Case Study 3-E: Breaking Through the Clutter: Ads that Make You Think Twice

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This is a case study written by Fritz Cropp IV from the University of Missouri. In this case study he writes that controversial ad campaigns for Benetton, the Italian Clothing Company. Benetton had a knack for controversial ads that included most social issues. His ads about AIDS and dead babies certainly raised awareness of his company, all the way to the Vatican. Benetton loved it. He said that it “looked reality in the face.” He claimed to get away from “traditional advertising in the belief that it has no power and no value anymore.” While many were outraged, his company boomed. in 2000 they began the “We On Death Row” campaign where they actually photographed and interviewed prisoners on death row. They did this to show “the realities of Capital Punishment, and nobody will think that the death penalty is a distant problem as the news makes it seem.” Due to this campaign, many vendors cancelled their deals with Benetton and even led to boycotts. Other advertisers were also appalled at the sight because using dying men to increase sales is wrong. In the end, Benetton was never really hurt from this campaign. The ethical issues that this campaign dealt with was that Benetton didn’t tell the murderers’ victims’ families about the campaign or the murderer’s families either. Should they have known in advance? And also selling merchandise by men on death row. Was this a social statement or a marketing strategy? Is that ethical to be either? The thing that bothers me personally is that showing these men, known murderers, is kind of showing them off. They are already getting the death penalty for what they did, and now they get to show off to the world who they are. Publicizing men being proud for horrendous actions is what immediately came to my mind. Although their efforts at Benetton gained so much publicity, as a company, is that all they wanted to be associated with? If you think about it, they can never change gears to a new campaign. They are known for this and if they tried to do normal advertising, I don’t think anyone would like it because they expect to be shocked. Image

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