The Birdcage, and Four Other Marketing Gimmicks That Worked Better Than Ads

A lady, dressed for the occasion, watching thoroughbred race horses in a flat race on turf, racing in front of the grandstand at the race track on a summer’s day. Good copy space

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BRW's Adam Schwab looks at some alternative ways to flog your product.


The advertising industry is quite a well organised one. Agencies (be it traditional or in more recent times, digital) charge businesses a fairly significant amount to create content.

The same businesses (in the case of ‘above the line’ marketing spend) then need to pay media buyers even more money to place the ads with outlets like TV stations or newspapers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, start-ups and other businesses which weren’t incubated in the Mad Men era tend to baulk at the cost of traditional advertising (often sticking with digital marketing unless they get a significant outside capital injection).

But while many new businesses (perhaps justifiably) shun traditional marketing channels, there are plenty of other ways to get your brand recognised. Sometimes clever marketing campaigns or publicity stunts can be preferable to an advertisement on The Voice – and generally, is far more cost effective. Below are some of my favourite examples of businesses who’ve achieved a lot of media coverage and attention by being creative.


In 2008, before they became TV stars, Hamish and Andy were without peer Australia’s most successful radio personalities, syndicated nationally on Austereo. One day, the duo received a call from a listener asking about potato chip flavours. From there, the comic duo appeared to ad lib a competition from listeners to create a new flavour of chip. For weeks, Austereo heavily promoted the competition across the network during its shows. Eventually, the winner was the ‘gravy’ chip, which was produced by Smith’s (initially, 495 packets were produced, before a further 60,000 were created due to demand). It would later be revealed that the initial call was not random and that the entire tactic had been pre-planned and paid for by Smith’s, which received probably millions of dollars’ worth of in-show content for a fraction of what it would have paid for similar advertising time.


Few things grasp Australians’ attention like celebrities and expensive stuff – and few have done it better than the Victorian Racing Club, and its elite Birdcage enclosure at Flemington during Melbourne Cup week. In 2000, the luxury marquees didn’t exist (the only place to be was the Members’ Committee Room) – today, they’re a showcase of glamour and celebrity. And no one has done it better than Dubai-based Emirates Airlines, a name now synonymous with luxury (no doubt partially due to its eponymous marquee). While the semi-fixed marquees don’t come cheap (Emirates has plumbed toilets, and serve exclusively Mumm champagne to a combination of celebrities, politicians and frequent fliers), the brand value achieved nationally through pages of media articles and regular television live crosses is probably worth tens of millions of dollars annually.

Read the other two examples here

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