Advertising is not art. And nothing demonstrates this better than the respective attitudes to potential controversy. Artists have no problem confronting society's prejudices, hence for example, the book 'The Shock Of The New'.
Adland? Well yes, occasionally, marketing communications stir ‘Outraged of Tunbridge Wells’ into penning a furious missive to the Daily Mail; but generally, advertising is mainstream, conservative and inoffensive. The few exceptions merely highlight the rule.
Even in the educated, consumer, capitalist West, certain subjects have remained taboo for advertisers. One classic being: the period.
SCA-owned brand Bodyform led the way in portraying the ultimate time-of-the-month myth. All the possible symptoms of menstruation were subsumed in female action-fantasy films played against a raunchy guitar track. As for the product demo bit, the featured liquid was, of course, blue.
Harmless. Maybe. Silly and patronising. Perhaps. SCA’s commercials were certainly no education for pre-pubescent males and females in the real world of the latter’s adult biology.
Hence one young man’s Facebook rant: "As a child I watched your advertisements...how at this wonderful time of the month the female gets to enjoy so many things; I felt a little jealous...bike riding, roller-coasters, dancing, parachuting!!
"Then I got a girlfriend, and couldn't wait for this joyous adventurous time of the month...you lied!! There was no joy, no extreme sports...as my lady changed from the loving, gentle, normal skin-coloured lady to the little girl from ‘The Exorcist’ with added venom and extra 360-degree head spin."
SCA responded with a filmed faux-interview admitting their guilt and blaming the prudishness of 1980s focus groups.
Was the original rant real? Does it matter? The YouTube film is by turns, honest, sarcastic, coarse and above all, dead funny. Congratulations to SCA and a campaign that rightly paid for itself thousands of times over in PR and social media coverage.
Simon S Kershaw is a creative consultant and a former creative director at Craik Jones