Was Red Band Society’s Ad Pulled Unfairly?

Although most of us were blissfully unaware of Red Band Society’s advertisement campaign, which was targeted towards commuters of Los Angeles, it garnered much attention nationwide when it was pulled from about 200 city buses due to complaints from customers. What sort of panel-variety advertisement could have caused such a disturbance to commuters, who are typically found glued to their smartphones?


Apparently, the promotional signs contained captions which were considered racist and misogynistic, although it is not clear whether these allegations are opinions shared by a particular group of people or factual observations clear to the general public. When taking a first glance at the advertisement in question, one may immediately realize that it is intentionally using stereotypes to identify the new television program’s cast. One may also realize that the particular advertisement utilizes the word “bitch” to describe a character, which, depending on the target audience, may or may not be inappropriate. When taking into account that the vast majority of public transportation users are adults, one would assume that such a minute vulgar adjective would go unnoticed, especially with the amount of adult-oriented content in advertisements in contemporary society. The main reason commuters seemed to be offended by the label is that the target of the vulgar language in question is the character played by Octavia Spencer, an African-American woman.

Isn’t that fact unsettling? Commuters seem to bypass the allusion of the advertisement to Grey’s Anatomy’s Dr. Miranda Bailey, who is notorious for fitting the description of the vulgar language used in the advertisement, and immediately assumed that the advertisement was perpetuating a malicious stereotype.

To be fair, it is very rare to see advertisements utilize vulgar language to begin with, as it does not appeal to many segments of the general population. However, the immediate backlash towards one bold attempt to break this chain seems to inhibit creativity of future advertisements. After all, these promotional items are meant to capture one’s attention, and with the advancement of technology, as well as consumer desensitization, this task is easier said than done. Should an advertising campaign suffer from the opinions of a small portion of the population, one which quite possibly might be overly sensitive? Advertising is inevitably bound to offend some portion of the population, and this is necessary consequence of effective communication. If advertising were to pursue such a form of communication in which no creative tactics were utilized, surely no one would be offended, because everyone would cease to give their attention.

What do you think? Was Red Band Society’s advertisement campaign pulled unfairly?


‘Red Band Society’ ad pulled considered racist. (2014, September 19). Retrieved September 25, 2014, from http://www.reviewjournal.com/entertainment/reel/red-band-society-ad-pulled-considered-racist

2 thoughts on “Was Red Band Society’s Ad Pulled Unfairly?

  1. In today’s society, people focus too much on one aspect rather than looking at the big picture. It goes to show that a lot of consumers use peripheral cues when analyzing advertisements, instead of central processing. This could be a major issue with advertising, because it will be harder to communicate a message completely when audiences zoom into certain parts that only catch their attention.


  2. I honestly don’t see the problem with this ad. Advertiser’s should always use caution when utilizing swear words into their ads (I rode the bus when I was a kid), but as far as racism goes their claims seem unfounded. While I think it is important to make an effort not to discriminate, I also believe people have a tendency to cry wolf on racism.


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