After a recent run of particularly distasteful ads, clients, account supervisors and creative directors may want to revisit this study from Harris Interactive and Adweek of a few years ago.
What it boils down to is obvious. Offensive advertising drives customers away.
So why does it keep happening?
Because everyone wants their ad to "cut through the clutter," to be memorable, to drive social buzz, to appeal to the holy grail of marketing targets – 18 to 34 year olds (which in and of itself is insane, but that's another post).
Advertising is harder than it looks. Creating interest in toothpaste, underwear, web domains, appliances and other items that most people really don't spend a lot of time thinking about requires you to take risks to get noticed. But it also requires you to be smart.
There's nothing wrong with being exclusive and creating work that appeals to your target, but it rarely pays to be offensive.
I'm not sure if more people are making dumb decisions about their advertising now than a generation ago or if we just see more of it thanks to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Whatever the case, the price you pay for lack of judgement is much higher now than ever.
So in the immortal words of Sargeant Esterhaus, "Let's be careful out there."