Monday, January 28, 2008

Target under fire

Target recently came under fire by a consumer advocacy group for running an ad campaign that depicted a young woman spread-eagle across the retailer’s emblem (a target) with the bull’s-eye at her crotch. According to the New York Times article,, a blog about the impact of marketing on children, complained about the ad. Target responded with an email saying “Unfortunately we are unable to respond to your inquiry because Target does not participate with nontraditional media outlets.”

Anyone with a propensity for giving people the benefit of the doubt would assume the ad design mishap was a total mistake. The girl was simply making a snow angel. Accidental and innocent (albeit preventable). But Target quickly nipped any potential forgiveness in the bud when it dismissed the advocacy group, and the viral community of popular blogs who began writing about the incident, as irrelevant and not worth addressing.

Its 2008. Since when are blogs considered “nontraditional media”? What cheap chic rock has Target been hiding under? And what marketing executive would dole out such short-sighted public relations advice? I can hear the mogul-to-minion edict now “instead of choosing not to reply, let’s just tell all those moms and child advocates that they don’t matter. That’ll show them who’s boss”. It blows my mind. Ask our presidential candidates if they consider blogs to be irrelevant. Ask the musicians and artists who are leaving major labels in droves if they think blogs and social networks represent the legitimate voices of their audience. Ask Fortune 500 companies (well, the smart ones) why they continue to ditch radio and television in favor of viral campaigns that include product blogs, social networks, and online communities.

From what I could tell, Target had at least SIX opportunities to show some marketing savvy and they blew every one of them.
  1. They could have noticed the ad design blunder in the first place.
  2. They could have recognized the blog in question was not some 13 year old kid spouting off but was in fact a consumer advocate site.
  3. They could have responded so respectfully that the blog ( wrote follow-up posts talking about the corrective actions Target was willing to take.
  4. They could have just said "no comment" instead of admitting that they are so removed from their audience that they don't think blogs are a worthy media outlet. Don't they know that over 38% of their audience reads blogs (according to Pew Internet research)!?!?!
  5. They could have pulled the ads.
  6. They could have recognized that most of what their tween customers buy is paid for by those moms they've just pissed off – but maybe there’s still time for this one.

1 comment:

Total Recall said...

That is a typical corporate giant stance. Reminds me of the old days when IBM, blissfully ignorant in its opinions that the future of computing lay in hardware, didn't recognize that its not about the hardware, but about software and information. They sure didn't see Microsoft coming! Today, so many people share information online. Target should have realized just how many are "listening".

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