Are controversial ads really such a bad thing?

Crush! | iPad Pro | Apple

This following comments were originally published in Campaign Asia's article 'Are controversial ads really such a bad thing?'

Following Apple's recent 'Crush' ad controversy and Bumble's fumble, Campaign explores whether or not there is merit in an ad that is criticised but still garners attention, as opposed to going unnoticed.

Our Director of Consumer, Nick Zonnios was invited to comment.

"If your objective is to spark a debate, and your creative process has followed that objective, then your ad being criticised is great. It’s done its job, and likely earned you a great deal of attention you’ve not had to pay for," says Nick Zonnios, director of consumer at Icon Agency.

"But if the opposite is true, and you’ve been called out for not being in touch with the audience you’re trying to engage or for being offensive, it’s not a great place to be."

Is all attention good?

"The old adage that any publicity is good publicity is bullshit," says Zonnios. "Some is good. Some is bad. And it should be abundantly clear which is which."

That said, there will always be exceptions, such as Nike in the previously mentioned example, and occasionally controversy is limited to a vocal but small number of people.

"But it’s safe to say that if your brand or product is at the centre of a cultural shitstorm, it’s highly unlikely that it’ll inspire a positive outcome," adds Zonnios.

How best to deal with a backlash?

"Ideally, you would identify during the ideation and production process that the ad was going to be controversial and scenario-plan for it, and if things did go awry, you would act on the plan," says Zonnios.

"But if it catches you off-guard, which given Apple’s [iPad Crush] response, I suspect it did, then you move quickly to respond. "In this instance, Apple made the right call," adds Zonnios.

"It responded swiftly, pulled the ad and took the air out of the story rather than letting it linger and turn into something bigger than it had already become."

Continue reading here.

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