There’s No Such Thing as Bad Publicity… Right?

It’s been said that “any publicity is good publicity.” The corollary, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity,” is in good company with other variations. Some TV ads during the Super Bowl stretched that concept, perhaps to the breaking point.

Why the Super Bowl?

Super Bowl TV AdThe Super Bowl is perhaps unique in sports in that many people watching the game on TV don’t even like football. They actually ignore the game and focus on the commercials. Between the football lovers and the ad lovers, there is an enormous audience available to advertisers who are willing to spend an enormous amount of money to make a quick pitch. (In 2013, “enormous money” meant nearly $4 Million per ad.)

Some advertisers pitch their product pretty directly (beer companies being an obvious example). Some are pitching an idea as much as a product. (Car companies fit nicely in that category.) Regardless of their tactics, they want to make a lasting impression in those 30 seconds.

Many of these ads took it to the next level, with videos made available via social media before the game. They are still available on YouTube and other sites, leveraging that “30 second” expenditure many times over.

Isn’t Marketing about Getting Peoples’ Attention?

Certainly they want to get my attention, but does it matter what kind of attention? Will I want to do business with a company that inspires the yuck factor in me through their ads? Do I want to continue doing business with a company that seems to be out of touch with my sensibilities, and is perhaps even intentionally abusing my senses? This is a serious marketing quandary: How to attract the attention of a client or potential client in such a way that they will remember you and want to do business with you.

After watching some questionable marketing in those ads, I had to wonder:


Where the Rubber Hits the Road

What comes to your mind when you think of objectionable advertising – and has it ever changed your mind about who you do business with? Tell us in the comments section below!

15 thoughts on “There’s No Such Thing as Bad Publicity… Right?”

  1. I think I missed a few of the commercials but the Go Daddy one still lingers in a bad way. It had nothing to do with its product. I asked my 7th grade students what they thought and many said that it was disgusting. I have to wonder, who the heck said that commercial would be great branding? Gross!
    The Taco Bell commercial seems to have been a great hit with everyone. It gives a feeling of youth to the elderly and hope of fun to those of us on our way there. 🙂

    1. Though I went way out of my way to not mention specific ads or advertisers, you certainly nailed a major “yuck factor” example. I’m pleasantly surprise to hear that your students weren’t fond of it either, and that they did like some of the more uplifting ones!

  2. Apparently, not a black and white answer. Celebrities seem to thrive no matter the scandal, Applebee’s will probably go on unscathed. However, on a personal note, I will make sure I don’t buy from GoDaddy, but they may not care. My impression is that they think they’re “sexy and racy” – so they don’t care if they offend. On the other hand, I enjoyed the Clydesdale ad for Budweiser, but I won’t be buying any Bud in my future either, although I will have warm fuzzies for them. So, that leaves us where exactly?

    1. Great points Leslie. Clearly there are many variables in play. An advertiser could annoy someone who would have otherwise bought their product, and can just as easily endear someone who will never be in the market for that type of product. Both of those would mean marketing dollars are wasted, at best.

      I still have a real challenge with the idea that there is no bad publicity / advertising / marketing, but that really may depend on the desired audience. If you’re trying to appeal to “bad boys” you may actually score some points by being rude. However, you’ll lose points with some other groups at the same time. I sure hope the agencies do their homework before they go negative!

  3. You bring up a good point, Steve. It’s not hard for a company to overstep that line of getting our attention while also being a company we would want to do business with. It is, however, much harder to be clever *and* tasteful enough to earn business — that’s probably why those who get it either very wrong or very right make lasting impressions… good or bad, right?

    1. You certainly bring it back to the question of the intensity of the impression vs. the emotional resonance Richard. Just tonight someone mentioned the gross-out of the ad with the slurping. They clearly made a powerful impression, but I’m having a hard time seeing how it will help them gain – or even retain – business. Maybe we’re just not representative of their target customer. 🙂

  4. Hi Steve,

    I saw you tweeting about CommentLuv and since I’m the official CommentLuv Ambassador I wanted to stop by and say HI!

    Thanks for using the plugin and I’ll be sure to add your blog to our board on Pinterest.


  5. Steve, when GoDaddy first came out I had no idea what type of company they were. Years later when I started building websites I thought, “Oh, that’s what those commercials were about?”
    Sometimes bad publicity can really hurt a company but other times it can work in it’s favor.

  6. Funny you should ask. I never thought about it much before I was a parent but now that I am, I’m much more aware of what’s on TV including commercials – especially commercials. Go Daddy has been a repeat offender during the SB and it’s certainly changed the way I look at their brand and their product. These days, it does affect where I spend my money. My kids are watching everything I do. I have to set the bar.

    Nice chatting with you this evening at #blogchat

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