11th November, 2019
Recently, Ad Standards dismissed complaints against a contentious ad campaign from Libra, and their decision to do so offers small business marketers some guidance on how to approach launching ads of their own.
Creativity is key when it comes to the development of ad campaigns for businesses today.
With huge audiences sitting and waiting to consume content, businesses who know how to create polarising, original and memorable ad campaigns to advertise their products or services are normally the ones who see large increases in their company growth patterns.
But developing memorable content strategies that stand out from the crowd doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone will agree with or like the message you’ve put forward. In fact, one of the biggest challenges associated with creativity in business is that it can sometimes hit sensitive topics and raw nerves that anger some of the content’s viewers.
Given that our world is filled with people from different backgrounds, cultures, religions and so on, the unfortunate reality of the marketing industry is that not everyone is going to relate to or enjoy every piece of content that they consume.
When it came to Libra’s #BloodNormal campaign, Australian content consumers experienced a perfect example of the above.
As part of its quest to destigmatise menstruation and period discomfort, Libra released an ad campaign in the form of a television commercial (TVC) that depicted women going about their daily lives while experiencing their periods in a very raw and eye-opening fashion – causing hundreds of the ad’s viewers to lodge complaints against it, claiming to be ‘offended’ and ‘appalled’ by its contents.
In fact, it was reported that Ad Standards, the body that deals with complaints relating to the advertising industry in Australia, received more than 600 official complaints from viewers, making it the most complained about ad this year.
But despite the mobs of complaints that were lodged, Ad Standards dismissed the backlash entirely and ruled that the ad campaign did not breach the Code of Ethics, and allowed for the contentious TVC to continue airing.
In its coverage of this story, Mumbrella reported that Libra defended its position and released the following statement:
‘The TVC is encouraging women, men, boys and girls (with guidance from their parents) to imagine a world where women and girls don’t have to hide anymore, where there is no shame attached to changing your pad in a toilet, asking for a pad at a dinner party or carrying your pad without hiding it.’
As always, when stories relating to contentious and noteworthy business events take place, it is worthwhile for startup founders and small business owners to take note of the subliminal messages that they leave and adapt the learnings into their own respective businesses.
With this particular story, there were three underlying messages that were relevant for SMEs:
Advertising and marketing are core functionalities of every business. The only way to sell a product or service is to go out and broadcast it to your target market.
But launching an ad campaign isn’t a free for all and there are certain rules that need to be adhered to when releasing content to the public.
If you’re a small business owner or startup founder who is contemplating launching an ad campaign on social media, television or any other medium, make sure to review the guidelines set out by Ad Standards to ensure that you aren’t breaking any of the rules.
Should your advertising creative fail to meet all set criteria, it may never see the light of day.
If there’s one thing to learn from the Libra campaign, it’s that if people don’t like what you’ve put forward, they will complain. And if your content is scrutinised and found to be in breach of the guidelines, it will get taken down – and all the money, time, and energy invested will amount to nothing.
The Libra #BloodNormal campaign was specifically aimed at a very particular audience. As they mentioned in their statement, it was about taking away the shame associated with periods – a problem that only affects a specific demographic.
Yet, they boldly took on the entire Australian population and broadcast their message to the general public – as they believed that this brazen strategy would guarantee the message reached their target market.
To be successful is today’s competitive climate, small businesses need to be prepared to do whatever it takes to send a strong message to their target audiences.
Sometimes, like with Libra, this will come at the cost of upsetting some bystanders, but as long as the ad is designed according to the rules, SMEs need to back themselves in and move forward with their ad campaigns.
Libra’s message was designed to sell their products while combatting the stigma associated with periods. The fact that so many of its viewers were up in arms about what they saw made it clear that the stigma is very much a real thing.
In an article covering this story, the ABC shared some of the research backed statistics about the stigma associate with periods, including the ‘alarming’ stat that 70 per cent of young Australian women would ‘rather fail a class than have their peers know they are having their period’.
For a brand to join in on what is clearly an important dialogue engenders credibility and trust, while also opening the business up to further opportunities as the conversation continues.
In an increasingly noisy world, it shouldn’t be hard to find a worthy topic for your small business’s brand to join in on. You just want to make sure you’re doing so in a respectful, meaningful way that doesn’t come across as opportunistic.