Controversial advertising: Effective or offensive?

Controversial advertising: Effective or offensive?

It can’t be denied that some of the best adverts are the ones that get people talking. In such a competitive world it is so important for brands to stand out and to create an advertising campaign that is bold, powerful and engaging. Fail to do so, and they can run the risk of being left behind to fall deep into the oblivion.

But sometimes brands can garner the wrong kind of attention. Living in a world where creative licensing is so subjective to individual opinion, it is possible to push the boundaries too far and create an advert that will leave the public feeling cold. And while at times this may be unintentional, you can’t help but question those who appear to be provocative for the sake of being so; those who purposely assemble all the vital attributes for creating a campaign that will not only enter the territories of controversial advertising, but will jump head first into the firing line of the British media and public.

Whether purposeful or not, one question still remains: is controversial advertising a genius, innovative branding exercise or an insensitive media stunt? We take a look over some of the campaigns that have been caught up in the hysteria of controversy and examine why they made this bold move.

Heineken’s ‘sometimes, lighter is better’ campaign

Beer adverts have always been creative. After all, the competition is fierce and a good beer advertisement can win over a customer for years. With the intentions of following foot with its competitors, Heineken stepped into the headlights with its ‘sometimes, lighter is better’ campaign. However, the ad, which appears to support a preference for fair complexions, received greater criticism than most, forcing the brewer to pull it from our screens.

But was this an intentional move to harness greater media attention? The musician Chance the Rapper seems to suggest so, claiming that some companies are purposely putting out noticeably racist ads so they can get more views. Yes, the campaign is bold, powerful and catches the audience’s’ attention, but it does make you wonder how far brands will go to get the front page spot.

KFC’s ‘The Whole Chicken’ advert

If you cast your mind back to summer last year you may remember seeing KFC’s ‘The Whole Chicken’ advert on your screens. Hitting prime-time TV, this short clip depicted a chicken dancing to ‘X Gon’ Give It To Ya’ while on its way to slaughter. As you can imagine, this caused a certain level of outrage amongst animal lovers who were offended by its message.

Arguing that it was created to highlight how every KFC product is 100 per cent chicken, the producers of the advert hit back at their criticisers to say that they were proud of their creation and were purposefully taking a bolder stance to generate greater engagement with their customers. And as controversial as it is, there’s no denying that it got the public engaged, sparking an ethical debate amongst viewers.

Lush’s #SpyCops Campaign

Cosmetics company Lush hit the headlines earlier this year with their ‘Spy Cops’ campaign. In a bid to highlight the “ongoing undercover policing scandal, where officers have infiltrated the lives, homes and beds of activists” the marketing strategy received over 19,000 negative reviews on Facebook as people criticised it as being insensitive and offensive to the police force.

Although it may seem like a sudden attempt to jump on the purpose bandwagon, campaigning on issues is very much within Lush’s remit of raising awareness. It is known for its ethical campaigns, fighting for animal welfare and human rights, therefore it can’t be argued that the ‘Spy Cops’ campaign aligns with their core messaging. And while it may not have had the desired effect, they can’t be discredited for trying to create something that is unique, thought-provoking and resonates with their target audience.

What are your thoughts on controversial advertising? Tweet us @NeoPRLtd.

Neo PR

Blog posts from Team Neo PR.

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