Advertising is a fussy industry; every ad you put out there is made for the public. Think of it as standing naked in the spotlight where everyone can see every inch of you; you’re prone to be criticised no matter how much you want to be accepted. The adverts out there are what we see on the way to the office, it’s what appears before our YouTube videos and it’s a humongous billboard on the highway. Everyone. Sees. It. And everyone has an opinion.
Adverts are conceptualised to capture an audience but things could easily go south the minute you make a mistake, even the smallest of ones, like a spelling error. You’ve probably even sneered at a spelling mistake before, showed it to your lunch buddies before snapping a picture of said advert and sharing it on Facebook. Next thing you know, 20 more people share your post and the brand is being made fun of. It’s a sensitive industry and technology bites sometimes.
Advertising is a delicate situation, which is why we’re referring it to the good ol’ walking-on-eggshells idiom because advertisers have to be extremely careful as one slip up can crush the whole carton. It’s surely a dangerous walk but it’s definitely worth it if you do it right; you just have to be wary since this generation is constantly looking for something to go viral, bad or good.
You might recall late last year where Victoria’s Secret was the target of social media hate. The lingerie brand came up with a campaign where the tagline ‘The Perfect Body’ was plastered across thin models. While they were referring to their ‘Body’ line, the play of words wasn’t very smart – the public overlooked the intended message and many jumped to assumptions that they were declaring that thin models are the benchmark for a perfect body, but what the brand really meant was that the ‘Body’ line is a perfect fit. Shortly after, Internet memes and hate tweets were directed at the renowned brand, which pushed them to quietly change the tagline to ‘A body for every body’ – undoubtedly a much more appropriate message.
Now, this is a good example of how meticulous the advertising industry can be. One thing you have to keep in mind is that everyone is different; the way one perceives something might be different than yours and in advertising you’ve got to consider every single angle. A simple phrase could easily be misconstrued, especially if there is more than one way to decipher the message.
IKEA Malaysia was also recently scrutinised with their ‘This Raya, bling glamour home’ Raya campaign, which showed a family decked out with gold chains and attire in a lavish home setting. While some laughed it off, others were posting disapproving comments on Facebook. One Facebook user wrote, “Muslim men are forbidden to wear gold. The father and son are laden with gold. It’s disrespectful to Muslims. It is also a misinterpretation of why we celebrate Ramadhan and Syawal. It is not about spending money changing to new household products of showing off your wealth.” Later on, the comment received quite a number of likes, which indicated that others felt the same way. You see, people are easily offended especially when advertising for festivities related to delicate topics such as religion. With such a touchy occasion, proper research and different viewpoints would be necessary to avoid any insensitivity. In this case, this was obviously overlooked as IKEA had breached taboo practices of Raya, which lead to the audience being offended where some even declared never to buy IKEA products ever again. Yikes.
Face it, times are changing and with platforms such as social media, it’s given the public easy access to voice out their thoughts which reaches hundreds or thousands of people, a larger effect than speaking out loud.
While some use wrong wordplays and some avoid further review of their concept, another dangerous move is to blatantly ignore the message entirely. These days, with a simple share, mistakes can be identified and bashed internationally in a click.
Take the recent Triumph Sri Lanka advertisement that was put out for Father’s Day which showed a female donning a push-up bra beside the words ‘For the ladies…who pamper their dads…!’ The public was confused and some even deemed it as “disgusting”, which is understandable because even if you tried to decrypt what they actually meant, you couldn’t, as it just sounds entirely wrong. As expected, the brand faced negative scrutiny not only from social media, but news portals were also reporting the viral ad.
Perhaps there was a mishap somewhere or some internal miscommunication, but either way it should have been evaluated before going to print. Triumph Sri Lanka have since issued a public apology where one of the reasons said that it was a “Rushed last minute action,” where “Triumph Sri Lanka put together an advertisement that reach the paper without the necessary vetting.”
Now, this is a whole other ballgame – there is no coded message hidden between the lines, so, for social media to forgive the sexually offensive ad was not an option especially after they publicly admitted to neglecting proper checking and excusing themselves with time constraint. Ignoring these standard practices is equivalent to a taboo in this industry. Sure, exercises might vary from agency to agency, but it’s important to remember that the brand you’re working on has competitors that are waiting for your brand to fumble. Rush or no-rush, time management is key when in advertising. Remember, slip-ups are hardly ever forgiven, so be careful – you’re gambling with a budget.
Sometimes, adverts face negative publicity because of factors such as bad timing. An example of this was when Harian Metro published an ad stating “Penjenayah suka pakai hitam” (criminals wear black) on the handles of Malaysian trains. Although it was published months before it went viral, people coincidentally noticed it at a time where 120,000 Malaysia dressed in black gathered to support the government opposition. This sparked major controversy in the country, saying that it was a deliberate move to criticise the political party but when in reality, the ad was “never meant to provoke”, and was intended for “The 360 campaign, which runs for six months, underlines the tabloids coverage of sensational, supernatural stories, bizarre crime report and celebrity scandal,” as clarified by Harian Metro in a statement. Nevertheless, people still speculated that it was a political jab. Tough luck.
Overall, advertising is a love-hate situation. One advertisement can either make or break your agency, which is why strategies need to be evaluated from angle to angle. Even if you’re moulding a message for one specific target market, consider the fact that it’s not only their eyes you’ll capture and in the current era, people are more sensitive than ever – it’s getting easier everyday for someone to hide behind a keyboard and type their feelings out.
Technology is evolving rapidly and advertising is taking a far more advanced route now than it was years ago; advertisers have to constantly be alert with their processes and the rising trends to survive in this business.
Yes, advertising is a meticulous industry. Yes, mistakes happen. But if you don’t advertise your brand, you’ll get nowhere. The real issue here is picking the right agency to do it for you, the one you can trust your brand with. The one who has mastered the delicate process of walking on eggshells – not literally but you know what we mean.
Here at BnBC, we’re always attentive to every work we produce and everything is crafted with careful consideration. We’re not saying we’re the perfect agency but we always put our client’s business first no matter what and every thought process has their best interest. It’s not always an easy battle for us either; every agency has that risk of making a mistake, but we’ve got a solid team that works sensibly to avoid any blunders and give our clients the quality service they paid for. Our philosophy revolves around providing beyond normal business concepts to reach the target market with a message that pleases, not demeans.
So, let us make you our priority and don’t worry, you’ll be in good hands.
*Featured image credit: uturncrossfit.com