Tuesday, June 30, 2009

When Foreign Ads Anger Other Markets

I’m a regular reader of several automotive blogs and one of my favorites is Jalopnik, a more irreverent version of AutoBlog or as one recent Twitter user put it – the Top Gear of the web. So it was no surprise to see a recent post covering Suggestive Automotive Print Ads that featured a very controversial BMW ad from Greece.

The ad ran in the summer of 2008 and keeps popping up every few months, thus creating a lot of negative press for BMW’s marketing efforts with some fierce bloggers and readers saying they’ll never buy a BMW. Granted, most likely empty threats, but still it is not a well-received ad when viewed by, let’s call them, “grownups” and I’m not talking age.

It was an ad, ran only in Greece where the age of consent is 15 and in a country lacking our Puritanical values. Does that make it right? No, because now with everything so easily sharable across the web, everyone gets to see how you market your products. Even if you designed an ad to appeal to male buyers in a small niche market, now the whole world knows about it and that is why it is so important for global brands to see what is going on across their agencies and to consider the backlash some regionally developed ads may cause when shared beyond the intended audience.

Some bloggers, who fail to research which sites are manufacturer ones and which ones are not, have generated some additional confusion about the ad.

Blogger Yvonne DiVita writes, “even the comments on the BMW site are divided...with too many men (at least I think they're men) making the kind of lewd, insulting remarks you would expect."

The sad thing is that the “comments on the BMW site” are not on a BMW site, they are from Ads of the World’s website which has no association with BMW (note: ad has been removed from the Ads of the World site.) The site aggregates ads from every country and the comments are probably from a bunch of random marketing people who frequent the site, not BMW owners (though some may be?)

BMW has not responded to any of this from what I could gather on search or looking through press releases on various BMW sites including the corporate BMW Group news area.

It’s been almost a year since the ad appeared in Greece and it is still showing up whenever someone wants to discuss sexism in automotive advertising. It was a concept done in poor taste, regardless of cultural mores. It also raises the importance of corporate review of international ads and how messages can affect brand perception in other countries since content sharing is so easy in the Internet age.

Yet it has had little to no affect on BMW sales, so maybe all of this doesn't really matter as we hear today that BMW is to overtake Lexus as the best selling luxury brand in the United States.

1 comment:

Oxygen marketing communications agency Devon said...

A client of ours suggested this ad was a great example of creative marketing. It's clearly shot around the Internet, so it a good example of viral advertising - potentially doing more good than bad?