campaign by ad agency Serve, commissioned by the Family Violence Partnership in Milwaukee, to raise awareness about statutory rape. The tagline reads ‘If you see a child as anything more, it’s wrong.’

Deutsch Magazine: This bizarre advert appears to show a young woman getting intimate with a dog. It was designed to promote a new magazine for jetsetters ‘Deutsch Magazine’, although quite what the ‘international lifestyle’ it claims to promote consists of, one might wonder.

Toyota Prius: Toyota is probably regretting its ad campaign for the virtuously eco-friendly Prius. The posters portray three immoral scenes – murder (above), prostitution and adultery- bearing the tagline ‘Well, at least he drives a Prius’.

Xiomara Coronado: A South American beauty clinic called Xiomara Coronado Beauty Center launched this campaign featuring digitally enhanced images of Angelina Jolie and Paris Hilton, alleging that they’d look that wrinkly in years to come if they neglected their skincare routine.

Red Cross: M&C Saatchi is responsible for this campaign for the Australian Red Cross aimed at promoting blood donation. The gruesome image of a blood filled donation pot certainly provokes a reaction.

Kenneth Cole: Fashion designer Kenneth Cole’s ‘We all have Aids’ ad campaign caused ripples because the posters so closely resembled normal fashion ads. The tagline ‘We’re all potential carriers’ refers not to the bag the model is brandishing, but to Aids.

Les Droits des Non-fumeurs: A poster from an anti-smoking campaign by Les Droits des Non-fumeurs which has caused outrage for its implied association that smoking is tantamount to sex slavery.

Green Peace: Manipulated food doesn’t just pertain to animal products. This Green Peace ad uses creative visuals to points out the dangers of genetically modified fruits and vegetables.

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  4. Here is yet another example of advertising going in the wrong direction. This advertisement is slatted to be aired during a children’s program “Dora the Explorer”. I am not sure why any firm would think this is appropriate material for a 2 to 5 year old to view.

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