Painting the Town Red with Anger?

We put a controversial new Crown Paints ad to the test


A new Crown Paints TV spot has caused a minor storm this week with over 200 complaints to the ASA – so naturally we tested it to see what ordinary people thought. The ad is in the form of a song about couple Hannah and Dave, who are expecting a baby and painting the nursery yellow. And the offending line, which has been slated for its sexism? “Hannah’s hoping for a girl / Dave’s just hoping that it’s his.”

Testing ads is a great way to find out if the controversy around a commercial is real or the result of a slow media day. If there’s an issue, it tends to show up in the results. For instance, when Tesco released its Christmas ad showing Santa with a proof of Covid vaccination, a few anti-vax voices were in uproar. But normal viewers loved the ad.

So will Crown Paints be able to brush this one off? The ad’s no disaster, but it’s not great either – it gets a squarely average 2.6-Stars for its category, though a high Brand Fluency score so people do at least realise who it’s for. The “hoping it’s his” line definitely has an impact, though – we see surprise and contempt rise from that point on, and the ad ends up with 9% contempt – the kind of score you’d expect for gambling firms and politicians!

If the ad was a winner otherwise this would be fine – it’s OK to piss some people off if it means you end up reaching and delighting more. But that’s not what’s happening here. Only a small percentage of the audience care about the joke, but they’re not counterbalanced by viewers who love it. There’s nothing wrong with a cheeky joke – if it makes people laugh, and there’s not much sign this one does.

What’s certainly true is that the ad has put the name Crown Paints in the news for a day. That won’t have done the brand any harm in terms of mental availability. But Crown Paints probably aren’t the kind of brand (like Paddy Power) who should make a habit of pushing boundaries. As one of our respondents put it: “A bit full on for paint.” They had a nice idea here involving the joy new parents feel in getting ready for a baby, which should have made for a strong emotional ad. And they blew it on a bad joke, one which testing would have picked up on.

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