When people find just the right words to say something important, it can be moving, inspiring, flat-out powerful.
When people find the absolute wrong words for their message, less so.
Like a time in the 1970s that people in the bowling industry thought they’d come up with a clever way to get more people to the lanes, only their choice of words was…
The first few lines of the print ad from 1973 are in large orange letters, and I want to say here I’m sorry I ever saw them and wish I never had.
They read, “HAVE SOME FUN. BEAT YOUR WIFE TONIGHT.”
Then, in much smaller black text, the ad says “Then celebrate with some good food and drink with your friends. At your nearby BPA Fun Center – the bright, modern lanes that give you air conditioning and open bowling all summer long.”
It goes on to say “And if your wife beats you, remember that your BPA Fun Center provides free lessons.”
So the idea behind the ad campaign was that at first glance you see something outrageous and then you read the smaller text and you’re supposed to go, oh, they’re saying “beat your wife” at bowling, not the other thing.
Which is maybe something some people thought, but what a lot of other people thought was, no thanks.
This ad campaign started at a time when public health experts were only starting to formally acknowledge family violence as a problem.
And, early on, their concern was centered on child abuse.
When it came to what was known as the battered women’s movement, activists said society mostly just acted like the violence didn’t exist, or, when they did, people made jokes about it.
And along comes this ad campaign to prove them right!?!
So people pushed back hard against the ads: they defaced some of the tasteless billboards and kept the bowling group’s phone ringing off the hook with complaints.
That’s been the general attitude toward this ad campaign for the last fifty years.
You never hear about how these billboards won awards or brought more bowlers to the lanes.
If you hear about them at all, you hear about them as an example of how you can get someone’s attention by saying something gross, but you shouldn’t.
Here’s another case where someone could’ve handled things better: in June 2022, a fire broke out at the Church of St. Basil the Great near St. Petersburg in Russia.
According to Oddity Central, the husband of a church worker came forward and confessed to arson.
He said his wife kept giving the place all of their money, so he got mad and burned it down.
Man Sets Fire to Church Because His Wife Kept Donating to It (Oddity Central)