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Domestic Violence Isn’t ‘Pretty.’

by Donovan Creative in DONOVAN WORLD, STRATEGY



I don’t usually go out of my way to comment on local advertising due to the close-knit nature of the advertising community in Edmonton. But I was, to say the least, compelled to comment on the ad I saw come out of Fluid Hair Salon, promoting their “Look Good in All You Do” campaign.

Firstly and most importantly, advertising, or the act of advertising, is to solely promote a business, product, or concept. Primarily, advertising is meant to change our minds; change our perceptions; change what we think of a product or service enough to buy it; change us enough to use the service, try the service; change us enough to pay into the brand.

As Creative Director at DONOVAN, I can say I know advertising. More and more evidence comes out every year telling us that shock laced with anger, abuse, violence, racism, and sexism, doesn’t work to promote commercial companies. (Shock through humor does work, however.)

In fact, because of the very inclusive and socially-minded generation we find ourselves in, this kind of “artistic expression,” as Fluid has called it, is no longer acceptable — despite what their press release has tried to defend.

No, this is not artistic expression. No, this is not a smart comment on “satirical,” real-life situations. No, this is not “igniting” any kind of debate. It is simply glamourizing spousal abuse while overlooking the seriousness of the issue, all in the name of getting people in the door. To make M-O-N-E-Y. This is an advertisement. Simple. It was paid for by Fluid to sell their services and to profit from it.

This is not a discussion of Fluid’s freedom of speech as their press release indicates. Fluid is a company. And yes, Fluid, you do have the “right” to freedom of speech and to say and do what you want, we all do. But is it good business? I’m not in the business of advising my clients to glamourize a very serious issue that plagues, and now, will alienate your entire target market: women.

Advertisements, when done right, reflect your business morals and values. They reflect what your company stands for; they reflect what you want to align yourself with in terms of ideas and perception so you can feel part of the tribe.

Will any woman who sees this ad want to align herself and her image with a salon that wants to make money off glamorizing female abuse? What next, Fluid? Are you going to have a woman with great hair on the table getting an abortion, just so you can say you’re cutting edge? Just to get the conversation going? As a salon, I would advise that you actually don’t have the right to comment on social issues like these with the intent to make a profit. That’s the big problem. You’re making money off this. Or at least, that’s what you hoped.

You say your intent was to not make light of abuse. Well, please enlighten me, what exactly was your intent, Fluid? Profit, of course. It always is. Let’s cut the crap.

According to your press release, you’re asking the public to stand up and “do something to stop domestic abuse.” Are you kidding? The first thing I’d do if I were you, would not be to put your mistake back onto the public to amend. Secondly, I would pull the ad. Period. Show publically that you’ve admitted you’ve gone too far and that this is not what Fluid stands for as a brand.

Is this really what you stand for, Fluid? Is this really what you back? Do all the women working in and attending your salon believe that the issue of spousal abuse is a subject approved to promote your values as a company? It sure isn’t something I would ever align myself with, and I would, therefore, never walk into your door.

Every minute of every day, a woman in Canada is abused. I guess, Fluid, you could say that’s a big target market for you to tap into. But do you really think a woman whose face has been bashed in by her husband or boyfriend is thinking about getting her hair done? A woman who’s been beaten is usually in the hospital. Why not do your next shoot in the ER? An oil spill is one thing. Seeing a woman’s face punched in for the benefit of a hair salon is another.

But, unfortunately, Fluid, you’re not the only ones who think this way. I see on page 4 of today’s Sun in the Tweet section, people actually applauding you, “for not being afraid of controversy and having the balls to say that they don’t care what anyone else thinks. As long as the target market gets a kick out of the ads, that is what matters.” I am the target market and I got a kick out this alright, right to the gut.

If you want to comment artistically on the social issues of the day in order to be a cutting edge hair salon, I will personally draw up a campaign for you that reflects what you want your salon to stand for. Because this ain’t it, babe.

A set of highlights or $60 hair cut is a little less important than someone’s shattered face or life. You don’t have the right to be a moral compass when you’re applauding and glamorizing female abuse, then expecting women to walk in the door to pay you for your services.

Fiona Farrell

Creative Director
Donovan Creative Communications

39 Responses to Domestic Violence Isn’t ‘Pretty.’

  1. Andrea:


    Well put.

  2. Jill:

    Absolutely yes! I’m glad not to be the only marketer willing to call Fluid on this one. I think as a community it’s our responsibility to say ‘this is not what we do’ and ‘this is not a a piece of art’.


    • Jill, I completely agree. Thank you very much for taking the time to comment. It’s appreciated, and I think it’s about time the education went from agency to client. It benefits everyone.
      Best, Fiona.

  3. Joelplane:

    I hope this post goes as viral as can be in #yeg, makes the news, something… Written with passion, a solid moral crutch, and directly to the point.

  4. Lindsey:

    I couldn’t agree anymore! well said!

  5. Gene:

    As a promotional ad, I personally agree that it’s tasteless and will likely have the adverse effect of attracting customers. Whoever created this for them (or whether it was done in-house) was obviously going for a shock-value statement without thinking of the economic consequences. I very highly doubt that the reaction to this ill-advised campaign will work in their favour. In short, those snipping sounds you hear are from competing salons more than willing to take the clientele I’m sure will shortly abandon Fluid.

    However, I disagree with you on the artistic validity of the ad. Taking the salon out of the equation, and by itself, the piece does pack quite a walloping statement, no pun intended. I saw it as an attack on the shallowness of fashion advertising in general, taking the “looking good” slogan to the extreme. it also forced me to examine the whole idea of fashion when put against a social issue backdrop. Does the woman care more about her looks or is she more concerned about her general welfare or even her life? If the image suggests the former (which the slogan seemingly reinforces), then it’s certainly a wake-up call for us to re-examine our priorities. Artistically, I would say the artwork did the job in elevating that concern (although I highly doubt Fluid’s bottom line will improve). And it did what good art should do: provoke discussion, good or bad.

    Don’t get me wrong, I see nothing funny about domestic violence. Fundamentally, Fluid did have every right to ramp up this campaign. Likewise, consumers have every right to avoid their services to the point where Fluid will likely learn a very painful lesson about proper marketing.

    • Artistic validity? That’s like saying a well-shot snuff film of your friend is valuable because of the cinematography. :) They’re not Hegel or Wittgenstein. They’re not social scientists. And they’re not Andy Warhol. This is not about raising awareness. There is no record of Fluid having ever supported an organization like the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton. All they do is cut your hair, give you a perm or highlights, and charge more than a barber would. :)

      But I really appreciate you bringing the topic up because it gives us a chance to air the subject.

      Thanks Gene,

  6. MRW:

    Why hasn’t anybody mentioned the HAIR-DOO?

    I mean, c’mon, did they kill a poodle?

  7. Sally:

    As if always using women’s bodied in advertising to sell crap wasn’t bad enough, Fluid’s use of an abused woman to sell a haircut is so reprehensible. Such poor judgment.

  8. Anne:

    Thank you for speaking up about this- there is nothing creative about this ad, there is just bad taste and shock value. The message being “it’s ok if your life is a mess as long as your hair looks good” is making me cringe – but as you said, this is an Ad and it’s working, people are talking about Fluid…
    I find it utterly disgusting that a hair salon exploits the issue of domestic violence for profit – I wonder what kind of person would come up with such an idea and then what kind of person agrees to it and then executes it. As a photographer myself, I would never agree to shoot something like this for instance.
    I hope Fluid sees how misguided they have been.

  9. Zubin:


    Thank you for putting forward such a civilized, yet passionate response to such a poorly conceived campaign. Whomever is responsible for bringing this image from concept to release with such an overt lack of awareness of how it could be (read: is) perceived as brutal, bereft of taste and viscerally angering is beyond me. That individual should suffer the consequences of a career-ending lack of judgement.

    • Thank you for your comment Zubin.

      Advertising is a very powerful tool that cannot be taken lightly. The second you put out your message as a business owner out into the world, you are telling the world that this is what your company believes in.

      I’m sure they don’t believe in beating women (I hope). They believe in being “controversial”. Fine. I’m controversial and I believe that uniqueness and creativity in advertising is essential as well.

      However, aligning your company and your company’s values, with abuse/sexism/pain/death/torture is not only a terrible business decision, it also speaks directly to the character of the person who signed this off.

      Best. Fiona

      I hope this is lesson-learned. But I doubt it.

  10. Thank you for your courageous response to this distasteful ad!

  11. Thank you Fiona for this sharp response to a rather distasteful ad by Fluid. Relationship violence and/or abuse under any disguise is not acceptable, it never was, and never will be. I stand with you, my daughter and all my female friends/colleagues in repudiating this grotesque piece of propaganda.

    Kind regards, Leo Campos Aldunez

  12. Gail Barrington-Moss:

    Well said. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this ad. I was confused, upset and down-right angry. The current state of the world is in shambles right now, this sort of advertisement just adds to the insensitivity and calculating “all for profit” attitude that prevails so often. Let’s not try to make a buck on others’ suffering, Fluid. I, for one, will NEVER step foot in your salon and would encourage my friends to do the same. Well done Fiona for having the guts to put ‘pen to paper’ and provide input from an advertising/marketing perspective. I would use YOUR business anytime!

  13. CrystalKPR:

    Thanks, Fiona. I’m happy to hear a credible entity providing comments on this issue. I wonder: have you seen their other ads here?

    I find the one with the girl on the mattress potentially makes light of other societal issues: homelessness, teenage runaways, smoking or even prostitution.

    They do not have the domestic violence ad on this page.

  14. Edmonton Ad Guy:

    Hilarious to see the author of this article self-identify as a member of the target market for this salon, only to have the point of the ad fly WAY over her head. This place is for young tattooed hipsters, not middle aged people.

    We as a society could use a lot more media literacy and a lot less flying off the handle because the 6 o’clock news tells us to. If you are offended by this ad, how do you go a full day living on planet Earth without driving off the High Level Bridge?

    Sadly I can’t even comment on this using my real name because of what a witch hunt this stupid scandal has become. It feels like social media McCarthyism. Hate pieces like this have poisoned all discussions on this topic.

    Apparently it’s NOT okay to both abhor domestic violence and also love art that challenges the viewer.

    I have booked my first ever appointment at Fluid to support them.

    • Young, tattooed hipsters wear $400 five inch heels?

    • Andy:


      So you’ve never been there?

      If you’re booking your “first ever appointment at Fluid,” how do you know their clientele, or that the “place is for young tattooed hipsters, not middle aged people?”

      Who do you work for?

    • My point is this.

      How would anyone know upon looking at this ad for the first time, that it’s targeted toward “young, tattooed hipsters” without ever having been exposed to Fluid, or having ever been in the salon itself?

      Just because the owner is a young, tattooed hipster, doesn’t mean that that’s target market. In fact, “young, tattooed hipsters” isn’t a target market at all. What age are we talking about when we say “young”? How old? What gender are we marketing to? What social class? What income level? Where do they live? What do they like? What interests them? What’s their differentiating factor that makes it easier to speak to them? Are we talking only to tattooed hipsters, because that’s a very unique and small demographic to go after while alienating/offending every other demographic that exists.

      I believe the intent for this ad was to do like they’ve always done. Push the boundaries. Be “edgy”. I’ve looked at every other ad, and they all have the same taste. They push it. And that’s good. The problem with this particular ad however, is that it went too far for the following reasons:

      Close to every other ad Fluid has launched has only one person in it. The subject: a woman. She is usually the only person in the shot, portrayed as an independent woman. She is always shown in a position of control. She is always, usually alone. Therefore, in charge of herself, her thoughts, and her actions. Yes, some of these women are being bad girls and doing naughty things like murdering people or rolling around on a lakebed covered in oil. But it’s their choice to partake in these controversial activities. It’s the subject choosing to do it; and not someone doing it to the subject.

      See the difference? Showing the subject in your ad having the power to make a clear decision to do naughty things is one thing; showing the subject as a victim and putting her in a position of subjectivity by making it clear that she’s being abused, is a totally different ball game. The ad shows a woman who’s power has been taken away. That’s the big problemo.

      I’m not a middle ager. I’m 30. And I know a lot of “young tattooed hipsters” and a lot of young hair stylists (because my brother is one), who do want to be edgy and do want to push the boundaries. This ad though, the reason why it was on the front page of the Sun and gained international attention, was because of carelessness and not paying attention to the art direction of the shot itself.

      As an art piece, as a photo itself, it’s an interesting commentary on our social perceptions of modern family life. The woman is not in a position of power. It’s been taken from her, hopefully to be replaced with the big diamond her husband is holding. The entire commentary is about the taking away of power, reducing someone’s life. And that’s why this ad in particular has caused such an uproar.

  15. Edmonton Ad Guy:

    Yes. (can’t tell if serious lol)

  16. Doghouse Wryly:

    Seems like they have achieved what they set out to do. In the words of glam rock “any publicity is good publicity” and well they have achieved what they set out to do, they got a lot.

  17. Miranda:

    Thank you, Fiona! I am very appreciative of this post.

  18. Pingback: Fluid targets -fluid conversations | Edmonton Journal

  19. Marian:

    I will NEVER set foot in that place. And I will ask every woman I know to take their business elsewhere, as well.

    Reprehensible does not even begin to describe this ad. I am appalled.

  20. Pingback: DONOVAN Creative’s September 9 Newsletter | DONOVAN Creative

  21. Stan:

    And what’s ever worse, its not an original idea so they went the bad taste copy-cat route. I’d be interested in knowing what agency is behind that.

    Any idea?

  22. Stan:

    (It was used in Glee spots…

    “Tyler Shields, the California-based artist, posted shots on his website of Glee’s Heather Morris with a black eye and the following descriptor: “Even Barbie gets bruises!”

  23. Tina:

    Hadn’t seen this. Completely agree. Poor taste all around.

  24. Don E.:

    Amen to this post. Fluid’s campaign was wrong in all the wrong ways.

  25. Pingback: Why Are Edmonton’s Worst Ads Getting The Best Press? | DONOVAN Creative

  26. Christopher Wait:

    I’m sad that I just saw this now. But it’s got me all fired up just the same. I didn’t see these ads but WOW.

    I like how you stated that the ads reflect the values of the company and boy does this ad do that.

    I’m all for making a stand against social injustices in your ads if that’s what your company wants to do. However, I don’t see that in this ad.

    What I do see is a company saying “hey, you’ve got quite a shiner there, that’s cool, we’ll still make you look fabulous!”

    OR coming from the entirely (I think previously unthought of)angle perhaps these could be considered being geared to male clientel saying that “you can look good beating your missus”.

    Whoever these ads were targeting, if the intention was to make a statement about domestic violence, the only thing it said was “if it’s happening, you can still look great”.

    I do hope that in this case, there was enough awareness and bad publicity to punish them where it hurts the most, the cash register.

    Great post Fiona. I know it must have been difficult to call one of your own (meaning a creator of advertising) out on a bad decision. Definitely a time when I would have resigned the account before doing what the client asked if that’s how the situation went.

  27. Judy:

    This ad is so sinister and dark that it boarders on evil. If you look at the assailant in the background, the guy who looks to be above abusing a women,the way he is holding the “neck lace” suggests he is about to strangle her to finish the job.

    I am in southern AB and people are talking about it here as well and also have nothing good to say about Fluid who may end up drowning in their own.

    Thank you for taking an ethical stand on this epidemic of violence against women Fiona.

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