CS Sealey

Sydney-based sub-editor, writer and author

Contradictory advertising

I’m not sure about you but I’m very conflicted about adverts for alcohol. In Australia, we have fairly entertaining and often amusing adverts on television promoting this beer or that, but we also have a great amount of adverts concerning the control of alcohol and the consequences of having too much of it.

Despite not being a drinker myself, I have had my fair share of bad drinking experiences—mine being entirely passive ones, so I remember them with much greater clarity than the people I was with at the time! I can wholeheartedly understand the government’s desire to reach young people and curb their apparent need to binge drink in whatever way they can… even if that means decking out an entire bus with anti-binge-drinking posters. A little while ago, you couldn’t get in a bus without seeing a ‘What are you doing to yourself?’ ad, accompanied by a depressing scene involving a young woman lying sprawled on the pavement or a young man looking very sorry for himself, being cuffed by a police officer.

I thought these ads would have been quite successful and they might have been had it not been for the shortsightedness of the people who physically put the ads in the buses.

There was this one instance several years ago when I got on a bus, sat down and looked up at the ads (because that’s what you do when you’ve left your book at home). Plastered down the lefthand side of the bus interior were these ‘What are you doing to yourself?’ ads. There were probably about five different ones. After reading them all, I turned my head and looked up at the righthand side of the bus, expecting to see another five of them. However, to my surprise and dismay, what do you think I saw?

Yep, beer ads.

This is an example of contradictory advertising, not two conflicting ideas within the same ad, but a case of utter inappropriate and inconsiderate thinking on the part of the sign plasterers, if that’s what they’re called. I mean, what was running through their heads when they looked up and saw the binge drinking ads? ‘Yeah, this is a good bus to put five beer ads in.’

Perhaps it was a test. Put a dozen people in the bus and question them afterwards to see whether they’d like to have a beer or give abstinence a try! Mmm, well done, guys. Very smart. If you want to enlighten people about the evils of binge drinking, you don’t advertise for alcohol right next to it, especially when those alcohol ads are funny and more interesting to look at.

Imagine if I walked into a specialist heart clinic and there were ads all around the walls for cigarettes or extremely fatty foods? Or imagine if my dentist was sponsored by Coca-Cola or Cadbury?

Let’s contrast this beer example with something very intelligent. In most sexual health clinics, you will see advertisements for condoms and oral contraceptives. This makes perfect sense and promotes a healthy lifestyle as well as encouraging visitors to attempt a product that ensures they need not come so often to the clinic and subject themselves to sometimes several tests at a time (that often involve tubes going places tubes should never go) and get a massive bill at the end of it all.

I wonder whether advertisers have any say about the content which surrounds their own ads. Probably not, judging by the beer example…

Do you have any examples of contradictory advertising? I’d be very interested to see and hear about some more.

CS SealeyArchiveContact