In regards to the big picture, the placement of an ad and the culture of the target audience usually determine if an ad is deemed offensive. For example, an ad in Europe (which I find to be very liberal and open in terms of its content) could be pulled in North America because of the “offensive” content. Furthermore, time is also a factor in the decision of pulling or not pulling an ad. Ads in the past that depict women or a certain demographic might have done well in the past but today they would be deemed as sexist or racist etc. and would be pulled or not even released in the first place.
With that being said, in my opinion, as long as they meet regulations and break no laws, I don’t believe offensive ads should be banned because the purpose of the ad is to grab the attention of the viewer. Negative attention is still attention.
Even though I don’t believe that offensive ads should be pulled as long as they meet regulations, I do understand and respect why ads are pulled. Furthermore, if the message is not offending the target audience then it doesn’t matter if it is pulled or not because it will not ultimately affect the end numbers. Ads are usually placed in locations to reach a particular demographic. If that demographic finds the ad offensive and voices that discontent, the ad agency or the ad’s company will know that there are most likely additional people who may find the ad offensive too but have not spoken up about it. Usually, a company does not want to deal with negative PR. If the company faces negative reaction to an ad, the company may find it more appropriate to pull it in order to comfort and reassure their viewers and maintain its profits.
Agencies and brands need to be aware of a ever-growing diverse public but I think it really depends on the intent of the ad and the targeted group to really determine if the ad is appropriate or not.
Typically, once the ad is released to the general public, the viewer or costumer determines if an ad is offensive. Before the ad is released agencies/companies use focus groups to determine if the ad has any issue with its content.
In many ways, the main purpose of agencies/marketing groups is to cut through all of the other ads in order to gain brand recognition and awareness. Sometimes, it does feel like they are desperate when they put out a shocking ad but at the end of the day does it meet their goal?
It seems to me that the numbers determine that answer to hat question. Does the consumer still shop more or show that they are more likely to buy a given product because of the ad? Do people talk about the product either in a positive way or negative way? Overall, at the end of the day it is up to the discretion of the company or the agency to pull an ad unless it violent any regulation or laws.