Proper Marketing is a key factor in the success of any brand. One of the most common ways to market a brand or product is through the use of advertisements. Advertisements can be done through many different mediums and its influence is not to be underestimated. A company’s first impression and future reputation are influenced by the ads they release. Just one horribly done advertisement can potentially cause enough damage that would take years to heal. On the other hand, a well-crafted advertisement has the power to grab the attention of millions and make a lasting impression. Therefore, there must be a strong commitment in any Marketing strategy to ensure that the ads are well-crafted and its message is clear. Despite that, there are still some ads that don’t quite resonate with the audience. The following is a small compilation of such ads.
Tesco Promotes Bacon Pringles during Ramadan
In 2015, a picture surfaced on the internet showing Smoky Bacon Pringles placed on a promotional stand wishing shoppers Happy Ramadan at a Tesco. Response was swift in calling out the supermarket for cultural insensitivity as many Muslims believe that it is forbidden to eat pork. Tesco was quick to correct the mistake and issued an apology. However in Tesco’s defense, the placement of Pringles may have been unintentional and was likely placed there by an unassuming employee. The problem with the situation is that an issue like this can be easily perceived as an insult to Muslims as pork has been used throughout history as a means to disrespect and intimidate those of the Islamic faith.
Man in the High Castle Gives People a Glimpse of Life in a Regime
The Man in the High Castle is a TV series is an adaption of a Philip K Dick novel and is a fictional retelling of the outcome of WW2 where the Axis powers are victorious. In the show, the United States is divided into 3 regions controlled by Japan in the West and Nazi Germany in the East with a Neutral zone that acts as a border between the two powers. Though the series was successful, it faced controversy early in its run for its advertising strategy to promote the first season. The studio made the decision to cover an entire subway car in Japan and Nazi-inspired imagery that symbolizes the hypothetical takeover of the country by the Axis forces. The marketing stunt gave the public a tiny taste of life in such a regime. Unfortunately, it may have proved itself to be too immersive as many people were offended by designs and quickly expressed their frustrations. The controversy reached a point where city officials got involved and urged the studio to remove the ads. The then Mayor de Blasio was quoted as saying the ads were “irresponsible and offensive to WW2 and Holocaust survivors, their families and countless other New Yorkers.”
Urban Outfitters Crosses the Kent State University Shooting
Clothing retailer Urban Outfitters came under intense scrutiny in 2014 when it promoted its new “vintage” Kent State sweatshirt with a blood splatter design. The problem is that it is obviously reminiscent of the Kent State Shooting that took place in 1970 and using a highly controversial event to sell a shirt obviously does not sit well with a lot of people. For those who aren’t in the loop, the Kent State shooting is one of the most defining moments in modern American history. With the United States heavily engaged in the Vietnam War, students and protestors gathered at Kent State University to protest the war effort and military incursions into Cambodia. The protest eventually turned deadly when the National Guardsmen called in to maintain order fired on the protestors. 4 students were killed by gunfire and 9 others were wounded. This incident sparked similar movements across the country and intense discussions about the war.
Just For Feet’s Horribly Racist Ad
The Super Bowl is one of the most important sporting events in the United States and has frequently been among the most watched television events in the country. The ads shown during the Super Bowl are unique in that it is part of the experience and is enjoyed alongside the main event. While this presents a golden Marketing opportunity, spots for commercials don’t come cheap and many companies take on the immense challenge and financial burden of creating unique, high quality ads that resonate with the audience. The Super Bowl has seen its share of advertising successes and failures over the years and one such example is an ad shown in 1999 that has failed on such epic proportions it probably contributed to its company’s dissolution years later.
Just For Feet was an athletic shoe and sportswear retail chain that had a bright future. The company has grown exponentially in the 80s and 90s and was looking to reach a wider audience. The ad space the company managed to secure during the Super Bowl was an unprecedented opportunity. To create the ad, the company hired advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi to take the lead on production. The result was an ad so shocking, it left many people confused, disgusted, angry and wondering how company executives managed to give the ad the green light in the first place.
The 30 second ad showed a group of Caucasian individuals tracking and drugging a barefooted Kenyan runner. Once the runner succumbs to the drug, he passes out and the trackers force a pair of Nikes on his feet. The ad ends with the runner stumbling away while shaking his foot presumably to get the shoes off.
The ad was so controversial Just For Feet attempted to sue Saatchi & Saatchi for “advertising malpractice.” The company’s reputation is ruined overnight and it hasn’t been able to recover since. To make matters worse, the company was also found to be involved in accounting scandal which sealed its fate. It closed its last store in 2004.
Groupon Promotes Fish Curry at Tibet’s Expense
Another Super Bowl blunder involving a different company. Though Groupon did not suffer the same fate as Just For Feet, its controversial ad is worth mentioning. Airing in 2011, actor Timothy Hutton delivered what initially began as an informative topic about the plight of the Tibetian people quickly turned into a promotion deal for fish curry. Groupon drew fire from both the public and activist groups who saw the company as promoting itself at the expense of the Tibetian people. What many found offensive is the controversy surrounding the geopolitics of Tibet. The mountainous region that acts as the border between China and the rest of Eurasia is a highly strategic location and China has a fundamental interest in safeguarding it. Over the years, many activists have frequently raised concerns about the heavy handed approach of the Chinese government towards the local population in the region, some of which they argue violates human rights.
Kenneth Cole Hopes to Market his Product Via Conflict
In 2011, a tweet by fashion designer Kenneth Cole himself was criticized for what many believe to be taking advantage of the unrest in Egypt to promote his clothing line. That unrest was the Egyption Revolution of 2011 which was part of the Arab Spring movement, a series of anti-government uprisings and protests across several Middle Eastern countries. While Cole was quick to take down his tweet and issue an apology, this hasn’t stopped him from posting a similarly controversial tweet in 2013.
The “boots on the ground” phrase was used by American officials in discussing possible military action in Syria while the country is embroiled in a civil war. In response to the negative publicity, Cole released a video via Instagram to explain that his use of controversial events was to “provoke a dialogue about important issues.” To Cole’s credit, he is a controversial figure himself and is no stranger to using provocative advertising to market his brand and generate buzz.
What do you think of the marketing ads above? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.