This ad from Diesel is easily a bad one. It shows an old man falling at the feet of a young man who is wearing a pair of Diesel sneakers. The old man seems to taste the sneakers as if they are food while the young man steps on him. Not only that the message behind is unclear; it is obvious that this is an action of dehumanization. It is as if the old man is an animal instead of a human being. Research has shown that there is a strong association between dehumanization and disgust. Harris and Fiske (2006, 2007) conducted several functional magnetic resonance imaging studies in which participants were shown images of people from stigmatized groups typically associated with disgust (e.g. drug addicts). This failed to activate the medial prefrontal cortex which is a region frequently implicated in mentalizing. It is always activated more strongly by people than by objects. People who see this ad is unlikely to purchase Diesel products when they find this ad disgusting. Moreover, having an old man falling at one’s feet does not seem to be appealing.
Perhaps Diesel could make use of humour (which might be their intention in this ad…) without involving dehumanization when advertising.
Harris, L. T., & Fiske, S. T. (2006). Dehumanizing the lowest of the low: Neuroimaging responses to extreme out-groups. Psychological Science, 7, 847–853.
Harris, L. T., & Fiske, S. T. (2007). Social groups that elicit disgust are differentially processed in the mPFC. Social Cognitive Affective Neuroscience, 2, 45–51.