First published in Campaign

After a raft of ads that have come under criticism for consumers for being tasteless, our Chief Strategy Officer, Matt Willifer comments in the Campaign Forum as John Tylee, Associate Editor at Haymarket, investigates whether brands are taking the concept of “purpose” too far…

John Tylee asks, “Are brands getting carried away by what they see as the importance of being earnest? More like self-importance, critics suggest, as a string of major advertisers have chosen to venture beyond the norms of brand-building and selling product and into territory where, many claim, they have no business to be.

The upshot has been the hasty withdrawal of at least three spots amid loud cries of mea culpa by those who commissioned them. And there may be more errors of judgement to come as increasing numbers of companies look to this kind of advertising as a logical extension of their CSR programmes.”

Image: Source

Our Chief Strategy Officer, Matt Willifer, comments: “The Pepsi ad was excruciating and the Heineken commercial felt heavy-handed when everybody cracked open a beer at the pivotal moment. And as for the boy in the McDonald’s spot feeling closer to his dead dad while eating a Filet-O-Fish, that was just awful.

“That said, it is possible for brands to move into emotional territory. Millennial audiences, in particular, want to see good being done in the world. But you have to have earned the right to be in that territory and you must never try force-fitting your product into it.

“Sometimes, this kind of advertising looks like the industry talking to itself. There’s no novelty in it anymore and if you’re going to do it you’ve really got to look as though you mean what you say. Did Pepsi really believe it was going to make society more open-minded? If so, how was it possibly going to measure its success? If you’re setting out to make a difference you have to know what you think you can change.

“If you really believe is something – and you can show it – consumers will be open to what you’re saying. But get it wrong at your peril because consumers will hold you to account.”

Read the full article here.

Matt Willifer

About Matt Willifer

Chief Strategy Officer at WCRS and Partner at Engine.

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