It’s a bloomin’ disaster

The festive season. A time for red coffee cups, glittery window displays and emotional tales about men living on the moon. Also, let’s not forget the triumphant annual return of Michael Bublé. For marketers, Christmas is a time to really show off. So much so, that for some companies, namely John Lewis and Sainsbury’s, their Christmas ad release feels more like a Hollywood premiere than an attempt to sell tinsel, turkey and crackers.  

By Laura England

While some adverts, like Coca Cola's iconic Holiday’s are Coming ad, leave us with an instant feeling of festive excitement, there are a few Christmas ads leaving us feeling a little less comfortable. 

its-a-bloomin-disaster
Tangled Christmas lights are the
least of Bloomingdale's problems
The first, but probably not the last, of this year’s controversies falls in the hands of luxury department store, Bloomingdales. The ad, which appeared in the department store’s Christmas catalogue, depicts a male model looking at a female model with the charming slogan, “spike your best friend’s eggnog when they’re not looking.” 

Subtle, I know. 

Unsurprisingly, I’m not the only one struggling to make a connection between sexual offences and the festive season. Since its release, the ad has been heavily criticised by the press and social media for appearing to advocate a culture of rape. Admittedly, Bloomingdale's was quick to apologise, but that doesn’t answer the question, who gave this advert the go ahead?  

Anyone with experience of having worked on a marketing, PR or branding project will understand that the process between brainstorming and the final outcome is complicated. It’s incredibly unlikely that such a blatant, inappropriate joke, could’ve slipped through the nets of approval, especially for a large enterprise like Bloomingdale's. This has left us thinking, perhaps there was a little bit of strategy involved in this "mistake" than they would have us believe.

Since its release, Bloomingdale's has held its place in Twitter’s trending hashtags and while it may be for all the wrong reasons, the name is still there. No doubt, the store's web traffic will have increased too. But, will this really do any detrimental damage to the brand in the long run? 
We would like to hear what you think. Could this really have been a business mistake, or a desperate attempt to capture some media attention? 

Either way, it’s certainly left a bitter taste in our mouths. And it’s not the eggnog.

PS: If you’re struggling to see why spiking your friend’s drink is wrong, check out this video from the Thames Valley Police explaining sexual consent – what it means and how to get it – using a very British comparison. This really was a brilliant PR idea! 

Laura England

Stone Junction is a cool technical PR agency based in Stafford. We work for all sorts of businesses, with a particular focus on technology, technical and engineering companies. We like being sent cake and biscuits by clients, journalists and prospects.

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