Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Zig and bumvertising: Bad ad rodeo

It's been a while since I've written another Bad Ad Rodeo, an analysis of awful ads that fail to inspire - but this one is juicy!

It’s called bumvertising, an offensive and ridiculous new invention by marketers (Zig Interactive here in Toronto) as a way to be tongue-in-cheek and promote a client’s socially critical message using socially distasteful means. Homeless people in Toronto have been paid $250 per day to sit with signs for CFRB talk radio and act as human billboards. We’ll talk about whether this is good marketing or not later, but it’s so transparently lacking in basic values that I’m inclined to say no matter how effective a campaign this was, it has really done our business and the client a disservice because of the general tone and reception of the campaign.

Click the image to read larger.

There really wasn’t a better way to get the message across while still keeping your chins up? Are the CDs at Zig actually proud of the social discourse that they’ve catalyzed in Toronto about the homeless? How about whether they’re proud to call themselves marketers? I can certainly appreciate why observers might now have a bitter taste about our profession when this schlock can now act as a focal point for all the negative perceptions people have about ad men.

‘They are immoral’
‘They sell me things I don’t need’
‘They don’t care where the message is as long as someone sees it’

Bumvertising and Zig Interactive have done nothing to advance the state of marketing in Canada. There’s no differentiation or evolution of ideas from good to great. This isn’t great marketing…it’s just a sleazy shill for a client.

…and that’s another thing. If this was a campaign actioned at the client’s request, didn’t someone at Zig have enough of a spine to take a stand and express their dissatisfaction with how the agency might be selling its soul for CFRB?

But I guess the campaign might have actually been effective. Think about it. High-traffic locations, unique context, appropriate message, “should panhandling be illegal?” It’s hit the checklist of effective out-of-home campaigns, and it seems to have created a good buzz. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who does not have an opinion on this campaign or doesn’t show some sort of emotion when learning about it. It was likely also cost effective – I’m guessing $30K, including creative development and street execution?

But is that what the homeless are now in our downtown streets? Marketing campaign executioners?

I’m really disappointed in Zig and CFRB. Someone should have had the common sense to stand up amidst the back-slapping, hand-shaking, and self-congratulatory praise for developing such an “innovative, thought-provoking, and socially stimulating campaign” to say that while it may have been all of those things, it falls down on basic marketing morals and human decency.

Grade: F

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