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Responsible Marketing

Responsible or not? Advertising adultery

By September 19, 2008March 31st, 20216 Comments

Ashley Madison is a social networking/dating service—for married people.

Although the company isn’t breaking any laws by helping facilitate adultery (soon they’ll have a money back guarantee if you don’t successfully have an affair), they aren’t breaking any laws.

Still, their billboard only lasted three days in Times Square, an ad they produced for ESPN was rejected, and a second, tamer ad only ran shortly before being pulled.

Here’s the story from Reuters:

So, what do you think?

Is Ashley Madison responsible or not?

Comment below to weigh in.

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Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • Deston says:

    Given how many people might get shot, I’d say probably not. However, I was intrigued with the CEO mentioning Las Vegas’ tag line (what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas), which I’ve always regarded as a tip of the hat to sleazery. Broadcasters won’t want to be tagged with this controversy, I imagine.

  • Shih_Wei says:

    How soon will their list of clients be leaked, I wonder…

  • Ryan Dancey says:

    I’m just sitting here trying to decide if this is an elaborate prank. 2 million people at $45 a person is serious money – given that it took WAY LESS than a million bucks to make that website. I guess I’m kind of convinced that it’s real.

    So I guess Patrick’s question is: Is it Responsible Marketing to advertise something that is legal, but not acceptable to a wide slice of society?

    Let me spin this ’round backwards. First, let me get a Snickers, because I don’t want to be an insult to the Man-Race.

    If this was advertising for a site for people seeking same-sex romance, would it be “Responsible Marketing”? I suspect the rate of “social disapproval” is about as high (and probably from the same people). Would ESPN be sending messages to local affiliates urging them not to run the ads? (After 11PM…)

    On some level, I think this passes my sniff test. Studies show that a massive percentage of married people in the US have engaged in sex outside of marriage. Anyone who spends any time researching the topic finds that so called “dating sites” are populated by huge numbers of married people looking for hookups, and many of them are advertised all over the country, day or night. Does it suddenly become “irresponsible” when the point of the site is made explicit? Clearly there’s a market for this service. Certainly that market is not a fringe element but is a sizable component of society. Is it ethical to block those people from knowledge of services that they may find useful?

    I have to say though that the ads themselves are genius. The branding is crystal clear. Even the ring falling out of the logo is priceless. I think the name of the site sucks, but maybe there’s an in-joke here I don’t get, or maybe they’re trying to create something that won’t arise suspicions if someone sees it in a browser history list or something. Even if I had a huge problem with the content, there’s some good lessons to be learned here about how to build online brands quickly.


  • r says:

    I don’t know. When serious issues like Proposition8 in California gets passed and an ad that is very flippant about the sanctity of marriage is allowed to run, it really sends a very confusing message to the public.

  • Corey says:

    The issue here is how an advertisement as explicit as this affects the culture. It is the married couple that is the founding point of every family. The family is where life is nurtured and children are raised into good people with an understanding of values and how to live life. Without families, society will deteriorate even further than it already has.

    No one said marriage and raising a family was easy. The prospect of an affair would seem like ‘the easy way out.’ If we took time to ask ourselves what ‘the easy way out means’ we would quickly realize that it is really only the easy way out of this moment, but is the easy way into a lot more stress and family complications than one already has. However, these advertisements make an affair so easy to get into, and it seems at first like such a great relief to one’s problems and a quick way to some long-deserved pleasure, one might not take time to reflect on what is really the best action to take. Yes this service exists, but someone wanting to disregard morals and the greater good would have to seek it out without the ads, but with them, the person is being sought out, and tempted very strongly.

    That is not to mention the affect on the youth of today. Can you imagine what it would be like growing up with advertisements for adultery? We’d like to think the upstanding parent would explain to their children the evil these ads encourage, but how many parents do you know that would actually take the initiative? And how many children would listen to their parents over what the TV says? If these ads are accepted, we will begin to establish a culture of adultery. You may say we already have one, based on the ads themselves. But it is clear that adultery is still not accepted by the majority, or the ads wouldn’t be an issue. I sincerely hope adultery does not become an accepted relationship!

  • Lars says:

    Clearly Ashley Madison is cynically trying to make money on something that is causing pain and anger in many homes. However you cant really blame them either as its the people signing up for their service that have to take responsibility for their lives and relationships.

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