Edgy. It’s an adjective that is so cliché these days, especially in the advertising world. Ads that are socially daring and provocative have become much more common in recent years, as advertisers try to push through the clutter and create something that stands out in a crowd. With Canadians being subjected to an estimated 2000 ads per day, it’s no wonder that we have become a society that has begun to gloss over the vast majority of advertisements and sometimes only take notice of ones that push boundaries and at times induce unease. However, I have to wonder if being “edgy” for the sake of edginess really trumps a smart ad, even one that may be considered “safe”.  What if this edgy ad is really nothing more than a gimmicky tactic to get people to notice you but the result is more than just unease in your audience and is actually one that creates anger and/or disgust. I have to ask…how smart is that?

I came to this consideration recently when I saw a billboard in Saskatoon that was promoting a local radio contest. Along with the station’s logo and contest name ‘Treasure Trail’ being displayed, the main image was that of a man’s..…how do I put this….frontal region. Yes, I mean that frontal region. While there was no explicit body part shown, what was shown was a large dollar sign that was shaved out of his… ummm… pubic hair. Yup, you read that right. Pubic hair. On huge billboards all across the city. Gross.

So while this billboard certainly got my attention and was “edgy” enough for me to take notice, I was so grossed out that I wanted nothing to do with this contest or the radio station. I certainly don’t want to recommend that our clients advertise on a station that would consider that to be an acceptable form of advertising. So, I repeat, how smart is that?

Smart advertising really means taking all the important information you know about the organization/product such as: their audience, their needs and the emotional ‘who’; their competitors ; and their unique selling proposition; and then developing an ad that resonates with that audience and positions the advertiser in a way that peaks the audience’s interest. It answers a need that the consumer has, in a way and a place that is meaningful to them. Being edgy certainly doesn’t accomplish that on its own. It must be both provocative and smart to really be effective.

Take William Joseph’s current marketing campaign, Lady Luck is a B!tch, as an example. A play on the fact that WJ has an office in Las Vegas, and the point that too many businesses are leaving their marketing to chance by not putting the right thought and intent behind it, this campaign was a unique blend of edginess and intelligence. Yes, we eluded to a swear word and featured a sexy woman (i.e. Lady Luck, the B!tch) on our billboards and brochures, but we backed it up in a way that was smart. We went beyond the eye-catching imagery and used content that described how William Joseph offers creativity with purpose. We explained how our strategic insight can help our customers get ahead of their competition, get to know their customer and expand their offering.

So the next time you are thinking of developing an edgy campaign to get your business noticed, first ask yourself if it is smart. And if it’s not, then smarten up!