Why we have to be braver about brand communications that ‘might’ offend


you have to sympathise for creative agencies.  I don’t envy their position…  required as they are by clients to create things that get noticed but don’t cause controversy.  the most recent case in point is Mars who have pulled the above Snickers ad because it might offend the gay community.  is it offensive?  to speed-walkers possibly but certainly not, I suggest, to boys who like boys who like boys.

the key word here is ‘might’.  ‘might’ cause offence.  ‘might’ cause controversy.  well ads ‘might’ do a lot of things, but one of the things they ‘have’ to do is get noticed…  especially when said ad is for Snickers and therefore carries a need to convey macho, retrosexual, masculine tones.  what’s a creative agency to do?  make ads that get noticed but only get  talked about it the right way?  brands never had that kind of control, let alone thinking they have it in the digital age.

if there’s a problem here is not with ads.  its with one of two other things.  either (1) the brand positioning is wrong; if communications that establish then reinforce the positioning are being pulled then Mars has to ask themselves how sustainable this is in the long-run (they always ‘might’ piss someone off)

or (2) the problem lies with marketeers who lack the courage of their conviction to approve, run, and then ride the discussion and debate caused by their communications.  the more they pander to people who ‘might’ take offence, the more we move away from a culture that engages in and enjoys public debate.  and the harder it will be for creative agencies to produce genuinely ground-breaking and challenging work.

of course if a brand was really smart they’d make ads that engage by virtue of normalising (I use that word carefully) gay life.  the below was made by Guinness.  it challenges some whilst no doubt affirming the beliefs of others.  its a brilliant piece of brand communication.  its a shame Guinness never had the courage of their conviction and broadcast it.

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