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Diatribe: Is “Deserve To Die” Ad Campaign Offensive Or Just Stupid?


At one point in my life, I thought about a career in advertising.  To be successful in the field, one must be truly creative and innovative.  Marketing campaigns come and go and each seems to have a personality of its own.  Creative teams are always looking for a new way to generate interest in a product and consequently increase sales.  Sometimes, to draw attention to their scheme, the ideas are controversial.

Over the years, double entendre, computer imagery, loud noise, fast movement, catchy jingles, puppies, cute babies, and “sex” have all proven to be successful marketing tools.  Sometimes, the boundaries of good taste get crossed … all in the name of controversy.  But, generally speaking, an advertisement is clearly endorsing a product, a service, an event, an idea, etc.

This week, a provocative advertising campaign that declares hipsters, cat lovers and crazy old aunts “deserve to die” is popping up in major American cities, including New York, Chicago, Seattle and New Orleans.  Controversial posters are being placed on telephone booths and bus terminals but they do not say what the campaign is for!

However, the mysterious-by-design marketing stunt appears to be working.  Local television news programs in Seattle and Chicago have reported that some of the posters have been removed by confused and/or outraged residents.  Now that the posters have attracted national attention, the marketing folks behind the scenes will surely reveal their client soon.  Meanwhile, an online search might lead one to, the online presence of a lung cancer awareness and advocacy group working to raise money for lung cancer research.

While some consider the campaign to be offensive or in poor taste, it’s hard to argue that it hasn’t been effective.  In a relatively short time and in relatively few markets, the team behind this adventure has the country talking about their advertisements even though nobody knows what they’re talking about.  Until then,  posters will continue to be ripped down from bus stops and consumers will continue to be frustrated.

Copyright © 2012

From → Diatribes

  1. I voted that it is a horribly offensive ad. But then it occurred to me — this is exactly what will happen if the Affordable Healthcare Act is overturned by the Supreme Court (later today). These are just some of the folks that the GOP’s judicial branch will determine “deserve to die.” And so maybe this is is a stark reminder, and a necessary one, that because of politics, many folks will die. But who gets to decide if they deserve to or not.


  2. I gave it a Meh because if anyone really believes it’s an ad touting killing people, well then, maybe “Gullible People Deserve To Die.”


  3. Well written post that caused me to do some thinking…

    However effective it is as a marketing campaign, I still think it’s offensive because it’s insensitive and cruel, and it seems like cruel insensitivity is running rampant in our culture today. Am I overreacting? I honestly don’t think so… Someone who has been told they have a terminal illness, should NOT have to see these “deserve to die” signs that could needlessly add to their already terrible burden of fear and heartbreak… and for no better reason than someone else making more money. There are just better ways to create effective marketing, without selling your soul to do it.


    • I’m not easily offended when it comes to advertising. I’m not a afraid of nudity or profanity or even bloody gore when there’s a product to sell but what really puts me off is political advertising. Some advertisements for political candidates are absolutely disgusting.


      • Agree with you that most political ads are absolutely disgusting, because they are so often nothing more than ugly attacks on opponents using distortion and outright lies.

        I think you’ve read my blog enough to know that I’m also not easily offended, and least of all by nudity or profanity. I’m somewhat bothered by bloody gore (with no humor to redeem it) but I’m not bothered from being grossed out by it, but more by the way that I think it’s constant consumption by teens in slasher movies, makes them more likely to be numb to the horror of real violence in real life.


  4. It’s clearly not a hate-mongering poster, so I think it’s quite alright. Like what a person commented above, it’s definitely not trying to get people to kill people… it’s just eye-catching.

    I think there are far more offensive campaigns out there, like the ones with stupid jingles that make you feel like a total moron.


  5. I don’t like it. It might be effective, but no.


  6. Nadine permalink

    Not offended. I have stage IV breast cancer. Only 2% of monies raised by big pink go to funding research in metastatic breast cancer even though 90% of breast cancer deaths are atributible to metastatic disease. Instead of all the pretty pink crap devoted to education & early detection, I wish that the organizations that claim to represent breast cancer survivors et al, would get radical and get angry and get offensive.


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