The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Lets All Laugh At The People Having A Terrible Time …

So writing a post this topical is a new experience for me, but I saw an ad being posted over and over again on social media this past weekend and I had to write about it.

This is the ad …

Now I admit, when I first saw it, I smiled and thought it was mildly humourous and then I realised what I was looking at was a company being massively exploitative and basically horrible.

This airline is using the break-up of a family … a family involving 6 kids … as an opportunity to try and flog their airline tickets.

Think about that for a moment.

Sure, the parents involved in the ad are huge celebrities … but does that give a company the right to literally piss on their pain for their own gain?

I don’t think so.

Imagine if someone did that to you in your moment of sadness.

Your marriage breaks up.

You lose your job.

A loved one dies.

I pretty much doubt you’d let a family member make a joke like that, let alone a total stranger.

Of course the marketing community will say I’m being a miserable old bastards and say this is a great example of being a ‘challenger brand’ or ‘cultural hijacking’ but that’s because a lot of the marketing community are a bunch of empathy devoid fucks who don’t know what the hell they are talking about.

Most of my career has been connected to challenger brands – and I’ve done more than my share of cultural hijacking – but I’ve never done work where I used an individual persons tragedy to big my client up … especially when my client and the individuals involved have absolutely nothing to do with each other.

Is taking the piss out of companies who have done wrong, fair game?


Is taking the piss out of people who have a reputation for a particular behaviour fair game?

Maybe … in very specific circumstances.

But even if the CEO of Hitler Industries endured a personal tragedy, I would never advocate using that as a platform to flog some airline tickets because if you have no empathy or standards, why do you think anyone should have it towards you.

Imagine if a Swedish Airline ran this ad after the terrible 2011 massacre in Norway:

Do you think Norwegian Airlines would be happy?

Do you think they’d say it was unprofessional and in terrible, terrible taste?

I am pretty sure they would, but it seems that rule would only apply if it concerns their wellbeing.


Of course some will say, “but the ad’s worked because people are talking about it” … but there’s 2 responses to that.

1. Awareness doesn’t mean effectiveness.

Given the ad is all about trying to flog some tickets to the US, it can only be deemed successful if they sold out. [And even that is open to intreptation given they may have only put a few tickets on ‘sale prices’ to justify the ad]

2. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.


I know you may think I’m going on and on about this, but if this kind of work becomes acceptable, where does the line get drawn?

More than that, if this sort of work becomes your baseline, what do you think people will think of you?

Sure, they may find you amusing, but does that mean they will want to give you their money.

Many years ago I was working with a big global consumer electronics brand that kept talking about wanting to do ads using Mr Bean because of the shows popularity in their market.

It was only when we pointed out that while people may like Mr Bean, how many would trust his advice to spend US$10,000 on a television.

I get the first rule for communication is to get noticed … but if revelling in others misery or misfortune becomes your schtick, then don’t start crying when people start turning on you. Just look at GREY FOR GOOD if you want more proof of that happening.

24 Comments so far
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For the first and probably the only time, I agree with you completely. And I tweeted about it at the time. It took me approximately one second to go from the initial smile to this was a really dumb thing to do and they haven’t thought it through, both for the capitalising on familial grief angle, but also because I wondered what the reaction would have been if they’d said Angelina was single?

What’s worse is the number of times I’ve seen advertising folk and supposed marketing experts tweet out about how great this is. On one hand, that might speak to its effectiveness, on the other hand it might speak to their comptence.

Comment by John

Single woman.
Over 40.
6 kids.
Intermittent employment.
But hot and likes kinky shit.

I’d buy a ticket for that.

Comment by Billy Whizz

You’d buy a ticket for a hole.

Comment by DH

That is terrible and hilarious at the same time.

Comment by Rob

My reaction to David’s comment to Billy seems similar to the reaction to the “Brad” ad.
I laughed then felt bad for it.

Comment by George

I will treasure this forever. On the bright side [for you] I’m sure tomorrow’s post will be something you disagree strongly with me on. Consider it an antidote for todays shared viewpoint.

Comment by Rob

Well said Robert.

Comment by Mary Bryant

Thanks Mary.

Comment by Rob

im a fucking expert on divorce and its shit. even when youre relieved as fuck its happening its still shit. bet no fucker involved in this has suffered it. but thats not the reason to piss on this ad. brad pitt is fifty fucking two so the airline is admitting their passengers are fame whores or grandpa shaggers. twats.

Comment by andy@cynic

Every chick in LA.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Isn’t Brad already in LA? They wouldn’t need to buy a plane ticket then.

Comment by Pete

theyll still buy a ticket. airhead fuckwits

Comment by andy@cynic

I believe the esteemed blogger will be flying to LA shortly. What are we to deduce from that?

Comment by John

what the fuck for? and why did my tsa agents not give me warning before you. what the fuck am i paying them for?

Comment by andy@cynic

Yes I am. But don’t worry Andy … I’ll be bypassing NYC this time so you’re safe. Or maybe I’m just saying that to lull you into a false sense of security.

Comment by Rob

When do you come Robert? We would love to see you. Will the family be coming with you?

Comment by George

its such a fucking shit ad your sweden bollocks is better. and that if fucking bollocks. might not be if it wasnt a direct lift of viz skegness poster. fuck i should be on ad juries again, id sort out that cheating, scammy shit.

Comment by andy@cynic

It was ‘influenced’ from it.

Though the VIZ poster doesn’t attack a place that has just suffered a personal drama so I’d argue I added a level of creativity previously missing in it. Hahaha.

And here’s the original for those who don’t know what the hell I’m talking about:

Comment by Rob

Great post Rob. I hadn’t seen the ad before and I laughed at it for a split second before realizing this was real people’s lives they were stomping on and it was cruel. I am sure many people will say they liked it, but as you pointed out, they wouldn’t if it was mocking their personal hardship.

Comment by Pete

Very well said Robert. The advertising industry has a habit of this sort of crass behavior. Unfortunately, it tends to be rewarded at award shows rather than slammed.
Being opportunistic at a competitors expense is one thing. Doing it at an individuals pain, is totally another.

Comment by George

Am I too late to point out there’s no such thing as Swedish Airlines?

Comment by Kris Crockett

That’s not exactly the issue holding the whole rant together … but if it makes you feel better Kris, go for it.

Comment by Rob

Also you wrote a Swedish airline not Swedish Airlines #pedantryforgood.

Comment by John

Well said Robert.

Comment by Lee Hill

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