PR Tips | Do Apology Ads Work?

PR Tips | Do Apology Ads Work?

I recently saw this fascinating “apology ad” from JC Penney.

In the ad, JC Penney declares to consumers that the company has changed, perhaps for the worse, and that it has resolved to do a better job of listening to its customers. The advertisement is completely counter-intuitive and seems to run contrary to the traditional rules of advertising. Right from the start, JC Penney admits to wrong doing. Is this crazy? Will it weaken the JC Penney brand?

I’m sure you recall the Domino’s Pizza ads, which showed real focus groups calling the company’s pizza flavorless and terrible. Domino’s decided to come right out and apologize for making bad pizza — and making pizza is all they do. Some might call that advertising suicide!

So why have certain companies decided to take this risk with their brands? Here’s my guess: You know the old saying, “the first step to healing is admitting you’re wrong.” Think about apologies in everyday life. When they’re genuine, they really do start the healing process. Domino’s and JC Penney are attempting to repair the seemingly broken relationships they have with their customers, and they’re starting with outright apologies.

Will it work? I certainly don’t know. But it’s clear that these companies are willing to risk their brand’s image in an attempt to improve it over time. One thing is for certain — these types of advertisements are attention-grabbing for consumers and the media. Do you think apology ads are worth the risk? I’d love to hear your feedback.

Laura Scharfeld