Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The line is crossed

Advertising is a powerful medium. In many ways it defines, shapes and informs culture. I love advertising. i love the creativity and the intellectual challenge required to effectively sell products.

One of the reasons I started my own agency, is because I did not feel comfortable with the ethical compromises that were needed in order to work for certain clients. Unfortunately when you work for someone else, you do not always have the luxury of making judgement calls on whether a project is ethical or not - somebody tells you what you are working on, and then you work on it. At The Whisper Shop we try to make decisions on whether to work on specific clients or briefs with a wider understanding of the implications of our work.

... which brings me to the point of this post. Hell Pizza's new Hitler ad.

In the grand tradition of "controversy for the sake of controversy" advertising, Hell Pizza revel in making controversial advertsing, underpinned by a (understatement) irreverent brand. They advertise in a manner which is intended to get old ladies, and guys in tweed suits to complain loudly to the media, which in turn will lead to widespread condemnation by the media, which creates millions of dollars of free advertising to their ACTUAL audience, who think they are cool because Hell extend their middle finger to the system. Rocket science huh?

Their game is to induce complaints. If you do find something offensive and actually complain about it, you're falling right into their evil little trap. It's brilliant strategic word of mouth advertising.

But what if it's morally and ethically wrong? What to do? Ignore it? Let it just wash on by? Giggle and laugh along with them? I don't know the full answer, but lets humour them and talk about their latest billboard.

Their latest billboard feature Adolph Hitler in full Nazi regalia, swastika's and all with the line "you can convince some people that heaven is hell" . Hilter if you remember was the guy who was responsible for the murder of millions of Jews, homosexuals, gypsys, handicapped people, other ethnic minorites and his actions also contributed to the deaths of millions of other soldiers and civilians (including possibly people you are related too) in WWII. Hell are using him to sell Pizza.

I will quote a friends complaint today to the Advertising Standards Authority:

"The campaign explicitly uses Hitler and the Holocaust, history's most horrific genocide as a marketing tool. The swastika symbol alone is an image that incites racial hatred and simply should simply not be allowed in advertising. It is the blatant promotion of fascism. Racists, white supremacists and other hate groups, use this symbol in the promotion of their values, and it is accordingly banned in many other countries.

New Zealand need not [allow] the use of such offensive and foul imagery to sell pizza. The text and image is offensive as it blatantly and EXCLUSIVELY uses the regime that directly caused the tragic death of MILLIONS of people to promote their food. This kind advertising breeds ignorance toward the horrors of history that can, and must be, learned from."

My personal opinion is the campaign is horrific. I ask the question of their management and agency. How can you look yourselves in the mirror in the morning? Surely you must have some qualms or conscience that will prohibit certain topics or images from being copted in your personal search for the almighty dollar? Maybe not. Maybe you love the fact i hate it.

My response will be simple. Maybe it won't make change a thing, maybe writing this will actually be of greater benefit to Hell Pizza than harm. However at least i am responding. I, nor The Whisper Shop will ever buy a Hell PIzza again, and I have laid a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authorithy. It's not much, but at least it's something. I will not be defined by apathy.

By the way, the copywriting on those billboards is terrible.

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