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Controversial Ads –Are They Missing the Mark Intentionally?

Controversial Ads –Are They Missing the Mark Intentionally?

controversial ads

Controversial Ads –Are They Missing the Mark Intentionally?

Controversy in advertising is nothing new. Brands are always looking for a way to create buzz. After all, any kind of publicity, either good or bad, is still publicity. But whether the controversy is intended or not, this can significantly affect a brand’s bottom line.


An effective way to stand out and get noticed is to go against the current, to do the opposite of what everyone else is doing. Doing so can create controversy, especially if you touch on a sensitive or political topic. When you get into issues that don’t have a direct correlation to your brand, it can initiate divisive opinions and may offend a portion of your audience.


Gillette and the #MeToo Movement


Such was the case of Gillette’s #MeToo ad. The brand saw an opportunity to engage with the #MeToo movement by creating a campaign that denounces sexism, sexual harassment, violence between boys and against women, and ‘toxic masculinity’. While this kind of message is generally positive and considered empowering, Gillette’s ad received backlash, with some of the audience accusing the brand of generalising men as evil. There were also comments questioning whether a brand that only sells razors and shaving products should have a right to make such statements.

gillette ad

What could be the reason behind this controversial campaign? Did they do this because they had lost market share to competitors like Dollar Shave Club? Was it to create buzz and push for purpose-driven purchase decisions instead of cost-driven?


Ultra Tune Dares to be Provocative


Brands are becoming a little more daring with their ads due in part to social media where they can get immediate feedback. Ultra Tune ads, for example, have always been known as controversial – case in point, the Rubber Girls and Unexpected Situation ads. While the Ultra Tune CEO claims that the ads were meant to be entertaining and lighthearted and never meant to be controversial, they have always managed to offend and spark outrage among viewers. And yet, they’ve stuck to the same formula despite receiving hundreds of complaints from the advertising watchdog.


Woke Advertising


The slang “woke” generally means being consciously awake or being well-informed and socially aware. In today’s information age, people are becoming more aware of different issues and have wider access to information that can influence their opinions and decisions.


Previously, brands have stayed out of sensitive issues for fear of alienating their audience and to avoid controversies that may impact their reputation and sales. Now, many brands are cutting through the noise via woke advertising to become relevant to their audience.

For the Awareness and Relevance


But do customers really want brands to take a stance? Studies show that consumers are now more likely to support socially responsible brands that they can align their values with. Customers want to be associated with purpose-driven “woke” brands.


Sparking dialogue generates brand awareness. For whatever intentions these brands have, whether to promote a positive message or just for the sake of relevance and standing out, and whether you support these kinds of ads or not, they get people talking. And that’s their ultimate goal.



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