Offensive Advertising

French Connection, (aka FCUK) no stranger to courting controversy, announced today a joint promotion with Chatroulette. If you’ve been on digital hunger-strike recently, Chatroullette is a service which allows you to video conference with a series of random sad blokes and their penises. Rumours of girls using the service are yet to be confirmed by this valiant researcher.

However, it does raise an interesting issue about advertising and brand association. The generally accepted wisdom in the Brand Manager’s Basic Manual is that brands should avoid advertising in controversial media. These days, a good example of this might be media containing User Generated Content. UGC must be a BAD THING as the advertiser doesn’t know what it might contain and HAS NO CONTROL over the content. Thus, the advertising might appear in conjunction with NASTY STUFF like partial nudity, men wearing skimpy lederhosen or recipes for twee cup cakes.

The other side of the coin is that people who are viewing this perverse content don’t find it controversial or offensive, otherwise they wouldn’t be looking at it. Well, unless they’re trying to be offended, for reasons too strange to consider. So, if they implicitly like the content they’re consuming, why would they find any brand associating itself with that content inappropriate? Or worse, would they not buy the brand which has associated itself with material they like to imbibe?

OK, I realise that this somewhat disingenuous. If a brand associates itself with some kind of extreme political view, as an example, it can come across as endorsement and that can’t be a good thing. But overall, I think brands are far too precious about this issue.

As far as FCUK is concerned, this is a great idea which will earn them millions in free publicity, as well as demonstrating their grasp of the zeitgeist to their brand fans. And when the inevitable “Yes, it was an actual penis” articles appear in The Daily Mail, they’ll be laughing loudly at quite how clever they’ve been.

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