In 1972, the late comedian George Carlin released an album that contained a skit called the Seven Words you Can't Say on Television. The skit contains the seven words, still pretty much considered obscene and not printable here. Carlin was pressing the idea of free speech and caused quite a controversy.
He was arrested after performing the skit live on stage and when he performed the skit on radio it became the basis for a case that wound up in the Supreme Court. There are few topics in our society that are as divisive as obscenity; one of them arguably is race. So, in light of a recent campaign for Summer's Eve dubbed "Hail to the V" (yeah, that "V") that are being called racist and sexist by many and borderline obscene by others; I thought I'd take the opportunity to talk about racism, obscenity and advertising. Hide the children and hold on to your hats!
The ads in question were created by the Richards Group, an advertising agency based in Dallas that lists among its clients Bridgestone, Home Depot and Motel Six. There are three ads, each targeting a racial group. How do I know? Because in each ad there is a hand, ala Senor Wences and Johnny, but instead of horizontal to simulate a mouth, these hands are vertical to simulate a vagina. (OK, I know I've lost half of the readers just now -- but for the rest of you, stick with me, it gets worse.)
In an attempt to differentiate based on insights into each ethnic group, each spot suggests a slightly different rationale for using the products. The black hand explains to African American women that you spend a lot of time on the hair on your head, why neglect the hair down there while showing the drawing of a cactus. (Okay, I've lost my African American readers, let's move on.) The Hispanic hand starts off by saying "Aye, Aye, Aye" and then in a heavily accented voice mentions the "trashing the tacky leopard thong" -- need I say more? (Hasta luego Hispanic readers) The Caucasian hand starts off by welcoming viewers with a hearty "Hello from Vagina Land". (Please! Dear reader, come back next week)
As my mother would say when I just went off the deep end: "Have you lost your mind?" Okay, that's enough about the ads because we want to spend some time addressing how ads like these get produced. One look at the portfolio of the Richards Group and you realize they are a very talented agency whose work has given us a lot of pleasure and likely sold a lot of product for their various clients. So what caused them to miss by a nautical mile with this campaign?
You have to first understand there is a battle being waged in the advertising industry. It is about race, demographics and representation. But above all, it is about money.