Marketing

Fast Lane: Yes, Wicked Campers, there is such a thing as bad publicity

Cara Waters /

Wicked Campers has become a regular feature of complaints to the Advertising Standards Board for offensive slogans painted on its vans.

The camper vans which are hired out from $35 a day to backpackers around Australia are painted by graffiti artists and have included slogans like “fat chicks are harder to kidnap”. 

Cue outrage, an adverse ruling by the ASB, a repainted van and a bucketload of free publicity. 

Then Wicked Campers just paints another van with another offensive slogan and the whole process repeats.

Mumbrella reported last month that there have been 31 complaints against slogans on Wicked Campers vans upheld in the last six years with 22 complaints dismissed in the same time span.

Now Wicked Campers doesn’t even bother to respond to complaints to the ASB.

The toothlessness of the ASB means some communities are taking matters into their own hands.

In Noosa, town wardens have recently taken to whitewashing offensive vans while their occupants sleep or surf.

Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson has called for the vans to be barred from mobile home parks, beaches and surf breaks because of their offensiveness.

Founder John Webb doesn’t seem too perturbed. 

“All publicity is good publicity unless it’s an obituary,” Webb told the Wall Street Journal recently. “I think people’s emotions run high sometimes.”

But what could really throw a spanner in the Wicked Camper van strategy is an ongoing investigation by the Queensland state government into whether advertising laws should be tightened to clamp down on the Wicked Campers vans.

A decision is expected soon on whether to classify vans like those used by Wicked Campers as a form of outdoor advertising.

This would make Wicked Campers subject to the same scrutiny as commercial billboards.

The legislation could give police even more power to crack down on van designs considered obscene.

It seems there may be such a thing as bad publicity.

Advertisement
Cara Waters

Cara Waters is a former SmartCompany editor. Previously, Cara was a senior reporter for the Financial Times' website and worked for The Sunday Times in London.

FROM AROUND THE WEB