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Entries in Advertising (20)


Advertisements that take it too far

Advertisements have the ability to be clever, creative and entertaining. Occasionally however, advertisers take it too far and create an advertisement which pushes the boundaries and offends. There is a fine line between artistic and offensive.

This topic has been in the media a lot this year with The Morning Show in particular examining a number of notably controversial advertisements that have caused outrage (you can view full segments below). I joined them to discuss the world-wide criticism these controversial campaigns have received and the place they have in the advertising world.

In February of this year NEO Property gained notoriety after they emailed their newest property listing of a house to 100 clients. It featured a video clip complete with music, images of the property and images of a model - peeling her clothes off inside the property. Narrated by agents Ian Adams and Adrian Jenkins, it was one minute and 25 seconds of innuendo, double entendre and close-ups. Needless to say the video quickly went viral for all the wrong reasons and NEO Property were accused of taking the real-estate industry to a new low.

Similarly, Yoplait came under criticism for their campaign advertising their new ‘light’ product line. Instead of promoting sex, the advertisement was accused of supporting eating disorders, bad eating habits and negative weight loss ideas. Critics claimed that it validated and legitimised some very unhealthy thinking patterns through encoding them in an advertisement. Have a look at the advertisement below and make up your own mind.

If you can’t view the video - click here -

This advertisement was actually pulled from air and this powerful decision has set a precedent in the American advertising industry. The difference with this advertisement compared to other low-fat food advertisements is that it focused on the stress and anger of the woman and her negative view of food as ‘the enemy’. The casting of the advertisement was also questioned, with two slim actresses being cast in roles where they are either obsessed with losing weight or praised for having noticeably lost weight.

In my opinion this was an overreaction, and a decision like this probably would not have been made in Australia. The Yoplait advertisement was creative and transformed a complex issue (how to improve your lifestyle) into a simple one (eat Yoplait light yoghurt). When it comes to the amount of restrictions and regulations placed on advertisers we need to be careful not to limit creativity and innovation.

Finally last month, Canadian-based ‘Fluid Hair Salon’ launched their new “Look good in all you do campaign”. It comprised of a series of images which featured well-dressed women in various situations all under the tag, “Look good in all you do." The below image in-particular received world-wide criticism for glamorising domestic violence. While they may have had the best of intentions, I don't think they put a lot of consideration into what key message was being communicated.

Fluid Hair received death threats and the salon itself was vandalised in response to the advertisements. Eventually Fluid Hair was forced to pull the advertisements from print.


The above examples only represent a small number of advertising campaigns that have gone too far, and I know you will be able to think of many more that have shocked and offended. There needs to be a balance between creativity, entertainment and responsibility. Below are a few simple questions you can ask yourself when creating your advertising campaign to avoid making the same mistake.

1. Who is your audience? Be aware of those groups in society who are more vulnerable and may intentionally/unintentionally see your message.

2. What is your key message? Keep it simple and direct.

3. What does the advertisement focus on? Do you promote healthy thinking and positive messages?

4. What are your motives for executing your advertisement in a certain way? Is the aim to promote your message or to push the boundaries to gain media attention?

For more insights check out the segments from The Morning Show below and make up your own mind - do you think the advertisements pushed the boundaries or were they simply artistic expression?

If you can’t view the video - click here -

If you can’t view the video - click here -