Belfast entrepreneur Emma Bricknell set social media alight this week after asking followers for their opinions on some risque advertising she was considering for her business.
Emma, 41, who owns the Made In Belfast chain of restaurants across the city shared a provocative advert design on Facebook featuring a woman licking a sausage and wrote: “One of our new Brunch adverts……clever sausage or NOT! Belfast Brainers I would love your thoughts please, a girl is not an Island in advertising 💋”
And while the response to the concept ad she was considering to promote the restaurant’s new weekend brunch menu was mostly positive, it rubbed many up the wrong way.
One fellow hospitality entrepreneur Janine Kane, who owns a number of establishments across the city including The Spaniard, Muriels, Pablos, said: “You will help drag NI into the 21st, 22nd and 23rd century. Love it.”
While another supporter Ciaran added: “Love it, provocative is the way to go in advertising, why would you be shy about what you believe in, looks class.”
Some people loved it, but were concerned how others might take it.
Speaking on the Facebook thread Sharon said: “It’s very cheeky…I like cheeky but this is Norn Ireland…keep breaking the boxes.”
One woman thought it was sexist.
Carla wrote: “It’s certainly attention grabbing but advertising despite popular opinion isn’t just about awareness. I’m not sure this would make me want to eat in this place over the next.
“For me, it works for ‘attention’ gaining objectives but I wouldn’t ‘desire’ to eat there based on this. Probably wouldn’t put me off the place but defo wouldn’t persuade me positively. I’m not a fan of over-sexualising non-sexual products – oral sex is consensual and all that and maybe be some women will like this but on initial impact there’s something niggling me- the imagery seems a bit sexist rather than sexy if you know what I mean. “
Gillian said she thought the ad was “fab” and was “fed up with people being snowflakes”, she added it was “Time to drag this country into the correct century.”
But Dawn didn’t agree. She said: “The sexualised ad suggests it’s not family friendly.”
While Jason pointed out there may be many who wouldn’t like it: “I love it, bit of a conversation piece. I don’t think it will be to everyone’s taste, it really depends on her clientele. If she has a lot of church-goers. Maybe not a good idea.”
Alison said she wasn’t loving it adding that she was “Tired of all the porny, ‘sex sells’ gimmicks”.
Speaking about the original design Emma said: “Most people liked the weekend brunch concept ad, which is really, really positive. For some it was really funny and amusing. I think some people found it quite misogynistic and a bit sexist, and said it was a bit too overtly provocative for what we’re advertising.
“But to be clear, it wasn’t ongoing advertising we were considering for, it was for our Sunday Brunch Party coming up in August to help promote the weekend brunch.
“It was potentially going to be used as an invite for people like bloggers, media, vloggers and influencers.”
One comment on social was from Paul who said: “There’s only one thing it reminds me of and I’m sure it’s meant that way !!”
While Treena thought it should be given the Wonderbra treatment. She said: “Get that on the biggest billboard you can find….mind you Wonderbra did that and the huge increase in car bumps lol. Love this.”
But Cathy said: “I’d prefer it if a man was licking the sausage though.”
And Emma responded by getting her designer to create a male version of the same ad concept.
She said: “I think, as a business-owner it’s important to get people’s thoughts. I don’t want to offend people, unfortunately, you will always offend someone. Without asking people their thoughts on things at the start, I wouldn’t be where I am. I’m not self-made, everyone helped make this business that makes me.
“And I do take on board what they say.
“But I’m sick of hearing people say that Belfast isn’t ready, it’s getting ridiculous. We’re not in middle America. We’re a European city. Belfast is really coming into its own.
“There’s always people gonna find things offensive, and that’s fine. Some things are offensive, I don’t believe these ads are.
“Our tagline is ‘The second best reason to rise on a Sunday”. Maybe the first is church, or jogging or to procreate (afterall that’s what we’re here for). I don’t know, but I believe our brunch is the second best reason.”
After sharing the male version of the advert the responses came in thick and fast.
Lynn said: “Brilliant marketing! Deserves a share.”
While Simon added: “That’s certainly going to get people talking. Fantastic.”
Nicholas was very impressed. He said: “I got into advertising and marketing because this is the sort of thing I wanted to do. Disruptive marketing. Too many people are afraid of being different. So bloody good on you!”
Although she shared the advert concepts to mixed reaction Emma said she can’t lose sight of why she was doing it in the first place.
“In business you have to take risks, and I do, it’s how Made In Belfast are still here after a decade with three restaurants in the city centre and a fourth planned for Lisburn Road next year.
“However, I shared these concepts on my personal social media because although I am a risk taker I’m not oblivious to the fact that we’re a bigger company now. We have 90 people who have jobs and as business owners we have a responsibility to them. So I am careful of the risks I take. I’m not selfish, I do consider everyone’s opinion.
“I put it on my own profile rather than the restaurant’s because the final decision hadn’t yet been made as to whether we were going to use the adverts. We will probably use them as our invitations to the big Sunday Brunch Party in August but they were never intended as general advertising.
To book your table at Made In Belfast go to madeinbelfast.com or connect with them on social #MadeInBelfast