Advertising in bad taste?

Though likely to prompt complaint, it has to be said that there are some benefits to be gained from running risque or bad-taste advertisements.

Whatever your view on distasteful ads,  advertisers bold enough to commission shocking adverts benefit from ‘talkability’, and unusual ads can have a better chance of cutting through relentless competitive clutter.

This is clearly something that Swiss watchmaker Hublot have picked up on if their recent ad featuring a black-eyed Bernie Ecclestone is anything to go by.

The bruised face of the Formula One boss, whose Hublot watch was stolen from him in a mugging last month, features in an ad with the tagline “See what people will do for a Hublot.”

Tasteless yes, but it was actually Ecclestone himself that came up with the idea.

According to the watchmaker’s chief executive, Jean-Claude Biver: “He told us, ‘Please use it to make an advertising campaign because I want to show that I’m courageous.” “I thought, ‘Wow, this guy has some guts.’ “It is also a protestation against violence that we are all afraid of today.”

This relatively unknown firm may well now secure valuable coverage in mainstream media as the talking points propel its brand to the forefront of public discussion.

This is arguably a positive outcome for them. Media coverage may well even prompt those unfamiliar with the campaign to seek it out (as I did) and verbalise their own opinions.

Bad-taste advertising does however also assume a number of risks.

Withdrawal of the advert from media networks is one particularly undesirable outcome given that it could render the money spent on creating the ad wasted. Another possibility is that offensive or annoying ads might encourage viewers not to buy and even avoid the advertised brand. Are these risks worth the possibility of extra publicity?

So do ‘bad’ ads make for good campaigns?

Ads that are simply annoying are unlikely to generate wide scale media coverage or ASA complaints (since they don’t breech responsible/ethical advertising charter). Annoying and boring ads may just slightly decrease viewers’ brand purchase intention – lack of newsworthiness means they are unlikely to extend campaign reach.

Distasteful ads on the other hand could well prevent potential consumers from purchasing a brand’s goods. But importantly, on the flip side, the value of extra media coverage can exponentially increase campaign and band exposure.

It’s a fine balancing act and it will be interesting to see just how Hublot fair with their campaign.

Gemma Carey, Bluewood Training Ltd

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