Quit Looking for Offense in Every Single Commercial

An Ad Age Editorial

Published on .

While the words in this space are usually directed at marketers, we'd like to take an opportunity to talk to all of those out there who often find themselves so offended by ads that they feel a need to launch a crusade. To you we say: "Take a deep breath. Have some perspective."

The latest March of the Offense Brigade was set into action by Method's "Shiny Suds" spot. A clear spoof on the old "Scrubbing Bubbles" spot, it shows a woman entering her shower only to find some creepy, leering talking bubbles that have no intention of going away. Many of our readers viewed the spot. Many loved it. Little did they know that while they were getting the warm fuzzies laughing at a clever spot and considering taking civic action for better laws to disclose chemicals in household cleaners, they were actually condoning rape.

That's right. A spot featuring animated talking bubbles, playing off human nature and making a point about disgusting chemical residue is evidence of "rape culture."

Marketers are often chastised for being too conservative, for not taking risks in their advertising. But sometimes, it's easy to see their point. Especially in an age when a blog post and 300 commenters can derail a campaign, maybe it makes sense to play it safe. A spot might upset the homophobic. It might upset men's rights groups. Conversely, it might run afoul of gay-rights activists or ardent feminists. And God forbid a marketer crosses mommy bloggers.

Of course, there is the occasional marketing effort that is hopelessly clueless and offensive. Marketers, too, have to pay attention to such complaints, no matter how small. They don't always need to react, but they do need to listen.

In this case, Method was probably right to just pull the spot. After all, rape and sexism aren't, like gay marriage and sex on TV, issues that can be argued. And a feel-good brand such as Method probably has a large number of consumers who could get, shall we say, overly passionate about such a spot.

But there should be some responsibility on the part of the viewer as well. It's easy to get upset. It's easy to take offense. It's easy to get whipped into a froth of righteous fury when reading topic-specific blogs.

Maybe it's not so easy to let such perceived slights go. But perhaps if you're the sort to start letter-writing campaigns and the kind who's quick with a #fail hashtag on Twitter, you could try to stop spotting offense under every rock. They're just commercials, after all. You can always change the channel.

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