Since I’m too swamped to post right now, dealing with flamethrowing yahoos missing the point of my original post altogether and now reacting to the New York Times article, I’ll simply post my verbatim comments (sent with a high degree of reticence to the NYT reporter’s request) and deconstruct the nuances when I can breathe a bit. So here ya go: “Just the facts, ma’am…”
NYT: What did you ask, or want, Target to do?
Seeing the AdRants post, I questioned the appropriateness of this ad, and phoned them for some form of context, leaving a message w/all my contact info on their machine.
Since I’m their ‘target market,’ I was seeking an explanation, period. (being in advertising, it was baffling to think this concept cleared multiple layers of approval without seeing the risk of it being misconstrued)
The Target billboard went up in an environment created by many other ads that are MUCH worse. On the one hand, Target is not responsible for “Future Hooters” or “Axe Bomchickawawa role models”—but Target’s marketing department has to know (or be made aware) that whatever they do, say, or display comes into this environment made toxic by the torrent of other messages. So their responsibility is, at least do no harm…the Hippocratic oath if they’re going to purport being a ‘family’ store. While the billboard is not as bad as other ads, is that the standard Target should aim for?
Given their family audience and Disney demographics, could they raise the bar instead of adding to the already overwhelming focus of ads aimed to reach girls by focusing on their sexuality?
The power and impact of the media to trigger, persuade, and alter human beings’ worldviews is profound…And WITH that power comes an inherent responsibility for the messages being put out there. That’s all I’m saying…
We must live with what we create as a society. Targeting crotches with a bullseye is not the message we should be putting out there…it’s really that simple.
At a minimum, I wanted Target to explain their thinking behind that ad, and then if they realized (as I think they should) that it is questionable, replace it with something more positive.
I have no wish to target Target…if you read through our blog, you’ll see I am concerned about far more substantive issues (and far worse ad campaigns).
NYT: What is your reaction to their note in response to your inquiry and to their apparent policy of not working with bloggers?
ANY customer deserves a response to a concern, so I found this to be a short-sighted, ill-conceived judgment call.
I did not approach Target as ‘media’ but as a mom/shopper, heading up a nonprofit blog. I found their dismissal of citizen journalism and Web 2.0 media naive, arrogant, and inappropriate, especially since I was trying to give them the benefit of the doubt, being a loyal customer.
While I understand they don’t have time to respond to every ‘blogger in their jammies with a voice’ Google analytics revealed they had visited my blog, and therefore KNEW that we examine issues from many perspectives, applying critical thinking skills to media with the goal of positive change.
In fact, I assumed (incorrectly) that they’d not only respond, but perhaps think hard about HOW they would respond with circumspect analysis of their corporate policy and voice, to open a conversation about overall responsibility in terms of media messages being put out there.
Asking how that billboard fits as part of an entire corp. ad campaign is a richer question, which is what I was after with the phone call to begin with…
So yes, in short, I was amazed at the lack of insight there, for they’d miss out on an opportunity for dialogue. The lack of a link, an e-mail, or any response other than dissing the inquiry is a customer service issue, on top of the sexualization elements in question.
NYT: Do you shop at Target? Did this experience with their PR people change your opinion of the company?
I not only shop at Target we gave out $5 Target gift cards in lieu of bday ‘goodie bags’ because it’s just down the street and a favorite of tweens!
I do believe corporations can and should learn from their mistakes, and I’d be happy to shop there in the future if they’ve learned from this to be more open and conscious about their advertising messages and use critical thinking skills in terms of what they’re putting out there.
And though I did NOT write, send in a complaint note, or use ANY form of social media advocacy, it has absolutely altered my view of the company forevermore….In fact, I find it odd that both our brands have been hammered out of distortions/misinformation.
It’s been an incredible time sink, and learning experience.
Up Next: Deconstructing media messages, soundbites/skewed framing, brand erosion, larger objectification global dialog, and industry fallout from different points of view in the blogosphere…I’ll be attending this Harvard Business session called YouTube is Forever, on handling situations like this when conversations get hijacked from their original context.
As I wrote to the NYT reporter, Michael Barbano at the onset:
“Objectification is a worthy discussion, but NOT this one ad alone, by ANY stretch of the imagination. The banter on this to date has been misinformed minutiae, like one of those bad games of ‘telephone’ as a kid where the message keeps getting further tweaked out of context to become ‘parenting crazies over-reacting’ in a diluted dialog of “one-ad” focus.”
“The larger issue of normalizing objectification via mass market retail and Web 2.0 being dissed is being skewed into a thumbs up/thumbs down UGC opinion-style vote for ‘snowangel vs. spreadeagle’ which trivializes the entire conversation.”
Personally, I hope we can elevate the dialog to its original objectification context, or discuss new media’s impact on business, and Web 2.0 …Preferably BOTH…as long as we raise the bar on the civility and the facts.
P.S. Special thanks to S.Y. advisor John Kelly for his humor, wisdom and support during this media mania…
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