Welcome to I'm Not Buying That, the blog where we dissect the woeful mistakes of the advertising industry. I'm your host, CJ Garrett, and I view terrible ads so you don't have to.

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Monday, November 8, 2010

INBT: An Advertising Public Service Annoucement

Gather 'round, children - it's time for Uncle CJ to talk to you for a minute about how to advertise without looking like a total idiot.

Yes indeed, some organisations don't understand that pop culture references are a very tricky subject to include in your marketing campaigns. Using them can leave you open to all kinds of ridicule from the younger generation, and they're only getting more numerous. So, may I present CJ's List of Things You Should Avoid in Adverts, If At All Possible!

  • Do NOT use the n-word. Seriously. I'm going to break my usual rule of never saying the n-word and I'm going to say it here, just so we can all be clear what I mean. Ready? Ahem... Nigger. This word is offensive. If you are not a person of color, it is very, very unlikely that you will use it in a manner which is not deeply offensive. As we all know, being offensive makes you a douchebag, and douchebags don't get customers. I will now go and wash out my mouth with bleach as penance for saying this word.
  • Don't use photos or other content that isn't yours. Down that way lies messy lawsuit territory. You might be tempted to make a parody of a popular pop culture icon for an advert, and that might be totally okay under fair use laws, but believe me - the big players will find a way to nail you, or they'll stir up a shitstorm the like of which will bankrupt you before it ever gets near a courtroom.
  • If you're going to use a pop culture reference that you know won't get you in legal trouble, DO THE DAMN RESEARCH. You will look like an idiot otherwise.

And finally, the most important rule; the one by which you should live by, if you're in advertising:

  • Never, ever use a pop culture reference that has already been claimed by a group of rabid Internet crazies who have already shown that they ignore things like laws and social niceties, and who will utterly destroy your online presence either in retribution, for giggles, or just because they can.

Obviously, children, I'm going somewhere with this. But Uncle CJ, I hear you cry, who would be so silly as to tempt the wrath of the Internet? Behold, the Oregon Tea Party - courtesy of Reddit!

A little background information: the quote you see above is from Anonymous. They are a group of... well, Internet users, I guess, and they act very much like a force of nature on the Internet. Sometimes they do good things. Sometimes they do bad things. They have no organisation, no leadership, and they are very, very scary.

The Oregon Tea Party used their motto on some merchandise, and the aftermath was not pretty. The best you can do is avoid their notice, and you do that by not appropriating their cultural markings. It's the same with a lot of groups, really, but in other cases you might only get bad publicity instead of being cyber-mauled.

Pop culture is a minefield for marketing, unfortunately. It's like handling a bomb made out of solid gold - lucrative, but HOLY CRAP it could blow up any minute! So, take this advice from INBT, and hopefully you won't make the same mistake as the Oregon Tea Party.

CJ, over and out


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