Brewer's Droop #271

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The following article was written by my good friend Chris Moerdyk – from whom I continue to learn. Am very proud to carry this piece as a first-ever guest article in this blog.

With traditional mass media advertising so expensive these days some clever marketers are finding ways of vastly increasing their impact and reach.

What they do is create a TV commercial that they know is bound to offend someone and then they pay only for one or two spots.

Sure as nuts, with the level of intolerance at an all time high in South Africa somebody will complain to the advertising regulators who will immediately ban the ad for fear that it will offend the sensitivities of millions of consumers.

Such as that Chicken Licken commercial that involved a reverse-colonialism theme and in spite of showing the colonised beating the colonisers at their own game, was banned.

The complainant and the advertising regulators sat back and smiled believing that they had spared millions of South Africans the indignity of having to watch the ad.

What happened, however, was that the decision to ban the ad went viral on social media and the ad itself was shown over and over again to millions of consumers who wanted to see what the fuss was all about.

The story was also picked up by international news agencies and the ad went viral beyond our borders.

Of course, the ad agency and their client denied emphatically that they had intended any disrespect but I would guess they must have been leaping about with joy. Because instead of just getting a few thousand viewers, they got millions and millions.

All of which shows that in this day and age of social media, banning an ad only tends to make the very problem regulators were trying to solve, a million times worse.

Now, I am not suggesting for a minute that marketers should use this ploy as part of their strategy, tempting as it many be.

But, it does demonstrate that with careful planning and creative strategy, marketing budgets can be maximised without being increased.

Apart from being a corporate marketing analyst, advisor and media commentator, Chris Moerdyk is a former chairman of Bizcommunity. He was head of strategic planning and public affairs for BMW South Africa and spent 16 years in the creative and client service departments of ad agencies, ending up as resident director of Lindsay Smithers-FCB in KwaZulu-Natal. Email Chris on and follow him on Twitter at @chrismoerdyk.

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  1. …and of course what’s the first thing I’m going to google or search for on YouTube?!

  2. My wife, an incredibly fussy eater and an avid avoider of all things “mystery meat”, watched the Chicken Licken ad online, and subsequently about a dozen others, and said “now I want Chicken Licken”, and I had to go out and find her some.

    And they say advertising does not work…

  3. Great article! Thank you!

  4. I did it at BMW with “Chapman’s Peak, Beat the Bends” and nobody complained but a zealous ASA office bearer who took it upon him or herself to ban it anyway. The rules at that time only made provision for a competitor or member of the public to complain. Colin Adcock President of the IMM at the time came to see me and we agreed to withdraw as long an apology was in all the major newspapers the next day. That happened.

    I think that if an ad is banned for stupid reasons then it deserves to get into the social media. If it is banned for the right reasons then often the ad does itself more harm all on it’s own by getting any type of exposure.

    • My former BMW colleague, John Jessup, will go down in advertising history as the only person that the ASA targeted without a single complaint having been laid. The beauty of this whole scenario was that in spite of the ASA trying to get Mercedes Benz to complain, they never did. And in spite of not having had social media in those days, that ad went viral anyway and to this day continues to be flighted on showreels all over the world. Well done again John,

      • As you know Chris, the reason Merc did not complain, is that the viewer thought of Merc while watching a BMW ad. It benefitted them!

  5. I am most honoured, Chris Brewer.


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