As far as marketing disasters go, they don’t come much worse than this. Channel 4 has pulled a brand building campaign based around its dating show Naked Attraction.
The posters on buses were labelled “creepy”. It was even claimed they could have put passengers at risk of sexual assault.
Some may believe there was no actual risk to individuals from the advert, even if they found it highly distasteful or offensive. But on an issue as serious as sexual assault, concerns cannot simply be dismissed.
But while a TV or newspaper campaign can be pulled instantly, pulling posters off the sides of buses is not so simple. Some could potentially remain on display for weeks.
This is a PR disaster for Channel 4 at a time when it is trying to win friends. The channel is fighting a campaign against the government’s apparent desire to privatise it.
The arguments made by some independent production companies and those who still see the remnants of the old Channel 4 magic are often heartfelt.
The government insists it doesn’t want to harm the indies and believes Channel 4 could flourish under a new ownership structure.
But the debate seems to have been washing over the viewing public who, frankly, do not seem that bothered. Number 10 will be well aware of this.
A marketing campaign which manages to make people worry they could be at risk of sexual assault sounds like a plot straight out of W1A or The Thick of It. How on earth did nobody see this one “incoming”?
To Channel 4’s credit they acted immediately once the concern became obvious.
But a self-inflicted disaster like this will not exactly create goodwill. Worse it could upset some who may be the channel’s natural supporters.
When in a hole, stop digging. Channel 4 must be hoping that its fast action at least prevented more damage.
PICTURED: Channel 4 programme promotion campaign on a London bus. COPYRIGHT: Tracy King.