swearing in marketing

A poster on the Tube has elicited a vitriolic tirade of profanity-filled abuse from one commentator in The Drum (a news website for marketers). Was the poster worthy of such criticism, or was the author just looking to get noticed? Well, you can decide. There is a picture of it in the article we are describing, which you can see by clicking here.

Now, in fairness to the sweary scribbler whose rant we are looking at today, he is not the first person to complain about the ad. Here is Sarah Hardcastle, writing about the Trivago ad in Campaign: “the British public deserves better than a bored model with a big search bar.”

In fact, articles criticising the Trivago poster all follow roughly the same line of reasoning: the poster is boring and uncreative. Knowing that, is it right of us to complain about swearing in the latest article on this topic, when without the eye-catching expletives it would simply have been another ‘me-too’ piece?

Yes. It is.

Here are three reasons why the article deserves criticism:

1. Passion.

Oh the passion! The author seems to want to convey to us that he is apoplectic with rage over a poster advertising a travel website; his fury cannot be contained and the only way he can express it is through almost endless repetition of the same four-letter word. It seems he can no longer access the vocabulary expected of a specialist commentator – swearing is his only option.

The trouble with passion of this magnitude is, if you expend it on a trivial subject, what do you do when a more serious point needs to be made? If seeing a woman in a poster as a bit boring makes your head explode, how can you possibly express a greater depth of feeling when confronted with a truly serious issue?

2. Quality (lack thereof).

We chastise youngsters who swear by pointing out to them that an expletive is often just a substitute for an adjective that cannot be recalled. Swearing too often, we tell them, comes across as indicating a paucity of vocabulary and a lack of ideas.

After all, if you really want to be insulting, the glorious English language contains a wealth of expressions designed for just such a purpose. A carefully crafted profanity-free barb can be far more withering than any four-letter tirade.

3. Emphasis

The author wants to get across that the Trivago poster is boring. Doing so takes precisely five words and does not make for a particularly click-worthy article. So, to give it some extra oomph, the article has been padded out with specific points about the team members responsible for the poster. In order to make each one stand out, emphasis has been added in the form of an appended f-word…   33 times in a row!

The problem with this approach is that by emphasising everything, the author in fact fails to emphasise anything at all.

Rather than reflect which members of the team should shoulder the most responsibility, the article shouts some kind of Marxist message that all responsibility is shared equally. The only person who seems singled out for special attention is the unfortunate tea server, who, we are told, gave not just a **** (like everyone else) but instead failed to give even a flying ****!

If you want high quality content that uses language appropriate for your audience and reflects well on your business, contact us. We will only swear if you ask us to and in that case we will do it effectively and imaginatively. We will not append the f-word to 33 sentences in a row…   it is just not our ****ing style.