Brands that raise more than an eyebrow

28.07.2017 Posted by Saranne DaviesSaranne Davies

Is it true that anything goes these days?

The most suggestive ad when I was growing up was the Cadbury Flake advert which my Mother (bless her) called “distasteful” and “suggestive”.  “No one eats chocolate like that.  It’d go everywhere”.  “She’s got too much make up on as well”..  We didn’t have Flakes for a while.

She wasn’t happy with the United Colours of Benetton new born baby advert either.  Many weren’t..

..but it generated conversation.  

Lots of it.


Is conversation always a bad thing?  

Oscar Wilde once said;  “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about”.


In the social media age everyone who’s anyone wants to be talked about, brands included..


..but there is  such a thing as negative attention and when a highly recognisable and most importantly TRUSTED brand gets it wrong, its image can take an almighty bashing and sometimes be irretrievably scorched in the backlash.  Mums at the school gate who would have one time voiced their opinion and let it go or maybe wrote into the ASA if they were really irked now have the power of social sharing to generate fevered debate and speak directly to the brands themselves.  They want a response and they want it now.  Failure to do so appropriately can cause damage which would take years to repair.


“Disgusted, of Tunbridge Wells” is now armed to the teeth and can raise a fearsome small army in a matter of minutes in some cases.  The McDonalds example below is a classic example.


Dolce & Gabbana, Tom Ford, McDonald’s, Nestle, PepsiCo et al.. they’ve all got form, and all have felt the searing sting of social displeasure when it comes to their adverts.


Here’s just a few examples:


PepsiCo – Kendall Jenner Advert

What appears to be a rather romanticised if over hip and pretty version of a diversity march becomes a platform for Pepsi to promote the power of Pepsi Cola when it comes to easing social friction.  One can of Pepsi to a policeman, he sips, he smiles, the crowd all cheer and all is good again.  Good old Kendall, good old Pepsi!  Or maybe not…  Pepsi swiftly pulled their advert in the midst of a storm of criticism during a time of fractured social relations up and down the UK and across the US.


McDonald’s – Dad’s Dead

This one definitely racked up the scores on the  ‘Disgusted’ometer’.  More than 150 people complained about the 90-second ad to the UK Advertising Standards Authority before the fast-food giant decided to pull the commercial from the air.  Distasteful?  Possibly.


Protein World – Are you beach body ready?

Body shaming at its worst or just an aspirational image?  Can only skinny people wear swimsuits?  Can only the slim get their body out on a beach?  Is this kind of body the only body to have?  Shouldn’t  you really be covering up that belly of yours? You could say its just a rather fetching pic of a model in a swimsuit or you could say that in the age where young women are already paranoid about their shape and confused over what’s acceptable that Protein World have over stepped the mark.


Sisley Fashion Addict

Irresponsible and endorsing drug use, silly or thought provoking.  Sisley is the sister company of Benetton, who are hardly shrinking violets when it comes to promoting their brands, and this ad from 2007 certainly raised a perfectly arched eyebrow or two..


Dolce & Gabbana – Gang rape

Another brand who’s not in the shrinking violet club.  High fashion drama or  irresponsible imaging?


When your message becomes obscured in a bid to appear achingly hip, trendy, edgy or just plain too “cool for school” your loyal customer base will tell you.

For sure..

..and you’d better be listening when they do.