In advertising, not only are you trying to reach the desired target demographic for your product or service, but it’s important you reach them in the right way. Your message has to resonate with them in order for your ad to be effective, and the message can come in many forms: the channel, the design, the timing, the actual copy and more. So, there’s a lot to consider!
And that’s why it’s so important for brands and their marketing departments and ad agencies to prioritize research and strategy before they implement. Each ad campaign needs to be well thought out and viewed from diverse perspectives in order to refine the message and communicate effectively to the intended audience.
Advertisers can learn from the missteps of the soft drink giant Pepsi when it comes to considering these other viewpoints. While the intention was to deliver a message that’s relevant to current events and to make an emotional impact, it’s indisputable that the recent ad from Pepsi with Kendall Jenner, dubbed the “Live for Now Moments Anthem,” was poorly received. In a recent statement, Pepsi claimed, “This is a global ad that reflects people from different walks of life coming together in a spirit of harmony, and we think that’s an important message to convey.” While the intention may have been positive, the public reaction clearly indicates that the message missed the mark and was largely regarded as tone deaf and even offensive.
Other brands can take away from this as well. As they continue to try to relate to current events and create powerful themes, they don’t always realize how the message could be misconstrued. It’s not that they have to water it down; they just have to remain diverse in their mindset, which can create an impact that’s even stronger and longer lasting.
While Pepsi failed in an attempt to capture the spirit of a social movement, other brands are stumbling as they try to insert their own messages into larger discussions on gender and human rights. With women controlling roughly 80% of consumer spending, advertisers need to do a better job of reaching women in a way that shows they understand and respect them. The examples below prove it can be done with grace and tact — that is, when brands listen to their audience, take the right approach, treat heavy subjects with respect and make their messages strong and clear.
The example here is from SickKids Foundation. This ad is intensely moving, delivering an accurate depiction of an emotional subject. How do we know that? The foundation, and its ad agency Cossette, took the time to research and to talk to mothers whose kids are severely ill. They also included five real moms in the ad, which allowed the moms to share as much as they’d like while also providing authenticity to the message. Watch the ad below for a powerful message that aligns with the intended audience.
In this example, Audi does an excellent job with a topic that could easily be mishandled. The main lesson here is that sensitive subjects should be handled with grace and respect — and it can be really powerful when done correctly. You must be cognizant of whether you’re taking a topic seriously enough or using imagery that perhaps isn’t the best use for a commercial. If there are any questions about it, just don’t do it.
If your audience doesn’t understand your message, your advertising is not working and you risk offending them or even harming your brand. If there’s even a chance that it could be misinterpreted, you should either revise your approach or scrap the idea altogether. In recent efforts, REI is joining the fight for gender equality, specifically in the outdoor realm. The ad below does a great job with message clarity and intention, even with a sensitive topic.
What do you think about these companies’ approaches? Have you seen other ads recently that really hit the mark for their respective demographic? Let us know in the comments section.