Love it Or Hate It, But Complain About It?

* This is a post that was originally written on 7/8/13 and has been reposted here.

There’s a video doing the rounds in the world of social media right now which has been shared on my feeds. Clever advertising comes and goes and everyone loves to share videos, gifs and pictures to give you and your friends a good chuckle but this video is getting shared for one main reason: it has received over 250 complaints to the Advertising Standards Agency within the first 24 hrs of broadcast.

Titled ‘End Marmite Neglect’ on YouTube and viewed (at the time of writing) a total over 78,000 times this one minute fourty-one second video has sparked discussion online because of it’s portrayal of a group of officers ‘Animal Rescue’ style barging into people’s homes and rescuing little neglected pots of Marmite from their cupboards and re-homing them to loving families to spread on their teatime crumpets.

Don’t believe me? Watch for yourself:

Now why are people to complaining about this advert? Because they feel that it trivialises the work of animal welfare charities and is in poor taste. I personally find it funny and refreshing to see an ad campaign that you can tell a lot of work has gone into and I think it was a stroke of genius when the execs of Marmite sat around their big round table of marketing ideas and someone piped up with how about we make an ad about all those pots of Marmite we know people buy but never get to the bottom of?

As some comment I read somewhere points out, it makes a change from seeing adverts about PPI and payday loans and I wholeheartedly agree. Yeah, it’s funny and I do think we should poke a bit more fun out of our television schedules more often (reality and real-life scenario TV is a massive staple of our viewing diets, let’s admit it) but I think the platform wasn’t entirely suited for the idea. Fair enough it’s funny and the idea is brilliant but by putting something like this out on the public platform you are really opening it up to perception.

This skit would fit very well into something like a channel four Friday night sketch comedy (think The Morgana Show, Star Stories and Phone Shop) which is why I think people can feel a bit uncomfortable about it. On those comedy shows, sketches are entertaining people whereas Marmite is selling, not necessarily entertaining. Complaints to the ASA can seem a tad silly at times when you can tell that campaign was made without the perceived intention but that’s what the ASA is there for. Advertising on television is important business, all types of people from young children to adults are exposed to adverts are varying times of the day and we need to make sure that our adverts broadcast are non-offensive and not misleading – even if the innocent intention is there it’s what’s perceived that matters.

Is the Marmite advert offensive? I think it’s a little in bad taste, after watching it again and again it feels too real for me. I can see how it can be perceived as offensive of animal cruelty charities and their broadcast representation. I’m actually surprised it hasn’t been broadcast with as ‘this is an advertisement banner’. In retrospect I do think there has been more offensive and disturbing advertising in my lifetime than this, such as the Xbox: Life is Short campaign that still makes me feel a bit weird watching today as a 23 year old. I actually can’t stand this:

All in all you either love it or hate the Marmite advert. The academic side of me sweating trying to fill out a 2000 word essay on the subject would be scrambling to find a relevant quote about the psychological powers of advertising formats and how the company has wrapped it’s primary slogan into a ¬£2 million campaign via purposely or not – but I’ve already got a shiny bit of paper for that. So, in the words of my office buddy @gemma_davison as I showed her this video during our lunch today and the following discussion: “That’s advertising getting into your brain, that is!” and she’s right. It does really get in your brain as you start to think about it.

I’ll leave with this Iron Bru advert that does actually make me laugh even though the more I watch it, the more offensive it feels. Maybe it’s just my immature side having a chuckle about a particular word… ?

This BBC News article
Marmite Wikipedia article
The Advertising Standards Agencyand a really interesting list of non-compliant online advertisers.