Controversy occurs when an advertisement presents various elements that can be considered delicate or going beyond the limits of common sense or ethics through themselves or through the manner in which they are presented (contextualized). Who decides upon the controversial dimension of an advertisement shown on TV? On the one side there are the authorities which have the job to monitor the TV advertisements and decide whether they obey or not the legislation in the filed. On the other hand, there is the public opinion which reacts when the situation demands it. Sometimes, depending on the intensity of the reaction of the public opinion, the authorities intervene as well.
It can be stated that usually the people creating the advertisements that are to be shown on TV know what they are doing. In this case one can do nothing but wonder if controversy is good for businesses on a long-term basis. There are opinions that state that it is, just like there are numerous voices stating the opposite.
On the one hand, it can be said that controversy affects a certain brand or company in a negative manner. Once an issue has attracted the attention of the public opinion and the media, and various debates have included the topic, having strong pro and con perspectives upon it, it is believed that a negative perception surrounding the matter is expanded upon the company or the brand which has used the controversial advertisement. Therefore it is believed that controversy affects this company's image and thus, its profit.
On the other hand, there are numerous people who believe that any kind of publicity is a good one and they bring studies stating that the type of information presented to the public is not that important on a long-term perspective in order to support their position.
There are various studies made in the area of communication which argue that people eventually forget if the information regarding a certain product or brand was positive or negative and they remember just the involved "name." from this point-of-view, it could be stated that controversy leads to a positive long-term effect, since it creates a strong impact and it increases the brand awareness.
However, controversial ads are not used just for the purpose of selling an item or a service, but also in order to gain the attention of the public opinion upon a certain aspect (social, religious, economic, etc.). Considering these aspects, one can also ask himself that, if depending on its purpose controversy- rising advertisements should be judged and analyzed in a different manner.
Another important aspect to be analyzed when bringing the issue of controversial advertisements into discussion is represented by the situation when a certain advertisement goes against the laws of morality, but not against the real judicial laws. The same difficulty of analyzing the situation occurs when an advertisement goes against the judicial laws and yet does not contradict the rules of ethics and morality, in a context in which the presented matter proves to be important. The important thing is to always do the just thing, but what should one do when the judicial laws and the laws of morality do not appear as perfect synonyms?
Some examples of television advertisements that have caused controversy could be relevant for the present analysis. The advertisements used by Benetton have been considered as shocking and controversial. Very colourful and at the same time, done in good taste and having a developed artistic dimension, these ads have been under the attention of the media and the public opinion for a long period of time.
None of them has ever been banned and the controversy brought numerous advantages to the brand. One of these advantages is represented by the strengthening of the brand awareness. What the creators of the Benetton advertisements wished to do, among other things, is to present a daring perspective upon an issue that could be considered as delicate.
But none of the advertisements went against the rules of education, common sense just like it did not ignore the legislation in the area of advertising. The controversy accompanying them was caused by the courage of the artistic creators. This courage referred not just to the fact that the brand brought the subject of different races into discussion, but that it made a statement about how things should be like. In addition, the brand used its own popularity to render the issue known and empowered the direction of the discussion in its desired course.
It could be stated that the controversial dimension that accompanies the advertisements of the Benetton brand was caused by two further factors. One of these factors is represented by the obvious risk the brand exposed itself to. The interpretation of the advertisements could have been different from the intended one and the company would have found itself in the middle of a scandal, having to justify itself to numerous organisations defending the equality of people's rights and so on. At the same time, what Benetton did was to use its popularity and financial resources in order to impose a discussion topic on the public agenda. People, just by simply watching the advertisements were reminded that the issue of racial discrimination exists. Furthermore, they were shown what the position of the brand in respect to the issue was.
Another example of an advertisement that was considered controversial is represented by the one created by the United Church o Christ. The advertisement was refused by the CBS and the NBC networks. What the advertisement showed was the entrance of a church being guarded by two bodyguards who were selecting the people that would be allowed to go in. The slogan used in the ad is the following one: " Jesus dint turn people away. Neither do we."
The message that the advertisement was meant to transmit and at the same time, the characteristic of the offered service that was meant to differentiate it from other similar providers referred to the acceptance of all minorities, regardless of their type (social, ethnic, sexual, etc.).
The controversy arose from the reference to the sexual minorities of gay and lesbian people. Should the advertisement have been about another product or service, perhaps the controversy would not have been the same. But since it connected the religious and sacred dimension with the already controversial issue of homosexuality, it was bound to give birth to discussions.
However, the issue was extremely complex since it involved the aspects of religion, personal freedom and the freedom of speech. The networks that refused to play the ad wrote in their motivation documents that they found the ad to be too controversial. What they wanted in fact to do was avoid being involved themselves in a controversial matter. Ironically, even if the ad was not broadcasted by them, controversy arose from this very fact and their names were involved since they were the deciding authorities. On the one hand, the networks had the right to decide upon what the things that they wanted to broadcast and what they did not want to. However, refusing to broadcast the ad represented a type of censorship since the Church found itself confronted with the situation of not being able to transmit its message. Another argument brought by the television networks was represented by the law that stated that marriage is an act that si made between persons of opposite sex. Thus, the gay couples were against the law and advertisement concerning their acceptance would have been against the law as well. Or it would have shown a perspective which was against the law, but which was accepted by the media and therefore, broadcasted for all the viewers to see. The representatives of the United Church of Christ were highly unsatisfied and the negotiations between them and the representatives of the TV networks were in the attention of the media.
But the matter was more complex since it involved other very important aspects. The ad did not imply that it encouraged homosexuality, just that it accepted it. taking into account the fundamental character of the establishments based on religious values, acceptance of the minorities, as long as their difference does not consist in harming others is not that unusual, bur rather normal. Furthermore, by refusing to broadcast the ad, the networks statement was that it refused to accept the condition of the minorities hat the ad referred to. This indirectly attacked the freedom of the person to choose how he or she wants to lead his or her life. In addition, it meant a refusal of the right to free speech. But since the networks were private, they had the right to proceed as they did. All in all, the controversy was born from the difficulty to solve the problem. Each of the parties had their share of being right and there was no compromise that could have been made in order…