When a company drops $5 million+ to have their ad in front of an audience of 100 million people, you would imagine they would have thought through the positive and negative perceptions of the ad. But once again, it seems like a company – and ad agency they hired to make their commercial – were oblivious to the fact that some people would take offense to using the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to sell trucks.
It wasn’t just journalists and comedians who were swift with their rebuke of the ad featuring the civil rights icon, countless people watching the commercial must have let out a simultaneous cringe. Many went immediately onto social media to voice their disapproval. But how do you avoid allowing an ad like this to make it past concept and into the biggest commercial spot of the year?
- GUT TEST Have you ever read an article, seen an ad or watched a commercial that just doesn’t sit right with you? Well before you can point out exactly what’s wrong with it, there is something in your gut that tells you that it’s just not right. When dealing with millions of dollars worth of advertising, you want to get it right the first time to avoid a very costly mistake. So if anyone involved in your project has an issue with the concept, listen to him or her. Your gut is usually right.
- AVOID GROUP THINK The problem with the gut test is that it takes people standing up and opposing the direction of the group. Creative groups often fall into group think once a concept has been green lighted. It’s scary to be the sole dissenting voice in a room when everyone else thinks an idea is brilliant. Be courageous.
- DIVERSIFY YOUR TEAM One way to avoid group think is to make sure your team consists of diverse perspectives. A way to ensure that diversity is to strive to include people of various backgrounds, genders, ages, orientations and ethnicities. That could mean diversifying a team of mostly black women as much as it means diversifying a team of majority white men. If you look around the table and everyone looks very similar, then it’s time to diversity.
- DO YOUR RESEARCH It’s important to do your research. Many have pointed at the irony of Dodge using this specific speech, since in it, Dr. King warns against the dangers of commercialization, specifically on spending too much when buying a car. To show how context can completely change a message, the editor-in-chief of Current Affairsoverlaid the controversial commercial with another part of that same MLK sermon. The resulting video shows just how bizarre it was that Dodge chose this speech for their commercial.
5. TAKE RISKS, BUT BE CALCULATED Taking risks can reap big rewards. It’s important to push the envelope sometimes, but it’s crucial to measure that risk with the reward. When dealing with highly visible advertising, an error is never a net neutral, but a net negative. And with millions upon millions on the line, it’s not a good idea to risk being seen as tone deaf, or worse exploitative, when it comes to selling your brand.