Start-ups are being urged to steer clear of race, religion and sex in their marketing efforts, after the Advertising Standards Bureau revealed the most complained about advertisements in 2011.
Complaints were made against billboards promoting safe sex among gay couples, Jesus touting the Koran, and a TV commercial featuring an Indian person doorknocking to sell energy deals.
Of the latter, the ASB “considered that a subtle suggestion that the man in the advertisement may not be completely honest was offensive, and that it vilified Indian people.”
The advertisement, which received 75 complaints, was found to have breached the Australian Association of National Advertisers’ Code of Ethics.
The code states that advertising “shall not portray people or depict material in a way which discriminates against or vilifies a person or section of the community on account of race, ethnicity, nationality, sex, age, sexual preference, religion, disability or political belief.”
Meanwhile, the “Rip & Roll” safe-sex campaign, created by the Queensland Association for Health Communities, received a whopping 222 complaints but was dismissed by the ASB.
“The Advertising Standards board dismissed complaints about the ad as it was strongly in favour of the important health message the advertisement portrays,” chief executive Fiona Jolly says.
“It considered that while some members of the community would prefer not to see this issue advertised, the public health message overrides any social sensitivity.”
In total, six of this year’s top 10 complaints were dismissed, while the remaining four were either modified or discontinued.
One of the modified campaigns was that of fashion retailer General Pants, which featured a semi-naked woman allowing male hands to unzip her pants, with the word “Sex” in the background.
Michael Halligan, co-founder of Engage Marketing, says many controversial campaigns are in fact marketing stunts. However, he says companies need to look beyond the shock factor.
“Marketing stunts are particularly effective where you have a product or service to market that is buzz-worthy. Ideally, your product has an interesting offering or a remarkable attribute,” he says.
“When planning your marketing stunt, think about the extremes. The market is most likely to pick up on something that is extremely funny [or] extremely creative.”
“The best marketing stunts are able to generate exposure far beyond their existing platform. Do something creative and noteworthy enough, and people will talk about it [for the right reasons].”