When Osama bin Laden was discovered living practically in the pool-house of the Pakistani military, the same question was on everyone's lips: were the Pakistanis ignorant or corrupt? Had they somehow managed to overlook the presence of a highly-suspicious mystery compound nestled up against their answer to West Point, or were they knowingly harbouring  the terrorist for some sinister reason of their own?

I have no answer to these questions, as I am neither well-connected nor particularly well-informed. What I'm interested in is how often recently those same alternatives have arisen as competing explanations for regrettable human behaviours. The ignorant/corrupt alternatives, I mean, not the failing to notice mystery compound/ purposefully terrorist-harbouring ones. 

Recently, an ad agency in Brazil created what it appeared to think was an appropriate and inspired series of print ads for Kia. Here's one of them (click on it for a larger version):
Obviously intended to promote Kia's dual-zone air conditioning feature, this cartoon employs always-crowd-pleasing suggestions of pedophilia to appeal to a wide audience. 

It's unclear how, exactly, Kia was associated with this agency, and surprisingly enough, even the fact that these ads won the Silver Lion at the Cannes advertising awards doesn't seem to make Kia want to be more associated with this agency.

It's clear the ads are juxtaposing wholesome Disney-type animation with racy adult-themed animation to create what they believe to be a comic effect. Were they too stupid to realize that the teacher-student ad would make viewers feel as though their brains had been flattened into cakes of manure? Were they fully aware of the manure-cake effect and cynically determined to exploit it to get attention? 

Then there's the now-defunct campaign from the California Milk Processor Board, which makes delightful jokes about how hard it is for clueless, long-suffering men to put up with their hysterical lady-friends before Their Time of the Month. Apparently, calcium helps with PMS, and as milk has calcium, men should buy a lot of it to stop their girlfriends from being such bitches.
The milk people pulled the ads when people started getting all irrationally moody about them. Had the milk people been watching so many episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond that they thought these would come across as hilarious, "relatable", and unobjectionable? Or did they count on them to be objectionable so that they could have an article about how people found them so objectionable printed in the New York Times and thus get more attention for milk?

I realize that Osama bin Laden and offensive ad campaigns are not comparable. It's not those things I'm comparing, but my response to them. It's just discouraging to keep coming across off-putting things and to repeatedly think: "The people who did this might not be unscrupulous and manipulative; they might just be really dumb." It's discouraging when profoundly stupid is the best-case scenario.

Send the Catastrophizer your requests for advice and/or rationalizations using the form conveniently provided HERE. I will publish my responses on the THE CATASTROPHIZER page.

POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough. Also, I'm not very good at copy-editing, so if something looks wrong, it was put there by accident.
8/1/2011 08:51:16 am

I agree, an offensive or pulled ad will ultimately gain more reach. People are more interested in what they aren't "supposed" to see.

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