Snapshot of the Week: Infidelity (London Ads Part III)
To round up my week of examination of advertising techniques and patterns in London (see Part I: Rhetorical Questions and Part II: Depressed and Afraid), I offer one more “amazing” advertisement I saw while in London.
I was rushing to a concert with my sister when I was stopped in my tracks by this sign over the Old Street roundabout. The sign was advertising infidelity. As though it were something positive and desirable. I kind of blinked, not really believing the words I was seeing. But it was a very big sign – you know one of those massive billboards – and the words were quite clear and unmistakable.
I hadn’t heard of Ashley Madison, and I thought perhaps it was a hotel chain or something and I was pretty shocked that this could be considered effective advertising.
It turns out Ashley Madison is actually a gigantic online dating agency that specifically targets married people and facilitates their capacity to partake in extra-marital affairs. They have just opened a UK section of the site, hence the extravagant advertising. You may have heard of this company, particularly if you live in New York, where an even more suggestive billboard was up in Times Square for just a day before so many people were offended and complained that it was removed.
This Toronto-based company has managed to successfully advertise in cities like Sydney and Atlantic City and now has approximately 7 million members.
Ashley Madison guarantees that you will have an affair within three months of joining their website or you get your $249 membership fee back.
I know that websites like this exist, but I found it really strange to have it so openly and brazenly sold on a big London thoroughfare. I guess I expect infidelity to be navigated privately, not advertised flagrantly on a busy street.
I found it disconcerting. And sad. Dishonesty on this level goes against everything I think is valuable in intimate partnerships. If you are so unhappy in your love life with your husband or wife that you feel the need to go to these lengths to sleep with someone else, why stay in the relationship? I really really don’t get it. I know affairs happen…but this level of planning and intention just boggles my mind – I really don’t understand why any one would want to live that way.
In addition, I feel like having it advertised in this way seems to trivialize infidelity, making it appear more socially acceptable and less potentially horribly emotionally damaging than it actually is. But I guess that’s what effective advertising is all about.
Ashley Madison chief executive Noel Biderman defended the PR campaign, saying: “People engaging in affairs are breaking no laws. Infidelity is a significant part of the UK’s cultural fabric. A commercial isn’t going to convince anyone to have an affair. People have already made that decision.”
Any thoughts? How do you feel about this company and their aggressive advertising approach to this controversial subject matter?