There is allegedly at least one thing certain in times of crisis: Women will always need lipstick.

And that also means there have to be people to sell the lipstick and that this is therefore a reliable job. A simple idea? Then it’s perfect for advertising and no wonder that the cosmetics company Avon has opted for it. Especially when the Czech Advertising Standards Council has now decided that using the financial crisis theme is not unethical.

“What wouldn’t you expect in the current economic situation? More opportunities… and you also don’t have to fear for your job,” says the advertising aimed to recruit new Avon Ladies and Gentlemen who would sell Avon cosmetics.

At least a part-time job

The company is using the ad worldwide and now it has appeared on Czech television. And it is said to be successful – thousands of people have applied for the job at a special website. They can at least raise their household’s income by a few thousands through the door-to-door sale of cosmetics. “In times of the global economic crisis, our company is one of few firms creating and providing jobs. Connecting this activity with ethics in the negative meaning is misplaced,” the company’s PR manager Michal Borec said.

The Avon advertising is not aggressive and the word crisis is not mentioned in it directly. “The advertising is based on the idea of a dream factory. I don’t expect the word crisis to appear in advertising frequently now. Companies don’t want to link their product to such a negative word,” said Daniel Köppl, editor-in-chief of the magazine Marketing&Media.

Despite that, the department store Tesco has opted for the crisis theme. The Consumers Defence Association (SOS) complained about its advertising campaign “Tesco is helping in times of crisis”, claiming that it is in contradiction to good manners and deliberately provokes fear among people.

Crisis is a fact

“We do not regard the use of the word crisis in advertising as unethical. This term is now everywhere. The crisis has to be perceived as a fact. The Arbitration Committee said that the advertiser did not violate the rule that advertising cannot use the fear theme without a legitimate reason,” the Czech Advertising Standards Council says in its March decision.

From time to time, the term crisis appears in the ads of smaller companies. For example in Prague’s quarters of Anděl and Letná, shoe prices are “unprecedentedly low” “in reaction to the global crisis”. The theatre Divadlo Na Zábradlí used the crisis theme to promote its discounts.

Advertising experts note that what can be much more unethical than the use of the word crisis is advertising cheap loans that can entrap laid-off employees who are in need.


Translated with permission by the Prague Daily Monitor.