THE BLOG
02/11/2017 03:58 SAST | Updated 02/11/2017 03:58 SAST

Browns’ Sex-Assault Advertising Blunder Showed Ignorance

The product being advertised by the jeweller is geared toward women; the same group most affected by this type of violence.

Bertrand Guay/ AFP/ Getty Images
#MeToo hashtag, is the campaign encouraging women to denounce experiences of sexual abuse that has swept across social media in the wake of the wave of allegations targeting Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

"It wasn't my choice to be kissed. The guy just came over and grabbed! That man was very strong. I wasn't kissing him. He was kissing me." -- Greta Zimmer Friedman (2015).

The iconic "V-J Day in Times Square" photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt portrays a US Navy sailor grabbing and kissing a stranger -- a nurse in a white dress -- in New York City on Victory over Japan Day in 1945.

During an interview with the Library of Congress, that nurse, Greta Zimmer Friedman, recalled how the sailor overpowered her in what is probably the most famous case of sexual assault of all time. This interview resurfaced in recent weeks, as 60 women came forward with allegations of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape against Miramax co-founder, Harvey Weinstein.

The ordeal, which inspired many other survivors of sexual misconduct to speak out about the violence they had experienced via the hashtag #MeToo, prompted several columnists to probe rape culture. Some even reflected on Friedman's account of her widely celebrated assault.

That diamond dealer Browns opted to use this image in their latest marketing campaign, called Love's Embrace, shows utter ignorance, if not arrogance, on the part of advertisers, whose top-down approach is as dated as the famous image's romantic appeal.

The advert appeared on the cover of the latest Sunday Times -- ironically, right below an article about how another woman, former ANC MP Jennifer Ferguson, accused South African Football Association boss Danny Jordaan of raping her!

Bear in mind that the product being advertised by the jeweller is geared toward women; the same group most affected by this type of violence.

All of this within the context of gross levels of sexual violence in South Africa, with an average of 109.1 rapes recorded by the South African Police Service each day over the past year. Bear in mind that the product being advertised by the jeweller is geared toward women; the same group most affected by this type of violence.

Brands cannot afford to be this sloppy anymore. The perception that they are selling products to a bunch of consumers is ill-informed and dangerous -- heck, the tweets about Dove's recent racist advert are still fresh on our minds.

They need to start seeing audiences as investors who make very conscious decisions on which products and brands to buy into. There exists a massive paradigm shift in the way that people engage with products on the market because of new media technology.

As brand architect Sylvester Chauke put it: "Consumers have been freed from the chains of one-way communication since they can now compliment and condemn brands in an instant. 140 characters have become quite powerful today as we watch TV and also follow the commentary on the socials -- the world has indeed changed!"

According to Chauke, technology has liberated consumers from being captive audiences to active participants. A bad customer experience at a retail store is more likely to be addressed on social media than it is in-store. Strike the wrong nerve with a faction of society (let alone the one you're targeting!) and the entire Twitterverse will come crashing down on you.

Every so often, a company will make headlines for firing employees, scared that the bigoted views they express on social media might have a harmful effect the brand. THAT is the media climate we live in.

Know your audience like that back of your hand, know what makes them tick and do not cross that line.

The influence social media has on what people choose to spend their money on is not overstated, nor is it unfounded. A 2014 retail study by Deloitte found that 56 percent of consumers buying baby products are influenced by social media -- the number was 40 percent for home furnishings, 33 percent for health and wellness, and 32 percent for automotive.

What this means for people working in advertising is that a lot more work needs to go into it: know your audience like that back of your hand, know what makes them tick and do not cross that line. Ensure that they are represented in the production process, not just present for formality sake.

Research every aspect of your creation, from the text used to the symbols you use -- and of course, the images. Even the smallest detail can have the biggest impact. You do not want to be that brand that endorsed sexual assault to sell engagement rings.