I read a lot, and in my perusal of the Interweb today I came across several international television commercials that had me wrinkling my nose, furrowing my brow, and rolling my eyes. I'm not easily offended, and really, I'm not sure it's a feeling of offense that has me writing this post. It is more a response to my disappointment with the lack of creativity on the part of advertisers, feeling of boredom with their attempts at sensationalism, and surprise at the lack of sensitivity regarding a recent act of terrorism that has had global repercussions. None of the first three ads are suitable for work. "Tsunami" has the potential to be a trigger for those directly affected by 9/11. Proceed with caution.
AIDS is a Mass Murderer
I'm not entirely sure of the need for this ad to be so explicit, and maybe I don't know enough about what is allowed on German television because this is one the places its creators intend the ad to be shown. The music and cinematography indicates something more sinister is at work, and the print ads are just as dark and grimy as the television spot. Despite their aim to lend credibility to the ad by associating it with World Aids Day, the UK nonprofit has condemned the ad saying, "I would be deeply shocked if it was planned by an official HIV organisation. I think the advert is incredibly stigmatising to people living with HIV who already face incredible amounts of stigma and discrimination throughout the world. On top of this it fails to provide any kind of actual prevention message (e.g. use a condom)." Touche!
Tsunami (aka Planes)
Is blaming "inexperienced staff" enough of an apology from DDB Brazil for this heart-stopping commercial, particularly when it attempted to lie, lie, and lie some more when confronted with global condemnation? The print version ran in a small San Paolo newspaper several months ago, and both it and the television spot were entered into the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival in June, so the ad agency must have been somewhat impressed with their underling's creative abilities. It seems what they weren't impressed with was the backlash, and now they're attempting to dig themselves out of a very deep and uncomfortable hole. Their client, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), wasn't impressed either, and has spent several days denouncing the commercial and attempting to get it removed from the Internet sites that feature the spot saying, "The concept was summarily rejected by W.W.F. and should never have seen the light of day. It is an unauthorized use of our logo and we are aggressively pursuing action to have it removed from Web sites where it is being currently featured." Quite a tsunami of scandal, no? Note to self: Don't use other people's trauma for political gain.
Georgia Mae Jagger for Hudson Jeans
My complaint about UK-based Hudson Jeans use of 17-year-old Georgia Mae Jagger in their porn-y Autumn/Winter ad campaign has morphed from disapproval into snark and scoff. As I mentioned in my previous post, Hudson Jeans is taking cues from a similar Calvin Klein campaign that ran in the mid-1990s. Unfortunately, the awkwardly delivered, cliché dialogue alongside terrible music, fast cuts, and dismembered body shots makes this commercial little more than ridiculous. Using one's parents' fame and fortune to make up for a lack of talent is sad. Right Paris?
But There is Hope
You didn't think I was going to leave you all gloom and doom with no silver lining, did you? Here are a few examples of global ads that get it right.
UNICEF Tap Project's "Desperate"
Shocking and disturbing yet with a sound message: clean water is a luxury for most of the world.
Breakthrough's "Bell Bajao!"
Don't be a bystander. I particularly like that this is aimed at men, and that one is set up to believe the man is going to pummel the domestic violence perpetrator, but that instead of meeting violence with violence, the guy simply interrupts the situation and subtly lets the perpetrator know he's being monitored by simply asking for a cup of milk.
These two commercials show there's a better way to convey a message without resorting to tired tropes and shock for shock's sake. Time to raise the bar.