Euphemisms: How advertising is Ronseal-challenged

9th March, 2016

Passed away, between jobs, visually challenged, dropping the kids off at the pool – we’ve all used euphemisms like these, and we probably have ones we love to regale to others (‘releasing the hounds’ is my personal preference).

It seems advertising and marketing agencies love euphemisms too, because the industry is rife with them. And it’s not just in their content. Digital platforms that show ads even have a euphemism for the ones they show! On Twitter and Facebook a ‘suggested post’ will pop up on your feed, or a ‘promoted tweet’ will appear. When is a spade not a spade? When it’s an ad, so it appears.

There’s no arguing euphemisms are useful in everyday life – euphemisms generally arise to deflect from saying something direct – maybe because it’s too painful, too disgusting, or too rude/taboo. Maybe it’s because we want to add a different hue to the tone of the conversation. But are they really necessary in marketing?

Here’s a new euphemism for you: Ronseal-challenged. And there’s an argument to say that’s what many brands are – they cannot speak plainly and tell exactly what their product does for fear of… what, offence? Disgust? Hysterical outrage and the breakdown of society as we know it?

Good advertising pushes boundaries, it pushes people’s buttons, it pushes like it was giving birth to a baby with the head the size of a genetically modified melon. So why not go for broke to achieve that customer engagement and direct response? Why self-censor with a euphemism that’s more than likely to be a tad cringe-worthy?

The Drum recently published an article on a brand who was bucking this trend to talk about women’s periods. Whoops, sorry, that time of the month, Auntie Flo, Mother Nature, the Communists have come, girl flu, a crime scene in your pants.

There’s no need to give you a lowdown of that particular marketing campaign – you should just take a look at the article, it’s a great read – but suffice to say the campaign is refreshingly honest, but also, crucially, executed with style and class that it renders the need for any euphemism obsolete.

And I don’t think anyone is going to miss ads of women skydiving, having happy periods or pouring jugs of blue water, do you?


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