If you remember any commercials from Super Bowl Sunday, you surely remember HomeAway's "Test Baby" ad, in which a man falls into a table, catapulting a baby into the air. The baby's face smashes against and streaks down the wall, and the audiovisual assurances that it was merely a "test baby" weren't enough for some disturbed viewers.
So, as seems to happen every year, a company is apologizing for the perceived tastelessness of its ad. From a statement issued on Tuesday by HomeAway:
We do not believe the ad will result in an increase in violence towards babies, just as last year’s Super Bowl ad featuring Betty White didn’t lead to an increase in elderly women being tackled in parks. However, we feel we made a mistake in judgment, and for that all of us at HomeAway are truly sorry.
A web-based business that arranges for travelers to save money by booking reservations at private/independent lodging is profusely apologizing to America for maiming a rubber baby. From a certain angle, this story is delightfully convoluted.
On Saturday, I said that this ad "distresses me terribly." I was exaggerating. It was a brief, visually morbid moment, and I moved on, not much more likely to buy a shopping cart full of HomeAways than I was previously. But everyone isn't me, my reaction was neither the "correct" nor "incorrect" one, and I understand and respect the feelings of those who were legitimately disturbed by the ad.
I can speak with greater confidence on the routinely poor decision-making on the part of advertising agencies. Given that HomeAway is cutting up its commercial and re-organizing its web campaign, it certainly doesn't seem that they're glad they ran with it. At the risk of sounding like a stiff... well, look at the Volkswagen commercial. There was nothing objectionable about it, and people really enjoyed it.
This isn't a moral issue, just a business issue: if you hire an ad agency, and this ad agency can't stand out from the pack without running something so objectionable that you'll have to apologize for it, you have hired a pretty crappy ad agency.