The newest trend in advertising: WTF ideas with offensive overtones

Posted on June 18, 2012


Yesterday I created a post regarding the Adidas shackle sneakers. Thankfully Adidas has seen the light and issued an apology.

“We apologize if people are offended by the design and we are withdrawing our plans to make them available in the marketplace,”

Here’s the link:

Good for them. While it never should have happened in the first place, at least they took ownership, which doesn’t always happen. Case in point, the publisher of The Help and how they dealt with the Medgar Evers error on PG 277, where Skeeter claims Evers was “bludgeoned” instead of shot, and author Kathyrn Stockett gives three (known) audio interviews earnestly repeating that “Evers was bludgeoned to death.” After the book was sold for over two years with the error, the publisher quietly corrected it in the ebook. And no major reviewer even noted the error (except one UK site and another which linked to this site). Seems no one wanted to touch it, but if Stockett had been a male writer, the press (like Katie Couric) would have jumped all over it.

Here it is in book form. To your right, three lines up from the bottom. You’ll see “or, hell, bludgeoned in their front yard like Medgar Evers.”:

Medgar Evers error on Pg 277 of the hard cover edition



For more on this blunder and links to audio of Kathryn Stockett repeating that “Evers was bludgeoned”, please see this post


So here’s what I’d posted yesterday about the Shackle Shoe:

So what comes next? Earrings  based on the swastika? Or a band of numbers printed on shirts, just to show how “down” advertisers are with prison wear? These would be very bad ideas. Probably as bad as . . .


Adidas ad for their new sneakers. Think about this. The scary part (aside from how ugly the shoe is) is that someone actually got paid to dream this up, and it was okayed:
“Got a sneaker game so hot you lock your kicks to your ankles?” Photo from Adidas Facebook page

Here’s what a spokesperson for the company had to say:

“The design of the JS Roundhouse Mid is nothing more than the designer Jeremy Scott’s outrageous and unique take on fashion and has nothing to do with slavery,” a representative for the shoemaker told by email. “Jeremy Scott is renowned as a designer whose style is quirky and lighthearted …  Any suggestion that this is linked to slavery is untruthful.”




“Any suggestion that this is linked to slavery is untruthful”

Really? Then just who is the company marketing these “kicks” to? Because I’m pretty sure young “urban” males and females will be the ones they’re hoping will flock to the store to buy them. Even the word structure on the ad makes it clear Adidas hopes millions of this targeted market will salivate for this shoe. Otherwise it may have read like this:


“Have you got a sneaker game so hot that you feel you must lock your shoes onto your ankles?”


Note the code words I used, just like the ad. Both of us need to quit. It’s embarrassing.


No, any suggestion linking this sneaker to slavery means the Adidas marketing team either didn’t catch it, or feigned ignorance of history if it was brought up. I stress “if it was brought up” because just like far too many companies, if there’s not enough diversity then there’s no one to point out how something could be viewed as having sexist or racial overtones.

As far as this  being another example of Jeremy Scott’s flair for creating “quirky and lighthearted”  footware,  I never thought plastic, velcro  or  metal shackles  evoked anything close to being  considered quirky or lighthearted.



Let’s take a look at a few examples that come to mind shall we? Kids, cover your eyes:

Like parents don’t have enough problems. Now Addidas wants to remind you with their new sneaker about prisons if you don’t raise your kids right.

Well, if Addidas didn’t mean those kinds of shackles, then perhaps they meant:

Fetish shackles on Ebay. Notice the box says “Perfect for Beginners!”

Survey says, the third top answer is Slave Shackles:

The real deal. Slave Shackles




So let’s just suppose a parent, or anyone else  isn’t supposed to look at the most common uses of shackles on ya brain. Oops, I mean your feet. What other uses are there? Perhaps they’ll come in handy when the lawsuits start piling up, as soon as one of those chained “kicks”  trips a kid, causing a muscle tear or gets caught in a revolving door. Maybe Adidas will need parents to sign a waiver absolving them of any responsibility if injuries occur. Out of pocket expenses usually make even the most unPolitically Correct companies rethink their marketing strategy.

But what do I know? I’m just a parent who’ll look at my child like they’re crazy and say “Hell No” to any funds going to purchase this terribly misconceived monstrosity of a sneaker. But if I’ve raised them right, they’ll “just say no” on their own.

Add this recent bit of advertisers behaving badly to the NIVEA Ad below and HSN’s collaboration with the producers The Help. You see, they got together in order to market cookware as well as other items “inspired” by a film that was partly about black domestics who were tethered to kitchens in the segregated south. Read more Dreamworks and Disney’s rather tasteless and tacky marketing idea here


Click image for larger view

Controversial “Re-Civilize Yourself” Ad. Notice the head he’s about to fling has an Afro, which in the 197os was a major symbol of black pride. It’s a hairstyle that some wear even today. But I guess the company either didn’t know or didn’t care to know before the ad went public



It seems everything old is new again, even on items that can carry on the taint of bigoted times in the United States. But think for a moment, even if the designer and Adidas want to stick with the whole “But being shackled while playing basketball or just showing off your sneakers is fun and sexy!”

With the rise of sex slaves not just overseas but in our own back yard, and not to mention how overcrowded our prisons are, something tells me in an attempt to appear cutting edge the designer and the company that okayed this ran out of ideas. The chains and their position of choice (around the ankle)  was sure to cause controversy, and now people know all about the shoe. Having people talk about it is free advertising.

Their biggest problem is probably that it’s one ugly mofo of a shoe. The orange chains are corny as hell.  I mean, this is the kind of thing that will get you not only pointed out and laughed at, but probably chased down just to see how easy it would be to break the chains off.

Another thing. When companies try too hard to make something work, especially something so outlandish, it usually backfires.

Like Burger King’s Mary J Blige tribute to chicken. That’s right. You get a black spokesperson, a musical superstar and all you can think to do is have her singing about lovin’ chicken. Funny, but Steven Tyler wasn’t singing. And David Beckham wasn’t bouncing a soccer ball on his knee, or even stripping down to his underwear to sell fast food. But Mary stood on a platform singing about . . . chicken. Over a hip-hop beat.



Mary J Blige, Chicken loving Burger King commercial over a crispy hip-hop beat





I tell ya, it’s just like that saying. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” – George Santayana


Sort of like:



Tate Taylor’s Chicken Party, starring Octavia Spencer, Allison Janney and of all things, “fried chicken”



I believe that’s recent Oscar winner Octavia Spencer’s hand holding onto a piece of fried chicken, in one of Tate Taylor’s earliest short films about a subject near and dear to his heart.

“Frying chicken tend to make you feel better about life.” Sage advice uttered by Minny, in the Oscar nominated film The Help.

The line above is taken from the book, though in the novel Minny states it as “makes me feel better. . . ” I’m just going to pretend that no one associated with the book or the film knew about the history of pairing African Americans and chicken for cheap laughs. Such as:



The Birth of a Nation, classic race propaganda film  where a black legislator is eating a piece of fried chicken




1950s bigoted advertising, for of all things, blacks and fried chicken





This GE ad uses the stereotype of blacks and fried chicken, using a child.

The funny thing is, when a “WTF were they thinking” promo or product falls flat, nobody wants to take ownership. These days even a public apology is old school, as in its just not done. So its refreshing when a company admits they’ve screwed up.

Edited to add: So its with great relief that I can report that Adidas DID ISSUE AN APOLOGY. They took ownership, which is what most adults teach their children to do. Everyone makes mistakes. I’ve made my share. But saying “I’m sorry” and meaning it goes a long way towards building character and gaining back trust and respect, whether its a company or an individual.


For more on the history of African Americans and advertising, see this post:


Van Heusen Ad




Everybody’s favorite “Aunt”, Aunt Jemima, still “large and in charge” even today




This post is still in development . . .

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