Calling time on misjudged comms.

One hour blog post let’s go…

After seeing the reaction to BT’s latest attempt to reach out to publicans Phil, Natalie and Naomi discussed how pushing the boundaries went too far this time.

The ambition to create a provocative communication piece is all very well, but the execution in this scenario was perhaps a bit too close to the line. The question this poses is how do we avoid falling into the same pitfalls? How can companies walk the wire of controversy without the risk of causing insult, which would be to the detriment of the brand.

BT Sport, on this occasion might have unwittingly fallen into this trap. The team who wrote the DM piece, probably from the unquestionable comfort of their agency sofas, have lost a little empathy for the publican who is already struggling to make ends meet or perhaps has made the conscious choice not to show sports, a reflection of the understanding of their audience and what their users actually want.

When used effectively, personas can help bypass this issue. They allow us to keep people at the centre of an idea and consequently the final output is always going to allow us to talk to the audience in a relevant and meaningful manner. Crucially, a persona created in this situation would have looked into the current context of the industry, revealing the struggle pubs have felt since the financial crisis. The persona would have been stacked with behavioural truths about the stresses and strains that these publicans are under and what motivates them to offer a particular pub experience.

Controversy and playing up to a particular audience is certainly a popular choice of card in the ad man’s deck. When played correctly you can create a serious social buzz. However, for a concept to be even considered for positive acclaim, it should be fundamentally underpinned by being culturally sensitive.

The final piece needs to be opinionated whilst not ostracizing audiences in its delivery. Pushing people into an uncomfortable space is not always a bad thing, we just need to remember not to leave them there.

Times up!