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Controversial marketing - Where's the line?

By STEVE TILBURY Published 12th Sep 2013
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A sign writing company in Waco, Texas (you couldn't ask for a better location for this story) has come under fire for putting a decal on the back of a truck which shows a tied up woman apparently being abducted.

A spokesman for Hornet Signs described it as a 'marketing experiment' conceived to test how realistic their decals are. The result has been an avalanche of criticism from the public and abuse charities. Across the world the story buzzed across social media, generally with a negative take on the promotion.

However, one supporter on Facebook commented; 'This American business owner has a decal that made the news. Like it or not, it works.’

Is that an acceptable point of view? There is a general feeling that social media is now such a vast and noisy arena that attention has to be grabbed. Many companies are embracing controversy as a strategy and, as more and more do so, the bar is consistently raised as companies market to an increasingly jaded audience.

The result can be seen in this campaign. A company has used a picture of a woman being abducted in a marketing campaign and some people think that's okay.

We get what we deserve. We get the television, the politicians and the culture that we deserve. So when we complain that things have gone too far it's often because we allowed them to. It's apathy that allows this to happen, combined with a tendency to ridicule campaigners who try to bring balance to the situation (remember Mary Whitehouse?)

Is it okay to say 'it's only marketing' with a stunt like this? Where is the line?

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261 weeks ago, by Kris
Could have achieved a similar effect by depictng say a couple of horses or a bunch of sheep. As it is, it's unacceptable and crass.
261 weeks ago, by Jackie
Are there any occasions when the ends justify the means?
259 weeks ago, by Tim
Sheep wouldn't have aroused any reaction. That's the whole point Kris. Sheep wouldn't let them know if it had worked or not as no one would have said anything. Why not use a hay bale? You hear it said all good marketing starts off as a joke. I can this concept being born in a bar at 2am by a bunch of guys at a loud table. I think it's a great idea as it has propelled them into the limelight. Who's the most thought about sign company in their region now?
259 weeks ago, by James
Sheep or any other thing would have enabled them to demonstrate how realistic their decals were and that's what they claim their aim was. Actually it's quite clear that they wanted to provoke a reaction and I'd have more respect if they were honest and admitted that.
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