Marketing

“You’re F#ckin’ Out!”: Wicked Campers persists with “risky” advertising strategy as ad watchdog upholds 15th complaint this year

Eloise Keating /

TV character Kenny Powers inspired the Wicked Campers van slogan

Serial advertising offender Wicked Campers continues to ignore the advertising watchdog, as the number of complaints upheld against the company’s slogans grows to 15 this year.

The Advertising Standards Board ruled in November an image of Kenny Powers, a character from HBO television series Eastbound & Down, was presented in an “aggressive” way.

The image of Powers was featured on the side of Wicked Campers van with the slogan: “You’re F#ckin’ Out! I’m F#ckin’ In” (Powers’ catchphrase on the show) while the back of the same van featured a pro-drugs message.

According to the Advertising Standards Board, replacing a letter with a symbol was “not enough to disguise what the world is meant to read” and given most members of the community would not be familiar with the short-tempered Kenny Powers character, the use of his image was “aggressive”.

At the same time, the board found “the use of the word ‘fuckin’ in connection with the image of Kenny Powers is presented in an aggressive manner” and said this “amounts to language which is strong and obscene and inappropriate in the circumstances”. 

Wicked Campers chose not to respond to the complaint or the Advertising Standard Board’s ruling. It did also not respond to another complaint in November about the slogan, “She can’t wrestle but you should see her box”, which was dismissed.

Wicked Campers has a habit of not responding to rulings by the advertising watchdog, which has now upheld 15 complaints against the company this year.

Mumbrella reports the advertising watchdog upheld complaints against slogans including: “Chuck Norris needs a monkey wrench and a blowtorch to masturbate”; “If you love God, burn a church”; “Get out ya tits and we’ll call it quits”; “Fat girls are harder to kidnap”; “Does your asshole ever get jealous of the shit that comes out of your mouth”; and “A blow job a day beats an apple”.

The Advertising Standards Board also upheld a complaint against the slogan “In every princess there is a little slut who wants to try it just once”, which prompted an online petition and calls of condemnation from the Greens Party.

Wicked Campers responded at the time, issuing a public apology and committing to “changing slogans of an insensitive nature” over the next six months.

“As is often quoted: ‘A sense of humour is a sense of proportion’,” said chief executive John Webb in July.

“And in this instance, we admit that we have taken things out of proportion and out of the realms of what is considered to be ‘socially acceptable’. We are a small company, with eclectic, creative and multi-cultural staff. It is impossible for us to conceive that a throw-away message written on a van could have such far-reaching implications for the community at large.”

READ MORE: The 10 most complained about ads for 2014

But Janey Paton, director of marketing and public relations agency Belles and Whistles, told SmartCompany more regulation of offensive advertising may be needed if a company such as Wicked Campers can continue to ignore rulings by the advertising watchdog.

Paton says Wicked Campers is taking a “risky approach” with its advertising but the company “is obviously targeting a very niche market of backpackers and that is a segment of the market that is carefree”.

“They must still be successfully penetrating that market to continue [the slogans] without responding,” Paton says.

Paton says Wicked Campers also has a large following on social media and encourages its followers to post photos of themselves with the slogans.

And given Wicked Campers eventually responded to the petition in July, Paton says the company is “going into it with their eyes wide open”.

“They are well aware the slogans are offensive but they obviously believe any publicity is good publicity, which a lot of people would disagree with,” Paton says.

Paton says Wicked Campers’ advertising strategy is a “very rare case” and it is not an approach she would recommend to other companies.

“The majority of businesses invest heavily in their brand and brand values and want to generate equity in their brand through positive attributes,” she says.

SmartCompany contacted Wicked Campers but did not receive a response prior to publication.

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Eloise Keating

Eloise Keating is the editor of SmartCompany. Previously, Eloise was news editor at Books+Publishing, the trade press for the Australian book industry.

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