This weeks Idea: Caution. This blog post contains content viewers may find offensive.

with Neil Godin

In my relentless search for examples of dangerous marketing, I have just discovered something that is sure to disgust some of our readers – particularly if you happen to be of the Catholic persuasion. If that’s you please don’t look at the photo below, as you are (almost) certain to find it offensive – unless (of course) you enjoy the creative humor in it. (Don’t look!)

For the rest of us, here is a brilliant example of advertising that rivets our attention, and burns the Federici brand of ice cream (“immaculately conceived”) forever into the grey matter of our minds. Brilliant. 

The British Advertising Standards Committee didn’t agree 

Shortly after this ad (the brainchild of Contrast Creative in Manchester) appeared in publications across the country, The British Advertising Standards Committee banned it on the grounds that it would offend people – particularly Catholics (a pretty good bet). But. By then, the horse was out of the barn (er, the baby was out of the crib?) and of course the ad went viral via email and every social media platform out there – while news of the ban spread like wildfire through the media – doing infinitely more for the brand than the paid campaign could ever accomplish.

Is the ad genuinely offensive?

Question: Is the ad genuinely offensive? Or is it a lighthearted way to hitchhike on a very public event, in a humorous way (the ads ran just before a visit to London by Pope Benedict)? Here’s an acid test: One major magazine that ran the ad received “a few” complaints. Another major magazine reported receiving no complaints at all – indicating that Catholics can tolerate a little humor related to their belief system. And I think that’s healthy and good.

Immaculately Conceived Ice Cream Ad

Immaculately Conceived Ice Cream Ad

Your call to action:

When I’m doing turnaround marketing work with companies in trouble, we spend hours brainstorming creative ways to get attention – in order to build traffic and sales – right now – usually using low cost guerrilla marketing ideas instead of paid advertising. This example of brilliant creativity inspires me to stoke up the brainstorming I do with my “regular” marketing and sales coaching clients as well – those that aren’t in crisis.  And I pray that it does the same for you? See you next week.

Ps – Controversy aside, look closely at the quality of this ad – its composition, lighting, expression, setting. This is an exquisite piece of work.




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  1. I find Catholics have a great sense of humour. I adapted one of their fundraisers for my organization because it was so hilarious. It has become one of my top fundraisers. I get comments like: “you must have fun thinking this up!” or a “simple “hilarious” written on the buck sheet.

  2. Susi Buchin says:

    Offense given? Nun taken…

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