A variety of companies have been at the epicenter of controversy about their advertising campaigns over the years. I usually understand the reasoning behind why people are blowing up into a tizzy, however sometimes I think to myself “is this really a big deal or are people just looking for an argument?” Personally, sometimes the advertisements that cause a stir are my favorites and actually may qualify as good advertising, while other times I think that people are way too sensitive and there didn’t need to be any conversations surrounding it at all. (And then there are just offensive, tasteless and ineffectual advertisements, which makes for the worst advertising.) Let’s look at some examples.
Offensive or Effective Advertising?
1. The United Colors of Benetton UnHate Campaign. Controversial? Yes. Good Advertising? I think so. These ads were launched this past November and immediately caused a stir, featuring world leaders kissing one another. The image of Pope Benedict XVI kissing Egypt’s Ahmed el Tayyeb was almost immediately pulled from the line up after the Vatican issued a stern condemnation. I personally loved these advertisements. They definitely make you think about the issues present in the image, right? The “Heart” campaign also caused controversy and a lot of conversation. I think this advertisement in particular was one of the most powerful ones they created. Make sure to take a look, what do you think?
2. The Miu Miu Campaign featuring Hailee Steinfeld, the 14 year old girl sitting on the railroad tracks is deemed “irresponsible” and therefore banned by Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). Although they recognized that the actress was not bound to the tracks, and that she could easily move away, they still thought it irresponsible to feature such a young girl in this particular scenario. The U.S. is widely recognized as having the least restrictive guidelines for advertising aimed at young people, but this is a little strict don’t you think? There are plenty of other advertisements that send far worse messages then being “irresponsible” for sitting on railroad tracks, especially when there are no trains in sight.
3. The recent Donna Karan Haiti- Inspired Ads featuring Adriana Lima were deemed “insensitive” by many people. These ads are absolutely stunning at first glance, but if you look deeper are they offensive to the general population of Haiti? Perhaps it was not so wise to place such a luxurious product front and center in one of the most poverty-stricken countries in the world. I think for this one it may come down to the intent of the designer — which in this case is supportive. After all, the inspiration for the entire collection came directly from Donna Karan’s work to help Haiti recover through the organization Hope, Help & Relief Haiti. Just read this article by the Huffington Post and you will see that there is no way that the Donna Karan brand meant any offense to the population of Haiti.
So maybe instead of judging an advertisement at first look, we should be thinking of the intent or the inspiration behind that particular advertisement before jumping to conclusions and thinking that its creator intended to create a less than desirable message. Controversy for controversy’s sake isn’t desirable, but I think we may have become too sensitive to all the attention-getting media out there… do you agree?