Opinion: The Divisive Advertising Strategy

Have you ever been incensed by an advert, or even been driven to complain about it? Today we’re going to discuss deliberately divisive advertising and ask whether we think it has a place within awareness campaigns.

There have been a number of recent high-profile campaigns from brands including Protein World, Fit4Less, Omega Pharma and even the Dept of Health that have come under fire and received complaints for using shock tactics, or insulting copy. They may all be quite different in their content, but essentially they are trying to do one thing; make a memorable impression by sailing close to the ASA guidelines.

‘Any publicity is good publicity’

That’s how the old saying goes, but is it really true? Assuming that brands such as Protein World deliberately set out to be controversial if the overall extra coverage gained by a brand is negative, might it potentially alienate just as many potential customers as it reaches? We’d all love a great water cooler moment for our brands, but are there better ways to do it?

Before you start creating a brand awareness strategy designed to be controversial you need to consider:

Who is my target audience, will my content resonate with them even if it offends others?
Does it stay well within the ASA guidelines?
Is it socially responsible?


If the answer to any of these questions is a no, perhaps you should reconsider your tactics, it might potentially do more harm than good.

What are the alternatives?

If you’ve decided that a controversial tone to your campaign might not be worth it, what other ways into people’s hearts and minds is there? Plenty, that’s what.

Inspire people with a cause

The Always‘Like a Girl’ campaign revolutionised the way that we look at advertising that asks us to pause and reflect. They touch us emotionally and ask us to get behind a cause, rather than insult:

Delight people and make them smile

The world is a miserable place sometimes, offer a concept that delights people like Cadbury’s consistently do;

Whether it’s in print, television advertising or through social media content – there are so many different approaches to increasing your brand awareness that don’t rely on offending people – here’s to nice!

Next ArticlePrevious Article