Unwittingly creating an ad that goes too far isn’t new, but in the increasingly frenzied race to stand out and be noticed, it seems to me there are more and more examples of brands who mistake getting attention, for building affection.
Today’s story on Adweek brings us the latest winner of the “What Were They Thinking?” award, Pearl Izumi. Apparently, someone there decided that a beautiful, color-saturated, Instagram-y photo of a trail runner kneeling over his dead dog giving it CPR, would grab our attention and build affinity for their brand. “Gear for the uncompromising athlete!” (the brief said.) “Not for the faint of heart!” (inspired the creative director.) “We’re edgy!” (exclaimed the client.) Forgotten was the voice that said, “Our customers don’t want their dogs to die when they take them on a run.”
Contrast this with the enormously popular viral campaign, “Dumb Ways to Die” by Metro Trains in Melbourne, Australia which snagged a Grand Prix at Cannes this year. That campaign features horribly gruesome accidental deaths, demonstrated by disarmingly, well, cute isn’t quite the right word, but let’s call them cute, cartoon blobs. Add a catchy, original, earworm-worthy song that gets stuck in your head and a video designed for maximum share potential and you have an example where being edgy, and clever, grabs your attention and makes your point stick.
Creating controversy can get you attention, but not all that attention will be positive, just ask Miley Cyrus… on second thought, better not ask her. Calculated risks can have big pay-offs, but they can also cost, big time. In this case, Pearl Izumi is reported to have given a $10,000 donation to a local Humane Society to make up for the blunder, but that is a drop in the bucket compared to the loss of good will and negative emotional connections you create when you disregard what is emotionally valuable to your customers.