Tuesday, June 9, 2015

An Appeal to Stop Stirring Pots

Amidst the news today I read about a little controversy involving a public figure who has pledged to remove his organization's deposits and other business from a certain large bank.  This bank is running advertising that the public figure finds offensive.  They also profoundly disagree with the public figure.

This got me thinking about the role of controversy in advertising.  There is always some risk that something in our advertising will offend someone.  Lord knows how easy that is to do these days.  It seems like there is a veritable industry of people urgently seeking something that offends them.  All we can do, provided we are seeking not to offend, is choose words and images carefully and obtain opinions from other people before publishing.

But in this instance the certain large bank intentionally selected images and words that generated the controversy.  I suppose that in their case there was enough pressure for the bank to look "socially responsible" because of other behaviors (for which they risk legal action) that the ad in question was in a strange way an easy way out.  In any case, controversy was sought and embraced.

Is this always a good idea?  For a small business, I think there is too much to risk in stirring a pot.  It is all well and good that we are true to ourselves.  But we already have a limited supply of customers and intentionally annoying some of them for any reason is loco.  I have seen too many businesses get into trouble by being vocal and feisty when had they merely been quiet and done their usual good customer service most everyone would have been satisfied and lived in peace.  Please notice that I mean that we serve our public: not part of it.  I also think that refusing to serve someone who wants to pay us is loco.

Yes, there was one additional detail in that bank story.  The bank wanted to sew up a certain segment of the market and used an image they thought would be a welcoming come-on to that segment.  Some would say that this was a good idea.  Frankly, I think the bank was too heavy handed.  There are sufficiently creative ways to demonstrate that they wanted to serve every consumer without trotting out the rainbow of images that come from undo emphasis on identity politics--something that is shredding our society.

In short, let's have a happy, agreeable, noncontroversial marketplace where we cheerfully and respectfully take the money.

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