After a series of advertising controversies, Creative Communications Director, Paul, discusses how brands are making social commentary in an age of social.
Recently, the world of advertising and the real world has collided big time. On the one hand advertisers such as Pepsi and Baby Dove climbed over the fence and into the dangerous territory of social comment. On the other, Google and YouTube were under increasing pressure from advertisers who did not want their shiny messages and images alongside the darker ones promoting terrorism.
Much has been said, written but mainly tweeted about the Pepsi ad. That this was the main cause of uproar ahead of the Syrian crisis reflects pretty poorly on the values of ‘World2017’. Having said that, it was a pretty hideous piece of misconceived thinking. The only way to enjoy the nauseatingly trite images of Kendall Jenner having her ‘come to Damascus’ moment was with a can of Coke in your hand. How many people involved in the process saw the script, knew the idea, approved the budgets, worked on the production, did the editing and didn’t say a thing?
You’re all culpable.
That the ad was produced in-house should prove a valuable lesson for Clients who think that this arrangement has any advantages be they operational or creative. Using an outside agency gives you the one vital weapon which would have avoided the Pepsi disaster – perspective.
"Advertising has been poking its beak in things that might not be its business, that business being to promote clients' products."
Meanwhile, Baby Dove poked away at sensitive moral places with their campaign featuring a model created from data and programmes. The Sun fell for it and jumped up and down and waved its little fists with self-righteous approbation. Then looked suitably silly when someone walked past an editor’s meeting and said ‘she’s not real you know. That’s the point. I would have paid top dollar for a ticket to that event, faces as red as their masthead. Of course Dove have a proud history of championing non-model like models from the beginnings of their Real Beauty campaign. This latest iteration was very smart, too smart for The Sun who failed their readers badly by being taken in and therefore associating their readership in the ignorance. Not a bright move.
We do a lot of work in the Beauty category not just in the design and communications sense but by being involved in the wider trends and issues which influence the sector. The Baby Dove campaign is the logical conclusion of a move towards more openness and honesty when people, especially young women, are exposed to imagery which they might aspire to. Obviously Clients wish the products which they have invested heavily in, and which they believe in, to be seen in the best possible light. And lighting. However the world is more transparent these days and all the better for it. In the last seven days, advertising has been poking its beak in things that might not be its business, that business being to promote Clients’ products.
"Why shouldn't all that communication be used to communicate positive social messages as long as it is done with intelligence, compassion and creativity?"
The dilemma is that advertising is immensely influential and the vast budgets allow a tidal wave of messages to crash onto the public every second of the day and in every conceivable channel. Why shouldn’t all that communication be used to communicate positive social messages as long as it is done with intelligence, compassion and creativity? And with the caveat that the product actually has the right to carry these kind of messages. A sugary can of carbonated water probably doesn’t have a license for that kind of thing. Advertising decorates the walls of our lives. So, in a way, maybe advertising has a social duty which it should address before it starts trying to usurp the role of the United Nations.
If people are going to be surrounded by promotional messages in their daily lives, at least make them entertaining, inspiring or beautiful. Preferably all three. For better or for worse, Advertising, design and communications are part of our environment both real and virtual. Everyone in the creative industries should be doing their bit to make that environment a nice place to live.