When does creativity in advertising go too far?

When does creativity in advertising go too far?

January 26, 2023
Push Perspective

You may have already seen the news today of a life insurance brand receiving a huge amount of negative press for promoting a serial killer in their ads to convince prospects to take out a policy.The brand in question is known for using dark humour in their advertising, often addressing difficult subjects in a slightly crude but highly intelligent manner.


It’s not our place nor our nature to condemn or slander another business for boundary-breaking ads, but is this a step too far in finding a new hook or strap-line?Creativity is subjective, but it is incredibly easy in the modern world to offend and isolate large segments of your audience or target market. Intentional or not, brands must stay on top of what they are posting, how they are wording ads, and what images they use to ensure they stick to the positioning the brand is trying to promote.Think about who is actually on the frontlines of a business' external communication: an in house PR team? an external agency? A junior social media manager? Outsourced offshore? Without clear guidelines and checks, it’s so easy for something to be posted that could completely destroy a brand's reputation.That’s why we always recommend a few things to businesses we work with:

  • Ensure you have clear brand guidelines and tone of voice documents shared with whoever has any involvement with your external posting/ads.
  • Ensure that includes do’s and don’ts if your business does play on humour
  • Have some form of sign off process on anything that could be slightly controversial - this allows an explanation ready if questioned.
  • Know your audience - you can see interests and demographic info using tools like Google analytics so make sure you are fully aware of customer behaviours and interest before using certain topics in your marketing.
  • Don’t cheap-out on creative - outsourcing creative abroad can allow for potential images to be used that could be offensive to certain countries/markets that may be easily missed without someone with local and up to date knowledge of the news/trends in that geography.

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