Some Notable Naughty Ad Campaigns

Does profanity build your brand?

Jell-O and Kmart are wholesome, buttoned-up brands, right? Not anymore. Hungry for attention in a younger and freer online media scape, these Midwest marketers are taking profane wordplay—already a familiar gimmick among brands more on the fringe—and making implied naughty talk into a mainstream advertising phenomenon. Done right, these tricks can surprise audiences and go viral. But do they help build brands—and drive sales—in the long term? “I think there are probably other ways to do it without pandering to entertainment or to shock value,” said Robert Passikoff, founder and president of Brand Keys Inc.

Perhaps worse, jokes that are too timid can seem to fall flat altogether. Here’s how they rate.

@GabrielBeltrone Gabriel Beltrone is a frequent contributor to Adweek.