Recently, Joe Rogan lamented the death of comedic movies while talking with a guest on his podcast. In this era of extreme political correctness, being even the slightest bit offensive is a cardinal sin.
To prove their point, Rogan and his guest said that a movie like “Blazing Saddles” — a classic Mel Brooks comedy — could never be made today.
Sadly, they may be right. Even more sadly, the death of comedy also applies to advertising.
Potty Humor Rejected
For their recent ad campaign, bidet brand Tushy had planned some ads that included a few, shall we say, light toilet-humor words. Words like “butt” and “fart.” And clever, somewhat edgy humor that got to the bottom of their product’s benefits. Meta was not amused.
The ads leveraged imagery like an upside-down heart and a peach… both meant to resemble the human posterior. They are simple, eye-catching, effective ads. That draw attention to a category that hasn’t quite caught on in the United States.
Clearly, Tushy is a self-aware brand. While bidets do have legitimate health and hygiene benefits… they are also — let’s face it — inherently funny. Tushy’s advertising team knows that leaning into that humor is far superior than taking themselves too seriously.
When thinking about a bidet and what it does… of course, everybody secretly giggles to themselves.
Everybody except the people at Meta, it seems. When reviewing the ads that were to appear on Facebook, the community standards people at Meta apparently clutched their pearls and rejected the ads.
We were not privy to the conversation between Meta and Tushy. We like to imagine them sitting in a conference room — looking over their shoulders to make sure no one was within earshot — then saying in a hushed tone, “You can’t say ‘butt’ in an ad!”
Regardless, the ads were rejected. And hours of the Tushy creative team’s work went “down the drain”. After scrambling to rewrite the copy — new ads were created and approved — but didn’t get near the results Tushy was expecting.
It was a sad day for comedy. And for marketing.
A Reflection on Society
Okay, a little bit of reality here.
Advertising has never been a place for truly edgy humor. Marketers typically are not in the business of alienating large portions of their audience. And attracting negative attention, of any sort.
As a result, humorous advertising is usually PG-rated, at best.
But every now and then, an advertiser finds a truly creative approach to be edgy. To appeal to the sixth-grader in all of us. Or to make us think it… without saying it.
The Tushy ads, in our view, rose to that level. And the fact that Meta rejected them… reflects where we are as a society. Taking ourselves too seriously. Desperately afraid to offend. Forgetting the cathartic joy of laughing at ourselves.
At the risk of turning an ad critique into a cultural commentary, we believe that Meta did us all a disservice by rejecting Tushy’s ads. We applaud Tushy for pushing the envelope. And we hope they will continue.
And it seems they have. As this article was being completed, news of Tushy’s International Women’s Day campaign broke… and the company stayed true to form. Their multi-faceted “We Do Sh*t” campaign takes on the taboos around using the toilet and women’s health. What’s more, it does so using Tushy’s trademark irreverent language and clever creative.
But there’s no doubt that consumers’ relationship with toilets and other bathroom products is quite intimate. Marketers might be tempted to follow Tushy’s example and make their own attempts at clever bathroom humor.
This has the potential to backfire.
As a leading sales and marketing strategy agency committed to the kitchen and bath channel… we believe it’s important to respect the intimate relationship consumers have with toilets, showers, tubs and other products in this category.
Humor is great.
Yet we mustn’t ever forget, that plumbing — and water conservation — is serious business.