As we’ve noted before, the degree of difficulty for mainstream brands attempting to engage a Comic-Con crowd can be high. There are good examples and bad examples, but there is probably no tackier an example of how to swing-and-miss on that front than what Secret pushed out during San Diego Comic-Con over the weekend.
In a poster ad on Twitter with a Secret deodorant stick alongside a young lady in a vaguely superheroic costume, the ad purports to be introducing a new scent called “Cosplay,” designed “for fighting stress sweat and personal space invasions.” The copy of the ad, though, is bizarre, declaring that Cosplay is “For when people assume that you’re costume doubles as a groping invitation.”
Secret is correct that groping and other sexual assault is a real problem at Comic-Con, especially for women who participate in Cosplay. The suggestion that the solution is deodorant, however, is as wrong-headed as wrong-headed gets.
The ad touches on one of the very real challenges that brands face when attempting to engage with audiences not just at Comic-Con but on anything that they clearly don’t understand well. Sexual harassment and sexual assault in cosplay isn’t a topic for an eye roll and a laugh about how you smell to the person doing the deed–it’s something that requires security, strategies for dealing with, and discussions about how much they’re willing to put up with before people even decide if they’re going to participate in the hobby. It’s hard to imagine anyone who’s had an experience like that at a convention felt listened to or respected just because Secret acknowledged their experience–rather, the ad showcased how clueless brands can be when they make assumptions. At the moment, Secret hasn’t addressed the issues with the ad on its Twitter feed, but if we were the people who came up with it, well–we’d be sweating right now.