Modern advertising seems to be taking a more controversial approach in recent times. Controversial ads are nothing new, of course, but it is the form and topics of new advertising that is the key difference.
In Sept. 2018, Nike released a new line of ads with Colin Kaepernick as the face of the campaign, leading to a huge uproar. Even though the first few weeks of the original release lead to a stark drop in Nike’s stock, reported by CNN Money, Nike overall gained numerous amounts of stockholders and the stock reached some of the highest numbers for the company.
In 2017, Pepsi premiered an ad campaign starring Kendall Jenner which faced a huge amount of backlash because of the way the ad made fun of race relations within America and political movements. Pepsi pulled the ad before it could do significant amounts of damage to their public relations, but ultimately the company came out unscathed and actually had an increase of profits, according to USA TODAY, because of the airing of the ad similar to Nike.
Now, Gillette has released a new ad campaign showcasing an advertisement discussing the topic of “toxic masculinity.” Since the release of the original ad, many men, including myself, have been displeased with the way the campaign goes after men, who are the main targets for their product. Since the release of the ad, shares for the company have not gone up or gone down, according to CNN.
This trend is a slippery slope to go down because soon enough, products and brands are going to be attached to a certain political belief instead of a certain product. I stood by and agreed with the Colin Kaepernick ad, but this Gillette ad is different because it is targeting the buyers of their product and seemingly blaming it all on them, which I am not a fan of.
The main problem with these ads are that they try to exploit people for their beliefs to turn a profit. Controversial advertising, from a business standpoint, works since many of these ad campaigns have accomplished their goal to increase their revenue, with the exception of Gillette. However, Gillettes lack of fallout could be attributed to the market of the product that they sell, since most men buy Gillette razors as there are not many other options.
There has to come a point where political beliefs should not be used in the efforts of ad campaigns.
Some would say that these ads bring problems within society to the forefront to create public discussion around social issues that matter, and to a certain extent that comment is correct, but that is not the main goal of the ad.
The first thing companies want people to do is buy their product. Ads, to this extent, get people to buy their products by manipulating political beliefs into actions of purchasing the products sold by the large corporations and brands that put out these ads. The main goal of these ads is not to create any public discussion on political and societal issues. These ads generate media storms and controversy on purpose so that the average consumer will recognize their brand and be more likely to buy the product. These brands see no difference between being famous and being infamous which is a problem.
If discussion about the issue is brought up within the public arena, then it provides the company with this moral standing for people to connect with and buy their product.
This new trend of controversial advertising will create a bigger division within America along certain political beliefs and, even sooner, people will be judging others by the brands that he or she associates with, that brand association defining the political beliefs that person has.
Do the ends justify the means? People need to start challenging these companies for exploiting beliefs for profit, no matter the political ideology of that company. The ends do not justify the means, especially for what they can do to our culture. People seem to be expecting more from companies than what is truly happening, which has led the way for this dangerous trend within pop culture to possibly spiral out of control. Be careful of what ads are doing in order to get us to buy their products.