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Why the 'Banned Ad' Gimmick is Only a Gimmick
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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Getting space in certain time slots, shows, and live programs can be quite difficult at times. We saw that in the Super Bowl; not many companies were ready to shell out the $3.8 million for 30 seconds. In other cases, spots during popular shows or times may be up for scrutiny, whether the scrutiny is necessary or not. The debate of advertising cereals and other foods during children's shows is a great example. 

But what happens when an ad gets banned?

During these days, whether we — as a society — like it or not, banned ads no longer die a quick death. No, the Internet and information channels we have access to allow the ad to live on in its infamous glory. Truth be told, advertisers and marketers have seen the attention banned ads have received. Yes, when shows like "ads too hot for TV" become mainstays during big commercial releases, marketers and adfolks look for ways to leverage the popularity.

As they should.

The first example in recent times is the Lane Bryant commercial where a plus-size model is shown in Lane Bryant's latest lingerie line as she is getting ready for a date. It was extremely tasteful, and very well done. But for some reason, the network decided against running the ad.

Lane Bryant should have thanked the thoughtless producer who made that decision; the publicity and public support the brand got afterward was well worth the money spent.

But now the "banned ad" or "see the spot NOT aired" is getting tiresome. Right after the Super Bowl, new Super Bowl advertiser SodaStream gained some momentum by showing "the ad banned from airing," which showed a Coke and Pepsi guy hauling their liters of cola into a store and having all the bottles explode. Yes, we all know why the ad wouldn't have run; the obviously shown brands would have confused the consumer and made Pepsi and Coke quite upset. 

Then this week, PornHub is making the rounds with their ad "not allowed" on air. We heard it was tasteful, but again — it is easy to see why their ad would not have been added.

Using the "banned ad" or "ad not seen on TV" does give the consumer the feeling that they are seeing some inside scoop; that they are privy to seeing something that the network powers didn't want them to see. But after the ad is seen and the controversy is over, what is next? A brand cannot survive on banned ads alone.

Lastly, those who use the technique must be careful not to damage their relationship with the network and media planners. Shining the light on the media as "the bad guys who won't run your ad" could come to haunt you. 

You can use gimmicks, if necessary. But play nice.


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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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