The Effect of Political Correctness on Advertising and Communications

The Effect of Political Correctness on Advertising and Communications

Have you ever seen an advert that has left you scratching your head? Well, you are not the only one!

Advertising can often be very hit or miss depending on the target audience and the marketing team in charge. Sometimes marketing departments can hit the nail on the head and deliver an incredible marketing campaign to impress their client and boost sales. Other times, marketing departments can get it completely wrong and produce terrible adverts that might offend a certain group of people, often stirring controversies, resulting in a boycott and loss of sales.

Hence, in this digital age, being politically correct in regards to advertising and communication is extremely crucial, as it has become a slippery slope. A single wrong word can now spark a huge controversy if it offended a few people, in some cases even just one, which can affect thousands and thousands of market revenue, and harm the business’ reputation as a whole.

This is how political correctness is driving the advertising and communication industry, and when not kept in mind, it can land the brands in hot waters!

What is Political Correctness?

As the dictionary defines it, political correctness is “the avoidance, often considered as taken to extremes, of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.” In other words, it means that your words should not offend nor discriminate against anybody from anywhere at any cost, and you have to be fair to everyone.

For instance, solely promoting skincare routine to women may offend some men. Thus, instead of saying that the service is only applicable to women (or that it is only ideal for women), you should also find a way to market the benefits of such a skincare routine to men. In that way, you are not discriminating against anybody.

Over the decades, there have been multiple examples of companies delivering terrible campaigns that have been talked about for all the wrong reasons. For instance, shot in 1995, the black & white photograph of supermodels Milind Soman and Madhu Sapre posing nude, wearing nothing but a pair of Tuff shoes and a python wrapped around their body, stirred controversy nationwide. The ad was banned and the models were charged with indecent behavior in a court. Another case was filed against this ad under the Wildlife Protection Act for the illegal use of a python and cruelty to animals.

Another such example was an advertisement from Amul Macho, wherein the Indian actor and model Sana Khan were featured in a racy commercial wherein she washes a man's underwear while making sexual innuendos. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting termed it as "indecent, vulgar and suggestive" and put a ban on the advertisement.

Similarly, the Ford Motor Company landed in hot waters in 2013, and was forced to apologize for an ad that had a tagline, "Leave your worries behind with Figo's extra-large boot," and featured a cartoon showing three women tied in the rear of a vehicle driven by Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian prime minister. JWT India, one of the world’s largest ad agencies, posted it, and it was later reported that the advertisement had not gone through the agency's regular review and oversight process.

Let us trace history!

Back in the early days of advertising, it was still considered somewhat okay to poke at anyone or anybody when promoting a certain brand. It has been a marketing strategy to uplift the importance of your brand or your product. You could even use it in a comedic approach to add an entertainment value for your content. However, now, you cannot do that anymore – unless you want, a group of concerned citizens bashes your online presence.

Hence, advertisers now face far more constraints than they ever did in the 70s or 80s. For example, and subjects such as alcohol, sex, religion, and politics need to be handled with extreme sensitivity to avoid the wrath of citizens, governments, and other regulatory bodies.

Tips to Create Politically Correct Advertisements

Modern culture requires advertisements to be politically correct; this means that the marketers have to be aware of the language and visuals that they use in their advertisements have the potential to insult certain groups. Although it may be impossible to please every single person, there are several tips that a business can use to craft politically correct advertisements. Read on to know more about them!

  1. Include Multiple Genders

When creating a politically correct advertisement, it is wise to include visuals of more than one gender of a person. In the past, many businesses would use just men or women in their advertisements. This lack of gender diversity in advertisements has caused issues in the past. By using more than one gender of a person in an advertisement, a business can avoid any of these issues.

  1. Include Multiple Ethnicities

Another tip for creating politically correct advertisements is to include multiple ethnicities. Doing this can provide several benefits to an advertisement. By including multiple ethnicities in an advertisement, a business is not only making the content more relatable to different cultures, but it is also making it more inclusive.

  1. Avoid Prejudice

The unfortunate reality is that there are still signs of prejudice in modern advertisements. This prejudice has caused a massive amount of backlash from people. This backlash can lead to negative publicity and a loss of sales for a business. When creating an advertisement, be sure that it is free of any kind of prejudice.

  1. Avoid Inappropriate Language

Although this will slightly depend on the business and its branding, however, a general rule of thumb is to avoid inappropriate language when creating politically correct advertisements. Examples of inappropriate language are curse words, slurs, or any other form of unsavoury language. This will not only make the advertisement politically correct, but it can also make it more attractive to a general audience.

The Bottom Line

What is and what is not offensive will always be subjective! Since advertising is a commercial game, it is usually designed to stir up some sort of emotive response that connects an individual with the product, or service the ad is promoting. While it would be unusual for a brand to try and deliberately offend its customers or potential customers, being ‘vanilla’ is rarely the objective either. For advertising to be powerful and have an effect, it needs to make an audience sit up and take note.

However, it can sometimes be tricky to be creative and achieve this, without offending a certain number of people. At Turiya Communications LLP, we can help you to create politically correct advertisements that will have a positive impact on your audience. Get in touch with us today or visit our website to know more!

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