For as many overtly offensive instances of public relations that exist, there are a handful that drive home a solid message despite the sometimes controversial messaging.
Tomatoe, Tomato. Not always…
I think it is important to start this conversation by addressing the difference between controversial and offensive. From my point of view, the two cannot be used interchangeably. Controversial, by definition, means debatable or divisive. So, in essence, what one person may find appropriate, another might find inappropriate, to put it very simply. Offensive, on the other hand, can be defined as aggressive or belligerent, so innately bad. I wanted to clear the air on this before proceeding with my views and why are they are such.
To be offensive, or not to be offensive
We all know that there are plenty of examples of offensive PR. Below are just a few examples that come to mind:
The examples above are offensive for the mere fact that their only purpose is to drive sales. In the process of attempting to drive sales, they make use of racist and offensive tactics that are accomplishing no greater goal or higher purpose.
The Good Angel
The examples below, on the other hand, although controversial, serve a higher purpose, and for that, can be deemed as justifiable.
Higher purpose: Creates awareness surrounding violent sexual assaults and the undesirable outcomes of them.
– Georgia’s PSA targeting obese children
Higher purpose: Educating a population about a nationwide problem in a very high risk state.
So, in my opinion, it is very simple.
- What is your message?
- What is your goal?
- Is your goal worth the potential controversy?
In my view, preventing individuals from harmful situations and saving lives is worth the controversy. Giving customers a good laugh and driving up sales is not. It’s just that simple.