Posted by Abe Sauer on September 20, 2010 02:30 PM
From the department of You Get What You Pay For comes the amusing tale of the Utah State Fair's disastrous attempts to brand itself as cool. The moral of the story: if your brand isn't prepared to live on the edge, then don't get into the business of being cool. Oh, and don't appear to be racist.
In what on paper likely seemed like a genius idea, the organizers of the Utah State Fair hired Jared Hess, the film director of the cult hit Napoleon Dynamite, to direct ads for the annual event.
Hess likely seemed a natural choice; he's Mormon, as is much of the state of Utah, and he resides in Salt Lake City. Also, the fair had featured the movie's lead actors in its advertising in the past, so there was a brand association. A perfect match, right?
The ads Hess created are typically satirical, featuring a man crooning soul tunes about the delights of the fair.
His goal: injection a modicum of edgy flair into the state's fair. Except that when the fair's board members saw the ads, they rejected them, saying they were "too suggestive and reached the wrong 'demographics.'"
Hess says they rejected the ads for one reason alone — because the actor is black: "The spots celebrate the iconic things you can only find at the state fair. I can’t help but think that the main actor being African-American is the reason they pulled them, which is very disturbing.”
The fair's chairman denies that the ads were rejected on race-related grounds. But Hess points out that the radio spots, featuring the exact same audio track as the videos, were not rejected.
Of course, now fair organizers have a much larger brand crisis on their hands than any overly suggestive ad could ever have created.