I am not sure if you saw this article across the wire, but it grabbed national headlines. Hacienda is a small chain of Mexican restaurants based out of South Bend, IN. We reviewed their Famous Wet Burrito.
What surprised me the most about this article is not the advertisement itself, but instead it was the massive response to this add. I think that people believe they have the freedom or right not to be offended. Howard Stern said it best when he said “If you don’t like what I am saying, simply turn the channel.”
Now, was the billboard in poor taste? Probably. I think that trivializing the death of 912 people including 276 children is a horrible thing to do, but did they really do that here? I think the “to die for” part took this over the top. However, Hacienda surely didn’t come up with the term “Drinking the Kool Aid.” Think about this, how many sayings can you list that trivialize pretty hateful thoughts that are used in casual ways? I can think of a lot of them.
I can understand how people have difficulties correlating this add to selling more burritos and margaritas. Even Hacienda admitted that “we lost the core message.” But, not so fast. A few months ago, I saw an Abercrombie & Fitch billboard that showed a guy’s pecs and face with not a stitch of clothes in the pic. They sell clothes right? At least the Hardee’s add with Paris Hilton washing a car had the actual burger in the commercial. You really don’t have to advertise to your core product anymore.
Hacienda has always provided attention grabbing billboards and I think that overall, their marketing is pretty solid. The problem is that shocking people for entertainment is a slippery slope. Once the dust settles, they will forget about you and you have to shock people more this next time to grab their attention. Look at Lady Ga Ga, one year is a meat dress and the next is arriving in an egg. If she doesn’t do something bat-shit crazy (otherwise than ripping of Madonna) at the next Grammy’s, quite frankly.. I will be bored.
Point is, was this Haceinda marketing piece intentionally there to create a stir? A normal add wouldn’t have grabbed any attention. Offending the masses is one easy way to gain notoriety. Even though there was some backlash here, I can guarantee this is their most successful add as far as page hits and press coverage. When a friend of Truman Capote said “They are talking about you…” Capote’s response: “I would be worried if they weren’t.”
Back to my original point, no one has the right NOT to be offended, in fact, we should accept that being offended is going to happen sooner than later. We surely can’t control every aspect in the world around us, in fact…most of the time the only thing we can is our reactions. If you don’t like what Hacienda said, you can picket outside their restaurants, boycott their product, or tell them that you don’t appreciate it. Or, you can look to the Buddhist meditation technique of Mindfulness and not judge any of this at all. I know that sounds like some hippy bs, but I can guarantee that you will be less stressed.
The beautiful thing is that we live in the USA and we have freedom of speech and not freedom FROM speech. In light of government uprisings in the Middle East, this billboard was a kind reminder that freedom and democracy are alive and well and everyone has the ability to say stupid shit from time to time.