‘Will they promote BDSM next?’ Russian PR manager sues Reebok over ‘face-sitting’ ad

 ‘Will they promote BDSM next?’ Russian PR manager sues Reebok over ‘face-sitting’ ad
Russian PR manager Oleg Voronin has filed a lawsuit against Reebok Russia, claiming that the controversial “face-sitting” ad promotes “destructive ideas” and undermines moral principles.

Voronin who is himself the head of a PR company called Glavpiar,  stressed in his lawsuit that the kind of promotion used by Reebok badly impacts the entire PR market, making customers associate “shock advertising” with something vulgar and indecent. Now he is seeking for a monetary compensation of 200,000 rubles ($3,000) for emotional distress caused by the advertisement.

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Talking to RT Sport, Voronin said that there should be some limits and a moral code for PR agencies promoting various brands.

First of all I think it’s too much to use toilet humor in promotional campaigns,” Voronin said. “I have been cooperating with various companies, using 'shock advertising,' but even the most provocative ad we have created is nothing in comparison with the Reebok campaign. I think there should be some limits for promotional ads.

Along with criticism directed at the provocative Reebok campaign, the PR specialist admitted that headline-making news contributes to sales growth even if the company is embroiled in a huge scandal.

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Despite disliking the ad, as a PR specialist I cannot reject that it stimulates sales growth,” he said. “It’s a common knowledge that big companies turn even bad news into profit. Dealing with black PR [i.e. negative campaigning] I can say that it’s possible to slow down sales process, but you can never kill a brand. People forget news very fast.

Customers will forget about the scandal, and they will only remember that the brand was widely discussed in the media. So, I’m not surprised that Reebok sales grew,” Voronin added.

Talking about age restrictions which should be observed by brands while creating promotional ads, Voronin stressed that he was infuriated by Reebok’s campaign, which had an explicit sexual background.

To sit on a man’s face… what does it mean? Being a 34-year-old man I didn’t get the message at first. This is low-level advertising aimed at some strange category of customers. Will they promote BDSM next? To discuss who will sit on a man’s face is definitely not the level of a big brand,” he said.

Voronin also doubts the Reebok’s claims that the international department was unaware of the slogan used in the Russian ad, insisting that all the promo actions in big corporations are not given the green light without the approval of the brand policy-makers.

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This is not true. It’s impossible that the campaign was not coordinated and approved by Reebok’s international department. They are making 1,000 amendments and approvals before releasing anything. Just when they started facing critics triggered by the controversial ad, Reebok management quickly distanced themselves from the scandal saying they were not aware of the concept. They backpedaled throwing the PR manager who had masterminded the ad under the bus. This is very typical for giant brands,” Voronin said.

Speaking about his chances of winning the legal proceeding against the sportswear giant, Voronin said that the company will at least deliver apologies for the ad, which he deemed inappropriate and insulting.

I’m not sure they will pay me a compensation worth of 200,000 rubles, but at least I expect Reebok will apologize and come into agreement with me. But I think it will be a clear message to them that there should be some limits in promotional ads,” he said.