Controversial Advertising: is there any other kind?

Since I’ve paused my tour of Cape Town’s art scene (not that excited to pause it, but I must prioritise), I have been looking into some of the advertising campaigns in the world. I’m never one to sit still. It’s annoying sometimes (for me, and I’m sure the people around me). But I am where I love to be, and it’s grand. 😉

Nonetheless, after some basic scoping on the online scene, I found some interestingly controversial adverts. Mainly in the print media (as bandwidth for videos will be the end of me), there are some exceptionally edgy marketing strategies out there. This made me consider the personality behind advertising. Perhaps this links to a recent paper I wrote on the artist, Damien Hirst, and how he emerged as a modern artist: does he function as an artist or is he merely the product of a great marketing plan by Charles Saatchi? This discussion then lent itself to the positioning of art as a concept…etc etc etc etc etc.

With no discrimination to time, location or brand, these three adverts have caught my attention (I personally like the first one and the last one. Without controversy, how are advertisers supposed to catch AND KEEP our attention?)

1. 2006 Nike campaign

>>Rooney fractured the base of his 4th metatarsal before the 2006 World Cup finals, but he made a full recovery in time to play at the World Cup. Therefore, some notable British journalists claimed that Nike cynically portrayed Rooney part Woden, the Anglo-Saxon god of war, part the suffering but triumphant Christ. According to them, “Nike has exploited him almost as blatantly as it is alleged to exploit its laborers in the Third World who make its costly footwear.”<<

2. United Colors of Benetton – Angel and Demon

>>The Italian master of shockvertising created in 1991 unprecedented controversy with the “Angel and Devil” campaign. The ad portrays a moral conflict, symbolized by an angel – a white girl with blonde curly hair, blue eyes –  and the devil – an Afro American girl whose hair looks similar to devilish horns. The gap in the middle of the front teeth is a sign of wisdom, beauty, happiness and fertility in many parts of the world. It is called les dents du bonheur, teeth of happiness. This makes the white girl look even more innocent and angelic.<<

3.  Corporate Chhattisgarh – Martyr

>>Ogilvy’s advertising campaign was sponsored by Corporate Chhattisgarh, a monthly corporate magazine. The shocking ad questions the faith-based terrorism and the role played by religion in rewarding and justifying it.

If faith can truly move mountains, doesn’t using RDX to massacre mere humans denote a certain lack of faith?” and “Just what if after the successful completion of your suicide bombing mission you discover God doesn’t exist?” are the messages of the other two ads of the campaign developed by Ogilvy & Mather India.  Touching, powerful copy and brilliant art direction!<<

description of adverts (text) and images sourced: