Taking the bait on Ashley Madison’s controversial ads

Ashley Madison's dating service may be "discreet," but the site's overtly offensive advertising strategy certainly isn't. 


Lauren Rae Orsini


Published Nov 9, 2011   Updated Jun 3, 2021, 1:32 am CDT

Ashley Madison is trolling for attention.

After much hand-wringing, the Daily Dot is taking the bait and giving the dating site the attention it so desperately craves.

Recently Ashley Madison, the self-claimed “leading married dating service for discreet encounters,” released an advertisement of a plus-size woman in lingerie with the text: “Did your wife SCARE you last night?” The implication’s that men with overweight wives should seek love elsewhere.

The ad sparked outrage online. Jacqueline, the plus-size model in the ad, spoke out on Jezebel against her image being used to insult women of all sizes.

And as a response? Days later, Ashley Madison released an even more blatantly offensive ad. This one shows a green check mark next to a slim model and a red “X” next to the plus-size model. The ad makes it clear that the company’s loving the attention.

The Huffington Post reluctantly covered the entire situation with this premise: “We understand the need to get attention in this media-saturated, 24/7 world. But Ashley Madison, we’re guessing you didn’t need to go this far.”

Usually, it’s best to avoid trolls and haters. But when companies troll, it’s news.

Social media’s capability to cause topics to quickly go viral has given companies a new way to advertise—by getting the social web’s attention in any way possible. And no matter how transparent the publicity stunt, it’s grown too big for the media not to cover.

This simple fact is why some companies never give up.

A few months ago, Abercrombie & Fitch asked The Situation to refrain from wearing their brand. It was a publicity stunt, of course. And commenters on Twitter resented it:

Fitchuationgate is pretty pathetic on A&F’s part. It looks like a desperate attempt to be relevant again,” wrote one twitter user.

Subsequently, Abercrombie’s stock plummeted. Even though the company got its name in the news, customers saw right through it.

Ashley Madison was looking for attention, and it got it. But they’ve underestimated one big factor: Consumers can spot a troll. And they know better than to feed it.

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*First Published: Nov 9, 2011, 12:46 pm CST