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Fresh Eyes

Ads Gone Too Far?

By Imani Edison, Editorial Intern

Over the past few years more and more insensitive advertisements have been surfacing. Although society often overlooks these ads as just a clever way to sell products, it seems that companies target specific audiences disregarding how offensive the ad may be towards a certain race, gender or religion. It makes me wonder what the diversity is of their marketing teams. And that many companies have underlying biases about society at-large. Here are just some of the controversial ads floating around in the media today:

Burger King ‘Back Got Back’ Commercial 2009: Burger King decided to use the popular kids’ icon SpongeBob Sqaurepants to be the face of its ad to promote the new BK Kids Meal. In addition to that, the commercial featured provocative women gyrating to the 1992 Sir Mix-A-Lot “Baby Got Back” tune with the king rapping lyrics like “I like square butts and I cannot lie” and “Sponge Bob, I wanna get witch-ya, ‘cuz you’re making me rich-ah”. Although the product is targeted toward younger children, the company combined sex with innocence which is not a good mix.


‘We Speak English” Ad 2010:  Tim James was running for the position of Alabama governor when he proclaimed that if elected he would  put the drivers license exam in English only. He also states “This is Alabama; we speak English. If you want to live here, learn it.” First of all, America is the world’s most famous “melting pot.” It is home to all kinds of races and nationalities; having said that, we do not lack diversity. So for someone trying to represent a state that is a part of our diverse country to say something like that is blatantly insensitive.

“Re-civilized” NIVEA FOR MEN 2011: This ad is of a low cut, groomed black male holding a head of his former self with an Afro and beard about to toss it across a football stadium as seen in the picture below.The slogan for this ad is “Re-civilize Yourself.” It is symbolizing an African-American male who has to have a clean, low cut and minimal facial hair to be considered “civilized.”  The symbolism: A stripping away the African-American culture in order to fit in with the ideal American look for black males.


Adidas JS Roundhouse Mids ‘Slave’ Shackle Trainers 2012: The popular shoe brand Adidas stooped to a new low with its new shoe. These are regular Adidas sneakers but with shackles at the top to strap on to your leg as shown in the picture.The slogan for the product is: “Got a sneaker game so hot you lock your kicks to your ankles.” Some may argue that this just a clever gimmick for people to buy the shoes but this product is obviously slurring African Americans. Not to mention they even put slave in the product name. These shoes caused enough a stir that the company immediately stalled their promotion and release.


What are your thoughts on these marketing tactics?

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