01/23/2013 12:17 EST | Updated 03/25/2013 05:12 EDT

ING's Commercial Mocked My Mental Illness


It seems as if wherever we go or wherever we look we are subjected to advertisements. There's just no way to avoid them whether it be subway cars or buses wrapped with them and of course having to live with eight minutes of commercials for every 30 minutes of television we watch. With the market more competitive than ever and consumers faced with record debt loads it's no secret businesses are putting a lot of effort into their marketing and advertising to make them effective and stand out so they can get your hard-earned money.

The best kind of marketing is the kind that makes you talk about a business based on their advertisement and to associate certain things with their brand. These businesses typically are sometimes silly with their commercials or even use metaphors to get their point across. However, one business took their advertising too far.

With the RSP contribution deadline quickly creeping up on all of us a lot of Canadians are considering whether or not to put aside some money for retirement or paying off debt instead. It something that has a lot of people undoubtedly stressed out about including myself. To demonstrate this ING Direct Canada released a marketing campaign titled "Are You Suffering?"

As part of the campaign ING released a commercial of a man who appeared to be alone, detached, and the man says he's been losing sleep and not eating solid foods. The man says he is cured of his symptoms once his wife steps in and takes him to ING to open an RSP.

I'm not a medical doctor but the first thing that occurred to me was this man was living with depression. Banking and money in general is stressful and the recession saw many people take their own lives. I do understand the point ING was trying to make but I feel like the bank crossed a line by mocking depression symptoms, which I have personally experienced, and so have many of you. In my opinion this commercial only furthered the stigma those with mental illness face.

Many others took to Twitter and Facebook by informing ING of their distaste for their latest advertising campaign. But by yesterday afternoon the bank decided to pull the commercials off the air after caving into pressure from mental health advocates and customers.

In a statement to Marketing Magazine Mark Nicholson the head of digital, creative and communications ING Direct Canada spokesman is quoted as saying,

"As a result of feedback we've received through social media, we've decided to remove our RSP spot from TV. It was never our intention to make light of any health conditions relating to mental illness, or to upset or offend anyone suffering from serious conditions like depression. It's clear our message about stress and anxiety around RSPs was misinterpreted, and we feel it's best to stop airing the ad."

In response to Mr. Nicholson's statement I have this to say: Thank you for pulling the ads off the air, better late then never. I do not believe viewers or customers misinterpreted your ad. Your bank, in collaboration with your marketing agency, made an incorrect judgment call as to how you thought people feel about saving for retirement. Mental illness is serious and approximately one in three people will experience mental illness in their lifetime. I almost guarantee some ING employees will or have experienced mental illness in their lifetime. I hope you'll take use this opportunity as a lesson and become more educated as to the challenges people with mental illness face and the toll it can take on their lives and their families.

This was not a case of people being overly offended, it was a case of marketing gone wrong and crossing the line. I hope all businesses and marketing agencies reading this will think twice before they launch their next advertising campaign. Most importantly I hope these businesses and all of you ask yourselves "Will this offend somebody?" before you speak publicly.

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