The controversy created by the campaign is not a compelling reason for it not to be tried in Britain. The press officer for the Rainbow group, Jan Schwertner, is at pains to emphasize that they are not the first to link the topics of AIDS and dictators. In other words, the approach is not original, but is rather a deliberate tactic to shock the audience and elicit purported response. As Schwertner alludes, the earlier awareness campaigns featuring vegetables were not nearly as successful due to lack of provocative elements in the ads. The effectiveness of the new tactics is proven by the fact that young people have reacted positively to the campaign. From the point of view of the Rainbow group, the campaign has been a success. In the end, it all boils down to the old adage – ‘there is no such thing as bad publicity’. (Hans, www.spiegel.de, 2009) Hence, the controversial nature of the ad campaign is not disincentive enough for it to be tried in Britain, or for that matter in Sub-Saharan Africa.
When one looks back at the history of advertisement, the concept of employing popular cultural icons is a proven method of garnering attention to a brand. Though, figures such as Hitler, Stalin and Saddam Hussein are perceived negatively by the general public, they do fit the idea of celebrity endorsement. A very prominent example is the 1998 campaign headed by Television personality Joan Lunden, who also suffered from allergies. Claritin employed Lunden for allergy controlling products. Likewise, Bob Dole was seen endorsing for Viagra as he himself was suffering from and erectile dysfunction. This trend had now snowballed into big phenomenon with more celebrities pitching an ever-expanding array of prescription drugs on popular mainstream media. Thus, one can understand the reasoning behind using notorious figures in the awareness campaign. (Gorin, 2002, p.58)
Concerns pertaining to the effectiveness of the campaign in the United Kingdom will be dispelled when one analyses the ad through an ethical framework. For example, a common framework of media ethics has been adopted by radio, television and newspaper associations across Europe and North America. The ad campaign in question meets most criteria set out in the ethical code. For instance, an area of consensus that journalists and ad professionals from various mediums have agreed upon is in the judicious choice of facts and photographs that is published or shown in their reports. This code was accepted on the grounds that blatant truth can sometimes offend or hurt the sentiments of certain communities. But the flip side of this argument is the subtle ‘censorship’ that this subjects journalists to. In this context the AIDS awareness campaign in question can be seen to bring greater common good for British citizens at the cost of causing some minor discomfort.
The fact that the ad campaign in question is a social awareness campaign as against a commercial marketing campaign, makes the parameters of judging its content slightly different. Social marketing is defined as “the application of commercial marketing technologies to the analysis, planning, execution and evaluation of programs designed to influence the voluntary behaviour of target audiences in order to improve their personal welfare and that of society”. (Kotler, 2002, p.36) In a general sense, social marketing is a novel way of conceiving and implementing a very old human endeavour. From time immemorial, “there have been social systems, there have been attempts to inform, persuade, influence, motivate, to gain acceptance for new adherents to certain sets of ideas, to promote causes and to win over particular groups, to reinforce behaviour or to change it — whether by favour, argument or force”. (Bloom & Novelli, 1991, p.84) Its practical development is related to such disciplines as “advertising, public relations and market research, as well as to the work and experience of social activists, advocacy groups and community organizers” (Kotler, 2002, p.36). Since the advertisement featuring Hitler falls within the tradition of social marketing/awareness, it is bound to be efficacious in meeting its objectives.