It is a commonly held adage that sex sells. It’s also no big secret that violence and bawdy humor can get the job done, too. However, it is becoming more and more apparent that many advertisers seem to believe that sex, drugs and violence are the only thing that sells. Marketing seems to have lost some of the art and imagination that once sparked consumer interest and encouraged faith in the American market.
Pretty much everyone enjoys a good dirty joke (well, almost everyone), but perhaps an advertising campaign that consists solely of crass humor is a little too much of a good thing. The tawdry humor often overrides the intended message, and the target audience is left remembering only the scandalous parts, while they disregard the product being advertised.
Examples abound, but in a post sort of discouraging this type of marketing – or at least sort of ENcouraging the alternative – I don’t want to bombard you with all sorts of YouTube clips of dirty, funny ads. Well, not too many.
The first example is from a blog post I found that talked about a student loan consolidation piece of snail mail that featured an obscene hand gesture. Bizarre. Take a look.
Another thing that is a little beyond the realm of good taste – at least to a lot of people, was the Superbowl 2010 eTrade ad with the baby explaining last night’s whereabouts to his baby girlfriend. It was one thing when the baby only talked about diversifying his portfolio, but now he’s apparently so grown up that he’s cheating on his girlfriend with a “milk hound.”
Aliph, a manufacturer of high-tech hands-free devices, released this little gem on the internet:
We’ve got a gorgeous bikini-clad sun goddess and a bunch of rowdy frat-type guys who get EATEN BY A SHARK while she’s on her “noise-assassinating” bluetooth. Nice.
Delivering a clean, “upright” marketing campaign can be a challenge in today’s world. Consumers are bombarded with beautiful, half-naked people, adult language and violence in every imaginable form. The average individual is becoming slowly desensitized to such sights and sounds and the methods are losing their effectiveness, spurring advertisers to push the boundaries of acceptable material further and further in an attempt to be the most extreme.
Marketing guru Liz Goodgold from Red Fire Branding lists a number of reasons why you might not want to resort to vulgar language in your marketing – and I think her points can be applied to the sex and violence as well. In a nutshell, she says that:
It is a cheap and easy way to get attention – which makes you look cheap and easy.
Beware of the spam filter – because if you send out vulgar or course material it is likely to get blocked.
People might hesitate to redistribute your materials if they find them questionable.
If you insult people in print or media, how are they going to react to you in person? This isn’t a movie – you can’t go in, drop the f-bomb, and expect them to give you lots of money.
You could lose corporate interest. Large companies have too much to lose by allowing questionable content through.
It comprises your brand in every way. Once you go vulgar, sexy, or violent, it is very hard to come back from that. If you shock people once, you have to go even further to shock them again, and not only that your brand is forever (in many cases) associated with marketing you attach to it.
In a world where we are constantly faced with images of tragedy and war, abuse and degradation, it is often a welcome change to come across marketing that is wholesome and genuine. People like to be reminded that the world can be a better place and that good manners and a positive outlook offer their own rewards. What can it hurt? In these days, a “clean” campaign might stand out more than a “dirty” one.