The above print advert depicts a ‘humorous’ pun relating to a popular phrase. However, it is conducted in a distasteful manner.
Advertising agencies use controversial advertisements in an attempt to be seen as creative and to distinguish themselves from competitors (Waller, 1999). Although controversial adverts can be successful (e.g., Benetton), the risk that such an advertisement may damage the company is prominent (Waller, 1999).
Chan, Li, Diehl and Terlutter (2007) conducted an experiment to assess how controversial advertisements impact on (potential) consumers. They constructed a questionnaire consisting of 6 offensive print adverts. Following each advert, the participant had to indicate which of the 12 adjectives best described it. Of the 12 adjectives, 6 were negative (offensive, uncomfortable, irritating, disgusting, ridiculous and impolite) and 6 were positive (convincing, lively, interesting, informative, creative and clever). Finally, the participant indicated his or her intentions to reject the product and brand on the basis of the advert using a 5-point Likert scale (1 = very unlikely, 5 = very likely). The results showed that if the advert was perceived increasingly negative, there was a higher likelihood that the participant would also reject the product and the brand.
Chan, K. Li, L., Diehl, S., & Terlutter,R. (2007). Consumers’ response to offensive advertising: A cross cultural study, International Marketing Review Special Issue on Global Advertising, 24, 606-628.
Waller, D.S. (1999). Attitudes towards offensive advertising: an Australian study. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 3,288 – 295.