When Advertising and Social Issues Collide!

by Latoya Peterson

Reader Omer sent along an interesting post from Towleroad, which discusses some very provocative images being used by Hanes to promote their new tagless underwear line in India. Here is one of the images:

Other (NSFW) images and analysis after the jump.

Towleroad writes:

With a little digging I was able to find two other ads in the campaign, via Trendhunter. They write: “In Fagg*t, you see same-sex kissing, debauchery, toys, bottles of wine and references to beauty: lipstick, nail polish and makeup. In Nigg*r, you see drugs, guns, jail cells, low-life jobs like cleaning toilets, and text about being HIV positive. In Pak! (a demeaning name for people from Pakistan), you see tanks, bullets, bombs and pigs (an anti-Islamic reference).”

Here are the other two images:

Now, I am of two minds on this one.

I think the images are interesting and provocative, particularly when compared to the small man in each of the pictures struggling under the weight of the stereotype. Under the right circumstances, this would be a great public service announcement.

However, adding the Hanes logo and promotion for the product, the whole image is skewed. I am wondering if it is ever appropriate for a large corporation to try to promote their products with a social justice angle. It just seems a bit disingenuous to make a huge political message, and then throw in a push to buy their product. It’s kind of like the backlash that came out of the Dove Onslaught video – the video on its own is fine, but when you look at the parent company and the messaging from its co-brands, like Axe, the message starts getting very murky.

In addition, can Hanes handle that kind of branding? Looking at the images and then at the product, I felt that the message in the ad overpowered the product almost completely. Next to this striking message about labels in society, the fact that the ad is selling underwear is kind of an afterthought.

Your thoughts?