Advertising giant Leo Burnett once wrote, quote, "When you reach for the stars you may not quite get one, but you won't come up with a handful of mud either." Unquote.
He might be right. But Mr. Burnett died in 1971. And since then, more and more advertisers seem to be deliberately reaching for the mud.
The most recent case in point is Mountain Dew, the soda pop that looks and tastes like the sweat of someone who ate only lemons while exposing himself to a nearly lethal dose of nuclear radiation.
The company asked the provocative rapper Tyler the Creator to make a series of commercials in his irreverent style. Fittingly, given the flavour of the drink, it's in alarmingly poor taste. Here's what the opening sounds like:That's the set-up: a woman on crutches who's clearly been beaten up has to pick her assailant out of a line-up. All the suspects are black. Except for a goat, who's the one hissing threatening remarks.
It's been called everything from racist to misogynistic to utterly unfunny to all of the above. And Mountain Dew agrees, belatedly -- yesterday it tweeted that it had removed the ad from all its channels, and apologized, adding the hashtag "#fail".
Also yesterday, GM pulled an ad for its Chevrolet Trax SUV from markets all over the world. The ad had been called racist because its soundtrack featured a remix of a 1938 song that features this verse:Yes, you did hear the lyrics "in the land of Fu Manchu" and "ching, ching, chop suey". On Monday, a GM spokesperson told Bloomberg, "Our intent was not to offend anyone and we're deeply sorry if anyone was offended."
A week ago, Hyundai Europe apologized for an ad in which a man tries to commit suicide in a Hyundai by taping up the exhaust pipe. But the car's emissions are so clean, that the man doesn't die.
And just over a month ago, Ford Motor Company apologized for a print ad for a hatchback called the Figo, available only in India. It depicted Silvio Berlusconi at the wheel, three gagged-and-bound women in the trunk, and the tagline, "Leave your worries behind with Figo's extra-large boot."
It's possible that the people who thought up, created, or approved these ads were reaching for the stars. But they clearly wound up with handfuls of mud. Or something that looks like mud, but smells worse.