Supermarket giant Woolworths lit up social media yesterday afternoon for its Anzac Day campaign that asked people to share images across their social networks featuring solider who lost their lives in World War One.
But Woolies is by no means the only brand that has used the centenary in marketing – it's just that the tone rubbed people up the wrong way.
What people took issue with wasn't the campaign but rather the fact Woolworths used the tag-line “fresh in our memories” an homage to their own tag-line as well as leaving its logo on the images.
Speaking to channel Seven breakfast show, Sunrise, this morning PR boffin Jane Caro hit the nail on the head saying: “Woolies put their own agenda ahead of the memory of the fallen. It was the word fresh that started the trouble, because it felt like they we're promoting themselves, and everyone went: “Not off the back of Anzac Day and not off the back of this anniversary,” Caro said
“It was tasteless, it was stupid, they got their agenda's messed up,” she added.
However while Woolworths has admitted it messed up and has now removed the campaign, it is doing what all other heritage brands have been doing since March, and that is working out how to align their brands with the 100th anniversary of Anzac Day.
It doesn't take long to find a plethora of brands who have tried to align their message to 25 April. Certain AFL clubs are selling heritage guernseys, Target has a Camp Gallipoli clothing range, Ancestry.com is running TV ads that are calling for people to try and see if their ancestors served in the war, all major networks are creating content, branded or otherwise to draw viewers, the list honestly goes on and on.
So why is everyone dumping on Woolies? Yes using their logo was bad, as was the slogan, but is it any worse than the hundreds of brands using emotive imagery to try and sell products of the memory of Anzac Day?
At Christmas time, UK supermarket Sainsbury's also took a pasting for its First World War themed Christmas ad that showed the British and the Germans calling a ceasefire on Christmas Day to play football (well, soccer). The ad, which was in partnership with the Royal British legion, the UK's equivalent of the RSL, did get labelled “tasteless” and Sainsbury's was criticised but it was also lauded for one of the most successful UK Christmas ads last year – so it's a double edged sword.
When any brand decides to latch on to a cultural event, there are sensitivities to bear in mind.
Only this week Mortein also got a whipping in the media for its 'tribute' to murdered school teacher Stehapanie Scott that saw its Louis the Fly character post on Facebook saying: “Even a nasty bug like me can sense it’s a sad week for our great country. I’m putting my vest out to support #putyourdressout. Enjoy this Sunday with your family. It’s precious.”
The brand apologised, but a lot of the feedback on the original Facebook post was positive – showing that a lot of this is down to interpretation. Something that's offensive to one person is not to another.
ANZAC is probably on the end of heightened sensitivity, as it should be. Woolworths isn't the only offender here, but it does act as a warning flag for other brands.