Zazoo Condoms is located in Antwerp, Belgium and was founded in 1998. In 2004 sales in condoms decreased drastically and Zazoo Condoms responded with a controversial television advertisement. The video shows the embarrassment of an incompetent father with his screaming child in the super market. The advertisement tries to create fear in the viewers mind to make him/her realize what can happen if the company’s product is not used. However, the message could be misinterpreted as an encouragement to not have kids, who only pose problems. It also negatively advertised children, which opposed efforts to increase birthrates in Europe.
Many viewers were offended by the advertisement because of their cultural beliefs and principles. Reviewing Hofstede’s theory of “the five dimensions”, there are several factors that have to be taken into account to analyze how this ad failed to convey its intended message. The most influential aspect that affected Zazoo’s advertisement of the five dimensions is the uncertainty avoidance in Belgium’s society. Uncertainty avoidance describes the mindset of a society towards change and being in unstructured situations. With a Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) of 94, Belgium has one of the highest UAI’s globally.
The advertisement supported the society’s affection toward security, regularity and routine and it’s resistance towards change and innovation, exploiting the society’s fear of unfamiliar risks and stress. Therefore, the advertisement was seen as a misrepresentation and delivered the wrong message. One of Hofstede’s five dimensions, which antagonized many viewers, is the concept of individualism and collectivism. Hofstede describes collectivist as individuals with many trustworthy connections with other individuals as loyalty and trust are a key value in their cultural beliefs.
Opposing, individualist do not share their trust so easily and tend to have few close relationships and only the closest family members are trusted and considered loyal. Zazoo, located in an Individualistic country, did not take into account how strongly collectivist orientated viewers would react to their advertisement. The statement of discouraging people to have kids and portraying parenthood as an embarrassment offended them and created a rejecting reputation of Zazoo Condoms. Furthermore, in collectivist countries birth rates are higher than in individualistic countries.
The ad unintentionally praises low birth rates not only by picturing children as a problem, but also by advertising condoms alone. These cultural differences show how Hofstede’s concept of individualism and collectivism explains the difference in the reception of the message conveyed through this advertisement. Another aspect of Hofstede’s five dimensions is masculinity, which plays an important role in explaining how Zazoo’s TV-advertisement failed. The difference between high and low masculinity is seen in the difference of values of the individuals in a country.
High masculine countries value material success and achievements, while low masculine countries value relationships and quality of life. Belgium is considered a high masculine country whereby such an ad would encourage the individuals even more to concentrate on their career rather than creating a family, which would conflict with the government’s plan of increasing the birth rate. Additionally, the husband tends to determine the family’s size in a low masculine country, creating a conflict of interest with the masculine population of the country because the advertisement portraits the husband as incompetent.
However, pressure also came of the people from countries with low masculinity, as the advertisement clashes with the family oriented and caring beliefs. Therefore, the masculinity factor of the five dimensions clarifies even further how Zazoo Condom’s advertisement was generally disliked and misunderstood. Concluding, Zazoo Condom’s advertisements exploited Belgium’s society and failed to convey their intended message because Zazoo did not account for the masculinity of the society, ignored the fact that Belgium is located in the heart of individualist countries and discarded the UAI.
Zazoo Condom’s tried to use a humorous advertisement with an influential but very controversial message to the society. However, the complexity of the message clashed with the cultural beliefs with the society, which lead to the banning of the advertisement. One might say the advertisement failed, however we believe that it still managed to cause enough attention for the society to educate themselves about the case. In the end, in today’s society, even bad news is good news as Zazoo Condom’s got international attention for their controversial advertisement.