Scott Monty - Strategic Communications & Leadership Advisor

Scott Monty - Strategic Communications & Leadership Advisor

When you have kids, you naturally censor yourself when you're around them (or at least you try to - sometimes you just let an expletive slip out). But when you're in marketing, is there an obligation to keep it rated PG?

Racy ads, like some more mature prime time shows, have traditionally been reserved for after-bedtime hours. But with the advent of so many social media tools for sharing video content or photos, marketers can bet that their ads will pretty much been seen any time of the day.

The reason I bring this up is that there's a billboard campaign by the regional convenience store chain Sheetz that's created quite a stir. Evidently, a Harrisburg, PA family took a look at this billboard and balked, claiming it contained offensive language:

Having been raised in a household where the offending word was banned, I can understand how this might have ruffled a few feathers. They claim it's an approximation of another word that has an 'F' a 'C' and a 'K' in it. Whether you agree or not, you have to admit two things: (a) how pervasive foul (fowl?) language has become these days and (b) how easy it is to get more mature subjects into younger hands.

Every website that contains a signup process, whether it's a social network, newsletter, etc. typically has language asking to verify that you're 13 years of age or older. This is in cooperation with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. But when we create portable or distributable content (to say nothing of billboards), there has to be some acknowledgment that this content, however edgy it may be, could end up in the hands of an unintended minor.

While I snickered at Sarah Silverman's "I'm F*cking Matt Damon" on late-night TV, it was quickly and widely distributed over the Web within days (current count of this version: over 7.8 million views). Jimmy Kimmel came up with the rejoinder in his equally as funny/disturbing "I'm F*cking Ben Affleck" (currently at just over 4 million views). So, this content isn't remaining in the sole domain of late-night viewing.

There are always going to be sensitive eyes & ears about any variety of things. The politically-correct movement is always trying to change our phraseology so no one gets offended, but the reality is, someone is always going to be offended by something. My question is: with the ease of syndication, embedded videos, and widgetized content, is their anything we can do to minimize the exposure of tiny eyes and ears to this stuff? Or is doesn't it matter any more?

As to the above, I guess this family won't be eating chicken fricassee any time soon. At least they won't be putting with with any more Sheetz. Maybe they'll be frickin' Jimmy Kimmel...

Whoops! Can I say that here?

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