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Does Profanity Have a Place in Advertising?
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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Interesting question. As the media and Hollywood continue to loosen their ties and collars, it seems that the bar for standard and proper grammar has been lowered. But does that mean that the messages that AdLand puts out to the public should fit the mold? Must we speak like our audience? Should profanity have a place in advertising?

It's a difficult question. As we rub shoulders with people from every background and experience, we see that profane language is becoming less taboo by the week. From TV shows to live events, from V.I.P. events to free Open Mic Nights, language has not been receiving the respect it once demanded. 

When does funny become offensive? Could you Imagine K-Mart running its "I Just Shipped My Pants" spot maybe 20 years ago? The reaction may not have been as favorable. Or, when in the other workplace commercial where a young gentleman was pronouncing Mr. Dumass and Mr. Dumbass — again, in the mainstream 20 years ago, it may not have been as popular.

Brands have to decide whether they will meet their target audience down at their language, or if they believe that their consumer will meet the brand at theirs. Best-case scenario — they already speak the same way. 

In terms of an absolute answer, we're torn. Though we think using profanity is a cheap way to get attention, if people truly believe in free enterprise and profanity is not wanted, then the market would steer clear of those brands that readily use it.

Brands and AdLand cannot control the language that consumers use, but we can control the language we use. Plan carefully.

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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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