First, Apple Apologized. Now, It's Bumble's Turn

'Celibacy Is Not the Answer,' billboards said

A vow of celibacy may indeed be the answer for some people in certain circumstances. Dating app Bumble learned that the hard way.

The brand's edgy billboards proclaimed: "You know full well a vow of celibacy is not the answer" and "Thou shalt not give up on dating and become a nun." 

Critics promptly blasted Bumble for insensitivity. The resulting furor necessitated an apology and the removal of signage nationwide.

Here's the mea culpa:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Bumble (@bumble)

Last week, of course, Apple found itself crushed by the weight of objections to a spot showing an industrial press demolishing various elements of creativity. Battered to a proverbial pump, the House of Jobs said it was sorry and pulled the video.

Perhaps the key takeaway is that in our touchy times, it's imminently preferable for brands—even beloved ones like Apple—to play it safe.

More vetting with diverse audiences could help. Still, how much can you test?

In Bumble's case, the outcry might still have been tough to predict. As for Apple, even stripped of context—heartless machines in the age of AI and layoffs smashing human endeavor—the commercial felt gleefully destructive. That alone should've raised red flags.

So, riffing on sex/religion (Bumble) and violence (Apple) caused problems. As ever, these are themes best raised with caution. Though, really, what's a cheeky dating app to do?

It's worth noting that neither brand casually trades in hot-button topics or questionable imagery on a regular basis. They veered off script and paid the price. For Apple, the approach felt woefully out of character.

Upstarts like Liquid Death can get away with so much more. That's because they've established a foundation of quirky quasi-depravity in the marketplace.

No one expects them to behave. So, within limits, they don't have to. Yet.

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