I made note of a quote I read somewhere a few months back:
As an advertising agency, it's important to keep our eyes on the latter (the holes), not the former (the drill). Getting attention in an ever-increasing world of messages requires more creative thinking and creative thinking all too often gets a bad rap.
The Consumer Council of Fiji filed a complaint about an ad we ran this week for KIDANET. Here's a copy of the ad which spawned the complaint (click on it for a larger size):
[NOTE: My response here is from the position of Oceanic and my own perspective. I do not speak for or represent KIDANET.]
The nature of the complaint from the Consumer Council was that KIDANET was somehow attempting to benefit from the scourge of the recent Swine Flu outbreak...that the advertisement was meant to scare people. It's not just this ad either, according to the news report on Fiji TV last night. Apparently, the people who make Protex soap were equally evil in their advertising direction.
I've included video segments of this headlining story below...please feel free to folllow along...
The first segment introduces the complaint:
Oh boy...where should I begin?
On a positive note, I'm very happy to see the extra attention our advertising is getting from Fiji TV. If you listen carefully, the news anchor introduces the story with the words "In Fiji, there's concern that some businesses are taking advantage of the global influenza outbreak...". They don't qualify that statement at all with who is concerned or even how many people are concerned, though..just that there is concern. Nicely done as always, FijiOne News.
Back to the Consumer Council complaint,...Ms. Kumar argues that through our concept, we're misleading consumers because the ad "indicates that KIDANET's service is like a prescription drug."
Whoa. That's a pretty big leap. She goes on with the interpretation and ask the question "..is KIDANET really going to prevent the swine flu from spreading?"
For the record, lets revisit the text we wrote for this advertisement:
Taken literally, staying inside and away from crowds actually IS one way of avoiding the flu since transmission passes from human to human. It's certainly not realistic for most people but furthering this ridiculous argument, remaining alone should actually keep people swine flu-free.
Lets continue with the second part:
"There's no list that comes out of the WHO which says that you should be using Protex..." is an interesting comment. Actually, there is one and I found it on the WHO website. They do not specifically mention Protex as a brand but not surprisingly, #3 on that list of prevented measures (85k PDF) references clean hands with the words:
"Rational use of available personal protective equipment (PPE) and appropriate hand hygiene."
Read it for yourself. That's close enough for me.
We have a global health authority saying that it's in everyone's best interests to wash their hands repeatedly during this health crisis in order to maintain some control over the spread of the disease. In Fiji, however, is the argument that it's inappropriate for a company to help spread the word of the WHO's advice because it may mislead customers into believing that only the Protex brand is effective? Come on, people...
Does this not touch on what appears to be a larger issue here; mainly that the Consumer Council of Fiji is acting as if consumers in the country are so brain-dead that they will mis-interpret this message and believe every ad they see? That they need to be hand-held so tightly? Even in the unlikely case of that being true, does it harm society if there are more people washing hands? The majority of communicable diseases do seem to take place because of poor hand hygiene (cooking food, etc..).
Part 3 of the video continues:
Of the entire report, this might be my "favourite" part. I will agree with Ms. Kumar that the line "Don't become a statistic." can sound as if it is sensationalising the issue a little bit but if the message is effective and more people do wash their hands, it's more than a worthwhile trade-off. A bigger concern is the fact that the Consumer Council is alluding to advertisers as the ones creating fear in people's minds. She should be turning the camera around and point it right back to FijiTV, the Fiji Times and the rest of the media worldwide. Advertisers are not creating fear. They are simply touching on a fear which has been seeded and nourished by the shark-infested waters of modern day journalism.
This past week or so, the FijiTimes ran a number of headlines which could be labeled sensationalist and even inaccurate when it comes to Swine Flu. These include:
- Nationwide Alert as Swine Flu Closes In (holy shit, this one is scary)
- Fiji Records First Probably Swine Flue Case (this later turned out to be untrue)
- Swine Flu No More (headline story about the name change to A(H1-N1) virus)
The FijiTimes also carried a full page of "everyday guy" comments where we heard helpful opinions of the preventative measures being taken for Swine Flu from locals. These include such gems as "I won't be talking to tourists." Very educational reporting...
Call me crazy but if I'm going to be struck by fear, it's more likely to be at the hands of those headlines and non-factual features versus a cartoon pig and a text-heavy ad for soap.
Finishing up the TV report, advertisers fight back by showing the ludicrousness of the Consumer Council complaint:
Bang! Strike one up for Colgate-Palmolive's brand manager referencing the company's larger "community hand washing programme". Very nice.
Based upon the original complaint, it now appears that the Consumer Council of Fiji's stance is that companies like Colgate-Palmolive should cease their community programmes because they might confuse consumers in Fiji into believing that their product has health benefits and even though it may be true, it's not a fair way of marketing.
If the above paragraph is ridiculous, it's no more ridiculous than the original complaint which started this merry-go-round.
The Consumer Council of Fiji's purpose is to protect consumers, yes. It's purpose is not to censor the advertising medium and comment on styles of marketing unless they can truly be proven to detrimental and harmful to society.
Some of the best advertising is the kind which is timely and can make connections between information the public knows (swine flu) and a particular product/service. It provides relevance to that product or service and at the end of the day, relevance is all a company looking to build a customer base can ask for.
In closing, I'd like to disclose for the first time publicly that in all our testing, the new and improved KIDANET super-speed Internet service was three times more likely to prevent against Swine Flu than Connect's ADSL service. If you're in the west, pre-register yourself now and for the first time ever, enjoy having a choice of Internet providers. That is...until we all die from Swine Flu...err...I mean A(H1-N1) virus.