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Flexibility in Advertising and Pushing the Envelope: Part 2
By: Slajanna Jean
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In Part One of Flexibility in Advertising, we examined the concept of companies, such as Manhattan Mini Storage, pushing the envelope with their ads to capture their audience’s attention. But what these companies are also doing is testing the limits on how far they can go.

But really how far can they go?

As far as how far is going too far, just think in terms of Newton’s third. It’s gone too far when the pushing pushes back.  

Historically, there have been numerous backlashes over “distasteful” ad messages, probably none as classic Manhattan Mini Storage’s 1980s doppelganger, United Colors of Benetton. The company is not as well known for its clothing as it is for being amongst the first establishment to use its advertisements to sell a message, non-related at that, rather than a product. Since its iconically controversial Ebony & Ivory campaign of 1982, the company continued producing provocative ads and utilizing ad space as a platform to address daring issues such AIDS, world hunger, capital punishment, and world peace.   

With our sociocultural evolution and Twitter-armed consumers, companies can no longer produce “disagreeable” marketing content without the risk of causing backlash and social media frenzy. This is especially true today because we have become an overtly sensitive culture, so although there is no longer any shock value, there has become less tolerance in regards to what messages consumers feel companies should or should not be able to advertise. In turn, we have become a culture where consumers tend to look for even the slightest indiscretions in ads, even if there are none.   

So now we find ourselves in limbo. Companies want their advertising message to push boundaries but fear risking public backlash. What do we do?

It’s simple. Companies cannot please everybody, so they should stop trying to. Backlash is inevitable and no matter what the ad, someone is ALWAYS offended, whether it's Mets fans opposing Manhattan Mini Storage’ “Why leave a city that has six professional sports teams, and also the Mets?” advertisements, or curvaceous individuals disapproval over PETA’s “colorful” “Save the Whales. Lose the Blubber: Go Vegetarian” campaign. 

As long as ads are used to tastefully convey a message, whether it be to support their brand or talk about what a crappy mess the Bush Administration made of things, the most important thing is that it is done respectfully and that it gets conservation started.  


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About the Author
Slajanna Jean is 23-year old freelance copywriter.  She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York with her family. 
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