Light bulb logo: Sherwin

Positioning the other

Written by Sherwin, published on September 26, 2009

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.

comments powered by Disqus

Archived comments

  1. […] that maybe I have a duty to also contact the owners of the ad that I wrote about here and also here, and let them know that I think their ad is racist. Or maybe I have a duty to the bus company that […]

  2. […] last week I wrote about a bus ad that I photographed and posted claiming that it was racist. But I didn’t really speak to how or why it was racist. And […]

  3. sherwin says:

    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.

  4. Hugh says:

    I think it would be interesting if you articulated why the ad is racist.