I have always respected the creative use of humor in advertising. It is what makes ad messages memorable while promoting a company's products or services in a positive light. Over the course of my career of selling advertising, I have seen both the best and worst of what has been created by advertisers. But, the other day, I received an e-mail from Spirit Airlines that, I feel, ranks among the worst examples of humor gone astray.
The email was promoting Spirit's "Weiner Sale" and included the headline, "Don't Lie, Size Does Matter." This was a clear reference to the recent news about the online activities conducted by Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York. I think this message went too far, and so, I sent the following email to Ben Baldanza, Spirit's CEO:
I am writing to you today to express my disgust at the promotional email I received from you recently. Headlined "the weiner sale" and with the opening line of the text reading "Don't lie...size does matter!" this is a clear reference to the latest news involving US Representative Anthony Weiner of New York. Not only is the reference inappropriate, it is not even humorous. Whatever the motivation behind Mr. Weiner's behavior, it is not appropriate for a corporation to use one person's character flaw as the basis for an advertising campaign. And, despite the fact that the ad had a picture of a hot dog, everyone who receives the news knows exactly what link your message was trying to make. I think this irresponsible judgment on the part of the person or persons responsible for it, as well as the advertising or marketing agency that created it should be addressed. I, for one, will consider the newly diminished impression I have of your company the next time I am purchasing airline tickets. I am not a prude, and I enjoy humor when it is used creatively and appropriately in advertising messages. This promotion failed to do that. A word from you to those responsible for the use of this juvenile humor will, hopefully, prevent such misguided messages from being sent again.
Of course, I have not, nor do I expect to receive a reply to this, but if I do, I will post it here. Advertisers and their messages can and should be better. Being funny is fine; being funny at the expense of someone's character and behavior is not. Yes, Weiner is a public figure, but does that entitle companies to use his failings as the basis for their advertising campaigns? What do you think?