Kim Penstone

When good ads turn bad

2005-01-05 09:33

I'm not easily offended by advertising. When others are wide-eyed with shock, crossing themselves discreetly and shaking their heads in despair at yet another outrageous ad that has snuck past the client onto our small screens, I'm the one sniggering quietly in the background, hand over mouth to hide my growing grin from the more 'sensible' members of society.

If I were judge, jury and executioner, Nando's would still be flighting its infamous "Guide Dog" ad, and Sony Playstation posters encouraging men to "beat their wives" would still litter the streets.

Some call it a sick sense of humour, others seem to believe that I'm trapped inside the body of a morally-impaired twelve year-old boy.

I prefer to think of it as a refined palate - being exposed to more advertising than the average Joe, I'm pretty much impervious to shock and infinitely grateful to come across anything that breaks through the proverbial clutter in an intelligent and entertaining manner.

Huge dose of cynicism

I also like to think that, despite my fanatical interest in the communications environment, I take advertising from whence it comes, with a healthy pinch of salt and a huge dose of cynicism.

And I prefer to think of my sense of humour as twisted...

But I have to admit to crossing the floor last week, after stumbling across an ad that had even me open mouthed in disbelief.

I was glued to the goggle box, surfing between various news channels on DStv, watching in horror as the tsunamis in South East Asia swept through cities and villages, destroying houses and cars and lives with equal impunity.

Cut to ad break, where drawings of a house, a car and a person in beach sand are wiped out by a wave (albeit a gentle, benign wave), "because you never know what might happen".

It's an ad for Outsurance, and while my description may not be entirely accurate (I was a little too horrified to start taking notes), it's enough to give you the general idea.


I'm fairly convinced I've never used the word "gobsmacked" before, but I can't think of anything else (in polite speak) that suffices to describe the reaction of everyone in the room.

Of course, I'm sure Outsurance didn't produce the ad specifically to tie in with the tsunami disaster (no one can be that insensitive!).

I'm also fairly convinced that no one at the company deliberately placed the ad (knowing its content) slap bang in the middle of the news about the disaster.

At least that's what I'd like to think.

I'd also like to think, however, that the advertising and marketing world has some sensitivity, some lines that it won't cross to win an award or sell an extra can of beans (or, in this case, one more insurance policy).

Sometimes, though, I can't help wondering...

Send Kim your thoughts on this column.

  • Kim Penstone is pleased to report no more sightings of this particular Outsurance campaign. She hopes that some foresighted member of the marketing team has pulled it off our screens.

  • To read more articles on marketing, media and advertising, go to

  • Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.


    Marketing Archie

    2019-05-22 20:27

    Marketing Archie

    2019-05-22 20:27

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