Can adverts be brilliant if insensitive?

There’s an interesting item at Autoblog which relates to an advertising campaign for Land Rover.   Autoblog believes the strategy to present the vehicle as a hero by filming in actual disaster areas comes over as exploitative, despite the agency saying vehicles had been offered to emergency personnel or donations made to relief organisations.

From a PR perspective, what is interesting is how Autoblog writes:

To be fair, this article was written with the marketing industry in mind as an audience, not us. The agency, which is just doing its job, comes off as insensitive and exploitative to our ears, but a professional in the biz might think this idea is genius. And while it’s a good thing that Land Rover may donate money or the use of its vehicles to aid disaster relief efforts as a result of this marketing campaign, that bad taste in our mouth comes from the fact that it likely wouldn’t do those things if a camera weren’t there to capture it.

The internet enables anyone to read anything (pretty much), so you cannot boast to one audience about something that can be taken negatively by another.

Autoblog’s quote also highlights a belief that “successful” adverts are judged by industry insiders for their “creativity” rather than their impact on sales, or more importantly, organisational reputation. 

Here, it seems the advertising agency did see how how others might interpret their work, but thought that “add-on” social responsibility was the answer.

Published by

Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

2 thoughts on “Can adverts be brilliant if insensitive?”

  1. The PR analysis is that Internet Agency (the internet acting as an agent) brings us the opinion and questions about the value systems of company and its Ad Agency (It also brings your discussion in too). It offers us a view of what CSR is really about. In trying to gloss over the value systems of Y&R and Landrover, Internet Agency exposed both. In addition it rubbished the whole notion of market segmentation. Here is an example of a ‘targeted message’ where there is no control (that went away a long time ago) .
    I like it because it is a good case study for so many reasons (and exposed CSR for the bling it really is).

  2. Thank you David – I do agree that CSR and advertising will come under a lot of pressure with more exposure and questioning via online communications. I did like this example for the fact that it was the media, in this case automotive journalists, asking the question about responsibility. Sometimes it seems that others have a much better understanding of the issues around bling than the professional marketing/PR communicators.

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