Whats all the Linsanity about? Who else could it be but the Knicks hot shot Jeremy Lin. Spinning words What do you think when you see commercials using “Linsane” or “Linsanity” as part of their sales technique? Spirit Airlines did this recently in an attempt to take advantage of that band wagon. “Check out our Linsanely low fares” reads the ad.
Spirit has been known for capitalizing on wildly popular news stories such as the Tiger Woods scandal. Shortly after things got ugly for Woods, Sprit’s website greeted customers with an “Eye of the Tiger Sale,” which promises fares starting at $9 each way. The accompanying graphic shows an SUV crashing into a fire hydrant with a tiger peering out the driver’s window. Is this funny? It is brilliant? Is it just plain inappropriate? Perhaps all of the above?
Getting on the Charlie Sheen PR train, Spirit had a “Living the dream” sale which advertised “winning fares.”
I argue Spirit crossed the line in 2010 when they (gulp) had a web promotion based on the Gulf Coast oil spill. In the original ad, Spirit exhorted readers to “Check Out the Oil on Our Beaches.” It didn’t stop there—the ad also featured bottles of sunscreen printed in yellow and green, with the name “Best Protection.” Ugh, yes the same initials of BP.
Sure, Spirit is not the only company to use news events in their marketing, but it certainly has made controversy a recurring point in their style. Is there a point where advertising just becomes tasteless? Perhaps we need to just shrug it off?
Then it hit me, what if there is a new genre of commercial emerging? Shock advertising.
You know how there is shock humor? Comics use this humor to stimulate response, emotion, laughter, or controversy.
Marketers are constantly trying to get above the noise that is all the competition. Sometimes ad campaigns need to do something utterly creative in order to be heard or to make an effect in their market. When you think of Go Daddy, do you think computer nerds making great websites? No, you think of very attractive, sensual, and scantily clad women.
Today’s marketing is a variation of the classic sneaky salesman. They are smart, tactful, motivated, and seem harmless but under that is the premise of achieving a way to gain your business is any way possible, even if it is slightly below the belt. Like the comedian, a salesman must come close to the line and every so often cross it so that they know how far they can go without losing their audience. It would seem that Spirit Airlines might have former comedians in their marketing team—or at least aggressive salespeople.
I’m not against using ‘Linsane’ as part of an ad campaign—it’s not harmful and it does make for a news story (good for their business) but the Gulf Coast oil spill ad was just plain wrong—what comics would call a ‘groaner.’
Shock comedy works because you are in a comedy club and pretty much anything goes in that environment. Shock advertising is in a more restrictive place and so it would only work to a certain (mild) degree. The challenge is to make it newsworthy without it being pulled for an obvious level of moral compromise.
Most companies probably aren’t going to risk the negative backlash that can result from such bold moves, but the companies that do might then be able to take advantage of a payoff.
What do you think? Is this an emerging trend? Are we going to be seeing more of these questionable ads? Let us know where you fall in all of this Linsanity.