Oh, Canada! In the immortal words of Inigo Montoya, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Sometimes you see an ad campaign that is so over-the-top outrageous wrong that “The Onion” couldn’t top it. You think to yourself, there’s no way an entire group of people’s judgment could be so epically off to let something this awful (and also hilarious, in this case) go out the door. Way. Yukon Health and Services’ “We All Need the D” campaign is that campaign.
Yukon Health and Services’ “We All Need the D” campaign features various ads promoting the importance of Vitamin D to its citizens. In one ad, a man in his 30s declares, “Who knew I needed to do the D?” While a young mother shares, “Everyone needs the D. Even me!” Another ad seemingly offers citizens assistance, “Need a little help…with your Daily D?”
Now, in case you’re completely out of touch with pop culture over the past couple of decades, google “the d.” Okay, I’ll save you the trouble. It’s slang for a man’s — well, you know — and also for sex. Of course, I don’t even need to tell you that the twitterverse had a field day with this campaign. We’ll provide a couple of examples.
After social media had a field day with this campaign, Yukon Health and Family Services pulled the ads and revised the headline in the ad with the young mom from “Everyone needs the D. Even me!” to the much more family-friendly, “Did you take your vitamin D today?”
Consider how many eyes see an ad in its various stages before it goes out the door. Something clearly went wrong with that process in this example. First, let’s say it all started with the agency pitching the idea to for “We all need the D” to the client. We’ve already had a major mistake at that point.
When you come up with a catchy phrase, it only takes a few minutes to google it and find out if it’s already being used and, if so, what meanings are attached to its use. This idea would have ended had someone done that early in the process. Mistake two, the client didn’t google the phrase.
A lack of diversity — with regards to age, gender, ethnicity, orientation, worldviews, etc. — on the creative and agency teams might also be a factor, as it has been in numerous epic fail campaigns. From Dove’s video of a black woman turning into a white woman to Pendleton’s exercise bike ad. The importance of having creative and client-side teams that include a wide range of individuals has proven critical in failed campaign after failed campaign. A young team member would likely have known the slang meaning of “need the D” and could have made others aware of it early on before too much time and money was invested in the idea. It’s also possible that the power structure of the agency or client might make kept a junior-level employee hesitant to shoot down a boss’s or client’s idea and be perceived as a negative employee. Numerous scenarios are possible, and a post mortem should be conducted on this campaign.
At minimum, disastrous ad campaigns like this one — that get attention for all the wrong reasons — should teach those on the client and agency sides that when the creative uses what’s supposed to be a clever phrase that doesn’t have a current popular meaning the team is aware of, that they google the phrase to ensure that it isn’t already being used. Adding that simple step can save a world of trouble down the road.