I came across an interesting article on Advertising Age called “Skittles and McDonald’s Pull ‘Upsetting’ Ads–Was It the Right Call?”. I have attached the link at the article if you are interested in reading it, but essentially, it was about how Skittles and McDonald’s created advertisements for YouTube and TV but then removed them after negative reactions began to flood social media. In this post, I would like to focus on the Skittles commercial because the removal of that ad seemed to strike a chord with me. I thought I would lend my thoughts on why that is. Click here to watch the commercial if you haven’t seen it yet.
The advertisement was created for YouTube and featured an elderly mother (Mac’s mother in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) with her adult son. The two are sitting on a couch and connected by an umbilical cord. The dialogue between the two discuss how the son is able to taste the Skittles flavors whenever his mother eats them. Odd. I know. It was an awkward 32 seconds; however, shouldn’t this be a good thing? From what I have learned about advertising so far is that different is good. Commercials that are risky and different stay in our memories longer. This video wasn’t’ offensive or obscene. OK, it made some viewers a little uncomfortable for 32 seconds, so what? After pulling the ad from YouTube a statement was released by the Skittles senior director of confections: “We made this video for every mom who likes gross jokes, and we took it down for every mom who doesn’t. We hope all moms enjoyed a Happy Mother’s Day.” Alright Skittles, you can’t please everyone. You stated the ad was made for “every mom who likes gross jokes,” so why are you worrying about how the other moms feel? Those other moms are probably the kind who don’t even let their kids eat Skittles anyway, so who cares what they think. I think the big mistake that Skittles made here was listening too much to social media, and this is what the end of the article briefly discusses. Sure, social media is an amazing tool for marketers and big companies to use to stay in touch with their consumers. But just like celebrities, you can’t pay too much attention because you are always going to get some haters who criticize what you do. Maybe I’m getting a little too deep here, but to me advertising is form of art. Good art is makes people think and is subjective, which means not everyone is going to feel the same way about what they see. It’s no different with a good advertisement. Honestly, if you think about it that way, the Skittles ad was a great advertisement because watching it evoked a feeling and that feeling was different depending on who you talked to. It also created conversation, people reacted to it. How often do people take time to actually react to a YouTube ad they see? (It could be more often than I think, I honestly don’t know. Let’s just say it’s not.) My point is that as an artist you have a responsibility to defend your work. That is what Skittles should have done for their ad. Especially because Skittles has had a history of bizarre advertisements. (Anyone remember the Skittles girl, when her face was completely made of Skittles? It was strange.) This ad falls completely in line with the image that their past advertisments have created and the style their creative team has chosen to use. So I’m a little disappointed with you Skittles company, obviously I am going to continue buying your candy but if you want to be weird, be weird and embrace it! I guarantee one awkward 32 second ad is not going to dissuade a mother from letting her kids buy a pack of your candy, let alone jeopardize your entire company image.