Controversial ads: creative or crude?

New World's 'Next Day' ad is a rather charming portrayal of a couple getting together - but that didn't stop the complaints

New World’s ‘Next Day’ ad is a rather charming portrayal of a couple getting together – but that didn’t stop the complaints

About the only thing that gets me to look at ads these days is controversy. I love reading the ridiculous complaints the Advertising Standards Authority receives and marvelling at the lengths people will go to to mouth off. (There’s a great parody of it here.)

The Garage Project’s “Death From Above” – a reference to the napalm-dropping helicopter from classic Vietnam war film Apocalypse Now

The Tui beer billboards are frequently in the lists for their irreverent fun-poking, for example. But even if the complaints are valid and upheld, the advertiser still gets publicity from the stunt before and after they take the ad down.

Meanwhile boutique Wellington brewery Garage Project has been slated for naming its beer ‘Death from Above’ – a reference to napalm-dropping helicopters in Vietnam. Hopefully the beer isn’t as tasteless.

Creative or crude?

Sexual connotations are one of the most common grounds for complaint – like New World’s ‘Next Day’ ad showing a couple waking up after a one night stand (then using the supermarket to get food for a picnic). It’s rather sweet actually. Thankfully, the complaints weren’t upheld and the ad ran.

But are provocative ads just laziness on the part of ad agencies?

Take Libra’s drag queen tampon ad, for example. Ruled derogatory to transvestites, it was pulled off air. What about the Carl’s Jr. ads which aren’t played here? Could they have put more thought into selling something without resorting to using girls in bikinis?

Should ad agencies just accept that sex sells and go with it, or should they try to do something more relevant?

An aside to this story

The ASA did a fab wee advertising stunt of its own, demonstrating the value of self-regulation to ad agencies. Read about it from the creators of the campaign, Barnes Catmur & Friends (click ‘We don’t know how lucky we are’).

The ASA's own campaign about how badly ad regulation could go

The ASA’s own campaign about how badly ad regulation could go


3 thoughts on “Controversial ads: creative or crude?

  1. As a fellow market researcher I can attest that when testing overseas ads to use in NZ, NZrs tend to balk at the racier ones, esp the ones used in Australia. Or as I like to say, we have more class than Aussies – but we all knew that, right?

  2. I always wondered about people who complained. Generally any publicity is good publicity. I wonder if there is a class of law students somewhere who have the assignment of making complaints and any complaint that is upheld gets an automatic pass? Because who else has time to make some of these ridiculous complaints?

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