To be or not to be controversial in advertising

ImageIt’s been a while between blog posts, but a billboard has propelled me to write.

To launch a new line of bras Australian garment manufacturer Bonds has rolled billboards with the word ‘BOOBS’ on them! As you can imagine the billboard has raised a few eyebrows and strained some neck muscles! Not only has Bonds taken over prominent billboard spaces across Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney; they have also landed themselves in the headlines across all forms of media.

The brief for Clemenger BBDO was to announce to the world that Bonds was a serious player in the bra industry.  This ambitious and aggressive campaign has certainly gotten everyone talking!

Sections of society would find the campaign funny, while others offensive. Reading on the forum, Essential Baby users complained of it being sexiest and others are waiting for the male version.  Children have taken joy in repeating the advertising when they see it, making it tough for some parents to manage. I don’t have kids, but I could see how this could be a problem.

Going for the controversial angle is nothing new in advertising. Sportsbet in July pushed the boundaries when the Lions Rugby team toured Australia. The company’s tagline was ‘Rooting for OZ’. They painted the world’s biggest outdoor sign, a 170 metre wide and 90 metre tall sign on a field near Melbourne’s airport. The sign was very visible for passengers flying in-and-out of the airport. Uproar over the controversial advertisement forced the removal of the sign before the British team touched down in Melbourne. Similar to the Bonds example, Sportsbet received a lot of coverage in the mainstream media.

In addition to the media attention controversial advertising attracts, it appears that pushing the boundaries commands a high brand recall. It may not be the best coverage, but getting mentioned in the media can do wonders for brand awareness.

However being controversial does not suit all brands, but some can get away with it more than others. An example of one controversial advertisement that backfired was the ‘Where the Bloody hell are you’ television ad.  Developed to promote Australia, it did the opposite on the world stage. I think the ad got lost in translation and didn’t result in an influx of tourists.

As it gets harder to be noticed, more and more brands will continue to create controversial advertisements as a way to be a step ahead of their competitors.


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