Controversial Campaigns

As we keep monitoring viral video and social marketing campaigns, we come across interesting phenomena. Today I'd like to point out three controversial viral video marketing campaigns and their effects:

  1. Motrin - In November, McNeil Consumer Healthcare published a video ad for their pain killers, which addressed mums carrying their babies in slings.

    The ad actually insulted many of these mums and an online controversy broke out with a #motrinmums group being created on twitter, many blogs posted to counter the implied consequences of wearing your baby, and eventually McNeil pulling the video from their site and from YouTube, and writing a letter of apology to some of the enraged mums. The ad had a much larger influence than expected, since the "scandal" reached main stream media. Effectively, most people wondered why the mums were so enraged and while the targetted audience was not fully reached, the ad reached a much larger audience than expected.

  2. ASI Sport Talent - In early December, the Australian Sport Institute published a video ad to drive sport talent hunt for the London Olympics.

    In the ad, a British hoodie taunts Australians about their failure to win as many medals as the British team at the Beijing Games: "Let's rip the Brits to bits in London 2012.". The campaign stirred up London when almost all of page three of The Sunday Times was devoted to it. The Australian Sport Institute got more publicity out of maintstream media because of it's controversy than it could have hoped for. Whether that will translate into higher numbers of athletes joining for the Olympics is still questionable.

  3. FLAAF "Axes against evil" - In mid December, a Belgian campaing topped the charts in controversy with their army of supposed terrorists that warn the Dutch people for the dangers of their traditional New Years Eve fireworks.

    But the Belgians showing their good humour are giving it very positive comments and feature it on several leading Dutch news and entertainment shows.

What each of these videos show is that a controversial campaign can have an impact far beyond your direct target audience. It may get picked up by the traditional press and thus reach people that would otherwise not hear about it. This can be both a blessing and a curse. If it involves permanent brand damage, it may not be such a good idea. OTOH it is obvious that controversy will create a larger audience and reach more people so taken with caution, a controversial video ad can achieve far more than an ad produced without making sure to distinguish yourself.

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