Out of the 14.080 adverts which drew complaints last year, the official government anti smoking campaign, showing a woman with a fish hook through her cheek, provoked the most anger. Over the last few years there has been a growth in the amount of complaints that the Advertising Standards Authority has received, particularly for commercials which aim to deliver shock, horror and revulsion. In the good old days, all this outrage would have been articulated by the late great Mary Whitehouse. I have been talking about the reasons for this growth for some time now. In order for brands to get traction in every day life and the amount of money that’s demanded from them from advertising agencies, they need to do more than just sit on the terrestrial channels, they need to get into the mainstream. They need to bring these ads alive and right now, shock, outrage and horror are the only tricks left for advertising agencies to get ads into the mainstream and to charge the kind of money they charge to make them.
The government anti smoking ad has now been read about by probably more people than actually saw the ad in the first place. The real problem will come when people start saying “oh no, not another ad that’s going to get complaints”… but until then, we need a 21st Century funky Mary Whitehouse who can bring all these heinous and outrageous matters to our attention!