When an author is contemplating a story, a major element that helps develop a plot is conflict. Usually the main character either has a conflict with another person or group, a conflict within themselves, or a conflict with society. Advertising has that same ordeal. When we build advertising messages, we must figure out what conflict the consumer is having, and provide an answer to their plot.
Easier said than done.
Nicofresh, an e-cigarette company in the land across the pond, decided to run an ad that tackled some heavy issues, namely race and age.
First, we need to talk about why they decided to draw the parallel. E-cigarettes are fairly new amongst the smoking public. If a bunch of regular smokers saw a person smoking an e-cig, no doubt that person — though making a slightly better decision — would be thought of as less than part of the group. They'd be an outsider.
Second, the thought of old people dating young folks, and the thought of black people dating white people, has rubbed some people the wrong way. We're not here to cast stones, but some people would discourage old dating young, and white dating black, especially in parts of Europe where racism and ageism are still part of many problems.
Third, and finally, the ad is below.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) decided to ban this ad based on complaints that this is offensive on the grounds that age and interracial dating are considered taboo in this ad.
Well, yes, we guess that is the message they are trying to send.
But looking at the ad, how serious is it? Or is it more tongue-in-cheek than trying to rock the boat?
Or are people just too uptight nowadays? As a black man in an interracial relationship — and it seems a tough skin — ads like this don't really offend us. We get it that in recent times tobacco has been deemed as taboo, as once were interracial dating and dating out of one's generation (actually, in the U.S., many states had laws against interracial dating). So to draw this kind of parallel isn't really as offensive as it is accurate.
If you're a non-smoker, like we are, then this ad isn't trying to target you, anyway. The majority of e-cig smokers are those who used to smoke the heavier, dirtier stuff.
We know several of you will disagree with us, and that's fine. That's the cool thing about advertising; though people like to posture about it, there's no absolute right or wrong when it comes to communicating with your target market.
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.