Provocative ad backfires spectacularly on retail giant

Andrew McDonald

5/23/20232 min read

Admittedly, I don’t know Bloomingdale’s ad creation and control processes. Maybe this was the brainchild of one person. From start to finish.

Maybe multiple people saw it and thought it was a good idea.

You have to imagine they started with a great marketing principal. Provocation works well. We looked at how Tulipán did this in a previous blog post. But that Bloomingdale's went far too far. There is a difference between provocative and offensive.

It would be wrong to speculate further without more information.

What’s more important is it was a massive fail. No doubt costing the company sales at the key retail time of year, Christmas.

And what we need to do is look at how you can avoid a similar disaster with your sports e-commerce store marketing.

After all, if a giant like Bloomingdale’s can foul up so spectacularly, so can anyone.

My advice depends on whether you’re creating your ads yourself. Or working with other people.

If you’re working alone, you should take breaks at different points of the ad generation process. Come up with your ideas. Walk away. Do something which takes your mind fully off your project.

Then come back to it. And look at the ideas through fresh eyes. Decide on which idea you want to use. Go away. Take another break. And so on through the whole generation phase.

Do the same at the end when your ad is created.

The problem with sitting down to write your ad all in one go is your brain has no time to process things. Taking regular breaks helps do this. Making it easier to spot mistakes.

If you’re working with someone else or a team, collaborate. Don’t have somebody go away, do the whole process, then present you with the finished ad. By the time they do that, you might be under pressure to launch. Which will distort your impression as you’re watching the clock.

For example, your copywriter should send you concepts at various points of the generation process. So should your graphic designer and anyone else working on the project. You should also get your team to share with each other. This increases the chances of spotting things before they get crazy.

Ad generation is a creative process. Sometimes creativity can lead to weird ideas. Which is why doing the above helps.

Not so much that you kill any creation. You shouldn't be micromanaging. But enough to stop things getting seriously weird or, in the case of the above ad, creepy before it’s too late.

A golden rule to end with. Be provocative in your ads. But never try to be so clever you come off as deeply offensive. Bloomingdale’s ad should provide ample warning.