We have a good friend who happens to be a prominent heart doctor who loves to sent us European TV ads. Why does he love these ads so much? Because Europeans run ads that are funny and brilliant and often quite effective in appealing to their target audience. They represent interesting and memorable work. The catch is, they are also very edgy in many cases.

These edgy ads would cause the American conservatives to freak out and whip the media into a frenzy. The FCC would ban the ads and fine the advertisers and everyone would make a huge deal out of it. The Supreme Court is still in the process of making a decision on the Janet Jackson “Wardrobe Malfunction.”

So, since we can’t run ads in the U.S. that contain questionable language or show any restricted part of the human anatomy, we rely on the British or the Dutch to produce the type of ads that many U.S. firms would love to make. Virtually no American company would take the chance and expose themselves to the threat from Big Brother, the FCC.

Due to the threat of censorship, fines, legal issues, complaints, and media attention, we argue that no American company wants to do edgy ads. In fact, just the concept of discussing the topic might cause American companies to shy away from an agency.
Let’s throw the big question out to the Cult Marketing blog readers for discussion: If Cult posted interesting, yet edgy, Euro ads on this site, do you think it would it diminish our agency’s ability to attract or retain national clients? Thoughts are welcome.

2 replies
  1. Devin Meister
    Devin Meister says:

    No. At least not the type of clients you want to work with anyway. It won’t shrink the pool of available clients; just reveal the ones that were never a good fit for your agency anyway.
    But I have a couple of issues. First, why the focus on “edgy ads?” Ads are just one medium and probably not as effective in the US (with 2000+ cable channels) as in Europe with more limited broadcast opportunities.
    Second just because clients might not accept edgy ads doesn’t mean they won’t accept edgy work. You can do/show edgy work in the US. Adage has shown some pretty extreme stuff by US standards (see the Diesel Anniversary) with no apparent backlash. Then there’s the whole Guru campaign http://guruenergy.com/#/us/drinks.php
    Hit the right target with the right message and you won’t offend. The problems start when you hit (or expose) the wrong targets. The risk of hitting the wrong target with broadcast is higher.

  2. Scott Scanlon
    Scott Scanlon says:

    Devin is right on. Maybe the question isn’t ‘edgy’ but effective. I read your copy on your site and it is tremendously effective… as long as what you posted had the same results then do it.

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