Written By Aleria Martin
Outrage advertising can simply be defined as using something considered controversial to make a product successful. The idea comes from the influence of social media. The target audience for outrage advertising is comparably narrow compared to other advertising and marketing tactics. Young men, particularly the ones who like to stir up drama on social media, are targeted so that the product will get unwanted attention. The trick to effective outrage advertising is to say something awful that focuses on groups that the young male audience are already contemptuous of. Feminists, LGBTQ + community, and “Social Justice Warriors” make common targets. Then, rather than pitching your message straight at your target audience, you generate some outrage. Share the post to a feminist group. Pose as an LGBTQ + ally and share a disgusting online ad. Even make a complaint about your own billboards, making sure the media hears all about it. Get enough of a reaction, and your target audience will see that by supporting your brand, they can invoke the same reaction, and they can upset people through buying your product.
One recent example of this is the recent Vogue magazine article featuring Kendall Jenner. Kendall’s cover was released in October 2018 where she is seen dressed in what looks like Revolutionary-era clothing and hair. The magazine and model went under fire when Kendall was accused of wearing an afro in her photos, but the bigger problem was that these accusations did not come from the black community. The claim that she was wearing an afro came from a white community on Twitter that brought the magazine spread to popularity when no conversation was happening about it.
Assertions like this put actual confusion on arguments like cultural appropriation versus cultural appreciation, and stir the pot for attention. Does outrage advertising actually get the job done? It actually does. Vogue put out a formal apology, although many people from the Black and African American community spoke on the subject saying her hair was not an afro. Many fans went out and bought the magazine to show their support of Kendall, Vogue, and the fact that this was not cultural appropriation. Vogue even reached a fan base outside of their main audience by appealing to the Black and African American community. The buzz on their magazine has been at an all-time high, and as people say in the Advertising and Public Relations world, any publicity is good publicity.