Unilever, the parent company of both Axe and Dove, had to apologise for a rogue ad for Flora margarine that likens coming out of the closet to shooting your dad in the heart.
A poster shows the words “Uhh, Dad I’m gay” taking the form of a bullet flying towards a heart-shaped butter dish. The copy reads: “You need a strong heart today.”
This advert was prepared by an external agency in South Africa and was not approved by anyone at Unilever. The advert is offensive and unacceptable and we have put an immediate stop to it.
Unilever is proud of the support that our brands have given to LGBT people, including our recent campaign for Ben & Jerry’s on equal marriage.
Ad agency Lowe and Partners Johannesburg then backtracked on the ad, telling The Drum, “”I would like to unreservedly apologise for this campaign and the unintended offence it has regrettably caused.”
Major companies often find themselves embroiled in social media fuelled controversies over supposedly unapproved ads created by small, foreign ad agencies.
For example, Ford got in trouble for an ad it claimed JWT India created for the Fiat that was never approved before it was released online. The poster showed former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi flashing a peace sign in a car that held three, bound and crying, voluptuous women in the trunk.
FORD: A team from JWT India posted an ad for the Ford Figo (in which Silvio Berlusconi ties up and gags crying women in the trunk of his car) on Ads of the World. It wasn't meant to be distributed.
There was also an ad with a winking Paris Hilton getting ready to dispose of the scantily clad Kardashians, her reality television competition. Both WPP Group and Ford apologized.
OREO: Cheil Worldwide in Korea posted this 'Milk's Favourite Cookie' poster in 2012 on Ads of the World. It incited positive and negative backlash. Kraft USA issued a statement that it never ran and 'was created by our agency for a one-time use at an advertising forum.'
WORLD WILDLIFE FUND: In 2009, DDB Brazil made a spec ad for the WWF that showed dozens of planes flying at the Twin Towers. The text tried to justify the image with the statement that 100 times more people died in the 2004 tsunami than 9/11.
The WWF immediately condemned the ad, saying 'WWF strongly condemns this offensive and tasteless ad and did not authorise its production or publication. It is our understanding that it was a concept offered by an outside advertising agency seeking our business in Brazil. The concept was summarily rejected by WWF and should never have seen the light of day.' Here's the commercial below.
(video provider='youtube' id='-mxDPhVc9iM' size='xlarge' align='center')
BURGER KING: A local Singapore agency made this controversial ad for a special 'super seven incher' promotion promising to 'blow your mind away.' The innuendo is pretty obvious.
Burger King issued a statement that 'Burger King Corporation (BKC) values and respects all of its guests. This advertisement is running to support a limited promotion in the Singapore market and is not running in the U.S. or any other markets. It was produced by a locally-based Singapore agency and not by BKC's U.S. advertising agency of record, Crispin Porter and Bogusky.'
MENTOS: Neogama/BBH in Brazil publicized a 2010 ad in which a skinny girl says to a fat girl, 'I love hanging out with you. All the boys keep looking at me.' The tagline: 'Selfishness without the guilt.' The thing is, Mentos explicitly rejected the ad due to 'unacceptable content.' Neogama/BBH just didn't care.
A year later, Mentos found itself in a similar (but slightly worse) predicament. Ogilvy & Mather Mumbai made a series of ads showing men committing suicide in various ways due to an 'unbearably sour' kind of Mentos.
This one depicted a man drinking cyanide while hanging himself. The campaign has since been taken down.
While many were offended, according to the Inspiration Room the ads won the Silver Press Lion at the Cannes International Festival of Creativity.
PEPSI: BBDO Dusseldorf used a similar strategy a few years before Mentos in 2008, showing a 'lonely' calorie committing suicide in a Pepsi Max ad. PepsiCo was NOT pleased and tweeted apologies: 'We agree this creative is totally inappropriate; we apologise and please know it won't run again.'
KIA: In 2011, Brazil-based agency Moma created an ad campaign for Kia that toyed with pedophilia -- representing a sexual situation between a teacher and a young student. It even won an award at Cannes for it ...
... the catch? Kia told CNET it had 'no business relationship' with the agency that made the ads. The ads were pulled, and Moma lost its award since the ad was never approved. (This ad is creepy, but at least Sleeping Beauty was of age.)
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