10 Offensive Advertising Campaigns


10 Offensive Advertising Campaigns – Simon’s
edit – ordered by Dave NUMBER 10: FLORA In 2013 margarine manufacturer Flora found
itself at the center of a homophobic row after its advertising campaign was accused of comparing
having a gay child to the pain of being shot in the heart. The South African advert showed the words
‘ugh dad, I’m gay’ fashioned into a bullet-shape, aiming towards a human heart
made of china. The slogan reads ‘you need a strong heart today’, promoting the health
benefits of the spread. Stonewall, a gay rights group, described the
Flora poster as ‘offensive and inappropriate’. Unilever, the parent company of Flora, hastily
withdrew the advert, apologized, and distanced itself from it, claiming it had been created
externally and not approved by them. Sources: The Guardian, BBC, Pink News, The
Independent. NUMBER 9: HYUNDAI iX35 An advert for the Hyundai iX35 received widespread
criticism in 2013. The commercial featured a man attempting to commit suicide using the
exhaust fumes from his car, but failing to do so because of the vehicle’s non-toxic
emissions. This caused an understandable backlash from
suicide prevention campaigners such as Holly Brockwell, whose father had killed himself
in a similar manner. Brockwell was appalled that the company would take advantage of such
a sensitive subject to sell cars. Hyundai removed the video and issued an apology
to those offended. Sources: Advertising Age, Forbes, Campaign
Live. NUMBER 8: NIVEA Running with the slogan ‘Re-Civilize Yourself’,
a controversial Nivea advert hit headlines in 2011 after being accused of being overtly
racist. The poster, advertising male grooming products,
featured a well-dressed and clean-shaven black man throwing away the head of his afro-donning
former self. Unsurprisingly, consumers accused Nivea of
depicting black men as savage, as well as implying that afros are wild and undesirable. After receiving countless complaints about
the campaign, Nivea released a statement saying that they were ‘deeply sorry’ and would
never use the image again. Sources: The Society Pages, Ad Week, Business
Insider. NUMBER 7: INTEL A 2007 advert, which intended to promote the
speed of the new Intel processor, was slammed for its racist connotations. The poster showed a white businessman surrounded
by six black athletes crouched in the sprinter’s starting position. The slogan reads ‘maximize
the power of your employees’. Unfortunately for Intel, the image could easily
be interpreted as a white master standing over subservient black workers who are bowing
at his feet. Intel realised its error and canceled the
campaign shortly after it was published in Europe. Sources: The Register, Consumerist, Penciled
In. NUMBER 6: METROBUS The Washington Metro got into hot water in
2013 over a poster promoting increased bus reliability. The advert showed one woman telling another
about the Metrobus’ efficiency and the second woman replying ‘can’t we just talk about
shoes?’ Anti-sexism group UltraViolet called the ad
‘sexist and offensive’, saying they show ‘just how little Metro Forward thinks of
its everyday passenger’ by presenting women as shallow. Metro defended the poster, highlighting that
it was part of a larger advertising campaign contrasting dense facts with small-talk from
both men and women. Sources: Greater Washington, DCist, The Washington
Post. NUMBER 5: BLOOMINGDALE’S Department store giant Bloomingdale’s released
an advert in their 2015 holiday catalog that encouraged drink-spiking. The advert featured the tagline ‘spike your
best friend’s eggnog when they’re not looking’. This sparked outrage, with critics taking
to Twitter to voice concerns that the image made light of date rape. Bloomingdale’s issued a public apology,
admitting that the advert was inappropriate and in poor taste, but they were unable to
pull it because the catalog was already in print. Sources: The Guardian, Huffington Post, Techinsider. NUMBER 4: FORD In 2013 Ford issued an apology for an offensive
cartoon showing three provocatively-dressed women tied up in the trunk of a Ford Figo,
with the caption ‘Leave your worries behind with Figo’s extra-large boot’. The driver of the car also bore an uncanny
resemblance to former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who was being investigated
for sex offenses at the time. Ford and its advertising agency JWT insisted
that the images, which were criticized for sexalising violence against women, were never
intended for publication, but had leaked online. Sources: Independent, Salon, USA Today. NUMBER 3: SOFY BeFresh An Australian commercial for feminine hygiene
product SOFY BeFresh faced a barrage of criticism for both ‘fat shaming’ and ‘period-shaming’
women. The TV advert was accused of encouraging stigma
against women on their periods, by suggesting the outdated idea that women suffer from anger
issues when on their period. Still, the biggest concern of viewers was
the representation of a menstruating woman as a fatter version of her ‘normal self’.
Hundreds of outraged viewers took to social media to highlight the negative implications
of having a heavier actress play a woman ‘at her worst’. The company apologized to those offended in
2015, but the advert was not withdrawn. Source: Adweek, SOFY BeFresh, Campaign Brief. NUMBER 2: DUNKIN’ DONUTS A Dunkin’ Donuts advertisement in Thailand
gained international attention in 2013 after it was accused of being ‘bizarre and racist’
by Human Rights Watch. The poster, for a new ‘charcoal donut’,
showed a woman wearing blackface makeup and bright pink lipstick. It was accused of depicting
a racist stereotype and critics called for the image to be immediately withdrawn. The CEO for Dunkin’ Donuts in Thailand dismissed
the reaction as ‘paranoid American thinking’ and defended the campaign, which had generated
a 50% increase in sales of the product. However, a spokesperson for Dunkin’ Brands
announced that plans for a similar TV advert had been canceled. Sources: The Guardian, New York Daily News,
Ad Week. NUMBER 1: PANCREATIC CANCER ACTION In 2014 the charity Pancreatic Cancer Action
released a campaign using the shocking slogan ‘I wish I had breast cancer’. The aim of the advertising campaign was to
highlight the poor survival rates of the disease compared to other types of cancer, such as
breast or prostate, and encourage donations. The adverts, which were shown online, on British
TV, and on posters, received hundreds of complaints, many of which were from cancer sufferers who
took offense to the idea of making cancer a competition. Despite the complaints, the British Advertising
Standards Authority opted not to ban the campaign. Sources: Pancreatic Cancer Action, Breast
Cancer Care, Independent.

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