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July 30, 2008

This will draw letters from nerd rights groups.

Comic

We're all painfully aware of the recent hubbub over regarding ads getting yanked for being insensitive and all the associated angst.

So what's the big deal? Well, let's start with the truth about humor.

Humor, while often exaggerated and cartoonish, is cutting in the sense that, nearly always, someone or something is the "butt" of the joke (see above). The most widely appreciated humor is also most often based on at least a single grain truth. So, in this sense, humor is a mirror. And who holds that mirror up to your face can make all the difference.

This is why humor in advertising gets so tricky.

We ad folks love to talk about how we create entertainment and culture, but the fact of the matter is that a good section of the public just doesn't see it that way. People are comfortable with artists holding the mirror. They are not nearly as comfortable with salespeople holding up the mirror. Oh, did you forget that what we are? Salespeople? We may use culture as a tool, but, in the end, we aren't creating art. We are selling something even if that's just an idea or feeling. 

It's my contention that the issue stems from the unfortunate fact that advertising and art are simply not equated in most non-advertising minds. I believe this has to do with the issue of choice. In the end, people can choose to watch a movie or not. They can DVR a controversial show. Or not. But the public does not feel the same immunity with ads (even today). Throw in the built-in sentiment that we are mind-warping liars hellbent on destroying society with needless consumerism (have you seen WALL-E?) and, well, you get letters. Lots of letters. Particularly if a sensitive type perceives corporate sponsorship of any kind of "hate," which, in reality, is more likely just the "butt" of a particular joke.

Now, for some brands controversy is welcome. For most it is not. We may not like it, but it is certainly the way of things. This is not to say I don't lament an overly sensitive society. We all need to take some lessons about laughing at ourselves. And I say we keep tilting at the windmills and pushing the culture. But when we get knocked on our butts and have an ad pulled, whether it REALLY deserved or not, we shouldn't whine. This is reality not portfolio school. Consider this reality another constraint to create tension.

As far as the pulled Snickers ad goes, well, it's not as nearly funny as this anyway.

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Comments

Great googly-moogly. I LOVE that ad. Always have.

Don't forget: "Accidental Kiss" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JHkoZ7ngAM0). Lame.

As a PR student and a guy generally interested in advertising, your post made a lot of sense to me.

Best wishes.

It's also a good idea not to alienate your customers. Who will be going to Comic Con other than nerds? Hopefully for whoever paid for that ad, nerds can take a joke.

I thought being a loner nerd was cool these days, no? Or did it go out of style again after The OC ended and Seth Cohen was no longer on our nerd-dar?

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