A big brand is like an a-list celebrity, the expectation to surprise and delight is fierce, but when they flounder or offend, the world is quick to whinge, bitch and heckle.
It begs the question: Is any publicity really good publicity?
Probably not for Malaysia Airlines. The tortured airline, last week, got caught up in a campaign blunder whereby customers booking tickets between September 1 and the end of the year were asked to name their “bucket list” destinations. The best answers were in the running to win either iPads or plane tickets.
The “bucket list” campaign came under fire for this reason:
a number of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish Before they die.
Between the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and the shooting down of Flight 17, where 537 lives were lost, the “bucket list” campaign was deemed insensitive and inappropriate. The airline then decided to withdraw the campaign.
Tom Sanders, head of strategy at PLAY Communications says: “Anger to brands has gone from the abstract to the deeply personal, because brands have done such a ‘good’ job at trying to convince us we have a personal relationship.” He argues that marketing folk have tried to befriend consumers for yonks. “The problem is, we’re still not at the stage where we believe that businesses are the same as buddies. So when they offend us, we don’t shrug it off in the way we might do for a real person,” he adds.
It seems – at times – the marketing departments of certain brands could benefit from a quick trawl through the daily news. Sometimes world events and current affairs might inspire campaign genius, but on the flip side, it can crash and burn into an offensive heap, like it did for the US TV series, Sleepy Hollow.
Sleepy Hollow copped some serious flack on social media last week for a campaign trumpeting “National Beheading Day” on the exact day terrorist organisation ISIS claimed to have decapitated American journalist Steven Sotloff.
The series of unfortunate events continued with the release of eCards promoting #HeadlessDay for the show’s upcoming season. The campaign faux pas was in no way related the devastating news of Sotloff, it was intended as a reference to the show’s headless horseman character. Poor timing Sleepy Hollow marketeers.
“As far as WTF campaigns go, this Carefree one comes to mind,” says Hannah Furness, managing director at PR firm Straight Up.
The brand made headlines back in 2012 as it was the first to use the word “vagina” in a commercial produced by 303Lowe. The ad upset numerous viewers and a spokeswoman from the ASB admitted the Carefree Acti-Fresh pantyliner ad received several complaints soon after the commercial first went to air in New Zealand.
Until the advertising watchdog ruled “vagina” as an acceptable word to use in adverts, it was widely considered taboo.
Furness argues that the Carefree campaign may have been bold and shocking for some, but it was the WTF factor that scored the TVC points. She says: “From a success perspective, it worked on many levels. It dared to speak frankly to women about their bodies. It broke new grounds in advertising by saying the word vagina on TV, and reinvigorated sales in the process.”
“Research showed that women wanted Sanitary protection ads to use the real name of things, or not to refer to them at all. It was decided to be respectful, honest and bold – to encourage women to talk openly about their bodies while educating them about the benefits of using liners,” she adds.
The Carefree campaign erupted across the Pacific, UK, USA,Russia and Brazil. Furness explains of more than 108 articles, “95% were either neutral or positive about the campaign. It was even debated on The Project and Q&A with Nicole Roxon, Australia’s then Attorney General entering into the fray.” Roxon simply said: “It’s naming things as they are.”Despite this, the advert was listed as one of the most complained about in 2012.
We either love them or loathe them – and just like those A-listers – campaigns will always be subject to Twitter counterblasts or social reassurance. But to avoid the kind of ongoing publicity that can scar your brand, a bit of common sense and a flick through the news might just do the trick.
PLAY’s Sanders says: “There’s always something to be upset about, and brands with big budgets and big voices are simply falling victim to this. The wider you spread your message, the more likely you’ll reach someone who will hate it.”
Shop! ANZ is calling on shopper and retail marketing professionals from all retail related disciplines to participate in the first ANZ Shopper and Retail Marketing Industry Survey in four years. This important research provides a guide of where the retail marketing industry in Australia and New Zealand has come from and what is anticipated to […]
In this guest post, Ania Kubiak (main photo), A/NZ country manager at Lucid, offers her tips on how to align your brand with customers’ fast-moving expectations… In today’s digital world, the speed at which consumers’ perspectives and opinions on political and social environments is changing faster than ever before. Consumers are inundated with new information […]
Cartology, the retail media business of Woolworths Group, has further expanded its team with Martin Wood (pictured below) been promoted to head of strategic partnerships and Matt Gower (main photo) has joined the business as senior manager of research and insights. Wood will lead a new team dedicated to servicing the retail media business’s largest […]
CondÉ Nast, the publisher of publications such as VOGUE, Vanity fair, Pitchfork and The New Yorker has agreed to raise the minimum wage for employees after a campaign by the New Yorker union. The union had previously organised a protest, which saw New Yorker staff demonstrating outside VOGUE editor-in-chief Anna Wintour’s home. Placards at the protest had […]
GoDaddy has announced it has been named as the official website builder partner of the Australian Olympic team for the Tokyo 2020 Games. GoDaddy has a history of supporting entrepreneurs and small business owners in Australia. Many Australian Olympic athletes are small business owners themselves, running businesses and side hustle to help support the pursuit […]
MDC Partners (NASDAQ: MDCA), the company that owns agencies including 72andSunny, Anomaly and Media Kitchen, has expanded its global footprint in a partnership with This Is Flow. The Australian based indie will become MDC’s affiliate media planning and buying agency across Australia and New Zealand and will help manage global clients and participate on global pitches etc. however This is Flow will still remain 100% independent.
DoubleVerify has announced the expansion of a partnership with The Trade Desk to include activation of DV Custom Contextual, which will enable programmatic advertisers using the platform to target relevant audiences in a privacy-safe manner that does not utilize cookies or personally identifiable information. The Trade Desk now supports a comprehensive suite of DV’s pre-bid […]
Swinburne University of Technology has launched a series of Bootcamp Graduate Certificate courses, developed in partnership with FourthRev. The courses, an Australian-first, will upskill career changers and provide students the capabilities required to thrive in the digital economy. They are available on-campus and through its online arm, Swinburne Online. Alongside completing projects which will emulate […]
PayPal has partnered with Welcome to Country, Australia’s first Indigenous-led not-for-profit marketplace, which showcases businesses that support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Welcome to Country launched in 2019, providing an online platform for Indigenous experience providers across tours, day treks, scenic flights, bush food, festivals, art and cultural experiences. When the pandemic hit, the […]