Monthly Archives: April 2011

Ethics in Advertising: Drawing the Line or Crossing It

Ethics can be defined as the rules of conduct or moral principles of a particular group/culture, though its definition can differ from one person to the next. When it comes to advertising, this same sentiment holds true. Depicting a crucified Christ to sell bicycle gear may be an acceptable expression of the advertiser’s “passion” for its business for some, but an offensive appropration of a religious icon for others.
Advertising is always striving to push the boundaries of acceptance and tradition, as all avenues of artistic expression do. But since advertising is often a much more public and accessible medium of expression than some music or art, advertisers must constantly remind themselves of ethics and decide whether the message of the ad is worth sacrificing public opinion or trust. In some cases, the loss of a few ultra-conservative consumers may be a fine trade for an ad that impacted and resonated with millions more. In other cases, it’s just not worth the backlash.
I consider myself to be pretty liberal in my views, but this anti-smoking ad is an obvious connection to the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center.
I will admit, smoking is a serious and life-threatening issue, but putting an advertisement on the same level as a horrific, nationally, politically, and socially life-altering event is offensive, and an affront to every American who experienced the tragedy of that day. Topics that inspire strong, negative personal opinions or associations are better left out of the often humorous, joking world of advertising.
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TV spots: Obselete or Bringing Home the Bacon?

With the dawn of DVRs and video on demand, the landscape of television has changed dramatically in the last decade. What makes TV watching more convenient and accessible for consumers has traditional TV advertisers scrambling for a way to still get their message across. Like the radio, advancement in technology and pop culture has relegated TV commercials to an almost obselete medium, with consumers favoring the viral videos and interactive media available online.

The TV commercial’s lone champion in its fight for survival is the Superbowl, the annual television program who receives as much hype, if not more, for the corresponding advertising as for the actual game. Unfortunately, at least in my opinion, most of the presented spots of the last few Superbowls have been disappointing, tired, and boring. If TV spots’ “big dance” is lackluster and unstimulating, there’s not much hope for consumer interest and support throughout the rest of the year- something advertisers don’t want to hear.

As with all advertising, there are always a few standouts who come up with innovative and unusual ideas to promote their product or service. One of the standouts who recently created such a commercial is Logitech and their commercial with Kevin Bacon for Revue with Google TV:

This kind of humor, surprising and unique in relation to most other slapstick, cheesy TV spots, in addition to inspiring creative ideas is what will keep television advertising alive, at least for another decade.

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Interactive: Incredibly Inspiring

To catch someone’s attention, ads in non-traditional media have to do more than just look pretty. They have to inspire consumers to interact, thus, the title of this category of advertising. An ad that inspires interaction in more ways than one is Nike’s Chalkbot for LIVESTRONG and the Lance Armstrong Foundation, created by Wieden+Kennedy. Building on the tradition of chalking the Tour de France route, Wieden+Kennedy took the action a step further to establish the route as a canvas for Chalkbot, a robot that takes SMS, Twitter, web banners, and wearyellow.com messages sent to it and chalks them onto the route riders bike a few hours later.

Here’s a video explaining it:

The best part about the ad is its ability for people to see the inspiring message they sent actually printed on the course. So not only is the ad interactive for consumers the first time, inspiring them to send in a message, it reinforces itself and acknowledges consumer’s participation, building on the idea of universal, shared inspiration to overcome any adversity. For consumers, to see a physical manifestation of their effort is a powerful confirmation for them individually and for their relationship with the brand or organization.

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