Picture of bus ad: great mexican taste without the runs

Positioning the other

Advertisements push our buttons and our boundaries. Ad copy that once might have been rejected for being too risky or simply in bad taste is now often fair game. Companies and organizations work hard to create a brand that is irreverent, humourous and memorable. And that works for many organizations – especially if you are speaking to a younger “less reverent” generation. I use my dancing fingers here because I actually don’t believe that one generation can be less reverent than another – they’re usually just reverent about different things. But you know what I mean.

And there are those who suggest that if you’re talking about an ad, or a campaign, or a slogan then that means it’s effective. I don’t believe that either. The thing is that people complain. I do. And more than complain. Talking leads to new behaviour. There are those that disagree with me here, but they’ve probably joined the dark side.

All of this is by way of introducing this bad advertisement. It’s not just distasteful (not a good brand quality for a restaurant), it’s actually quite racist. And that is an interesting thing about brand positioning – when your brand is related to race, nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, class, gender or religious beliefs, there’s a good chance that your brand position is creating the other. Edward Said said it most and best, but I think it’s worth saying again. And I think it’s worth developing an analysis of othering in the context of advertising.

Racist Mexican ad on the back of the bus.

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  1. Hi Hugh. Yes. And more than interesting some might even say I have an obligation to do so. Racism is seen as a serious allegation that generally puts the burden of proof on the person asserting it. Well, I’m not really sure about all that but I totally agree that it will be interesting for me to try to articulate just why the ad is racist. And I look forward to doing this in an upcoming post. Thing is, I will require some space to make some distinctions and lay down some ground work.

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