Emily Stonham
5th November 2018 - 10 mins read
W

hat better way to mark Bonfire Night than to ‘remember, remember’ some digital marketing and advertising stories which went up in smoke this year?

We’ve picked five of the most spectacularly misjudged efforts from 2018.

Some of them are simply ridiculous, others are just offensively tone-deaf.

 

Mastercard Football Tweets

Starting off with a social media campaign that it’s hard to believe ever got approved, cast your minds back to May. Mastercard announced a two-year campaign on its Twitter feed that offered to donate the equivalent of 10,000 meals to the World Food Program.

It sounded nice in principle, until the next part of the paragraph which stated that the meals would only be donated if footballers Messi or Naymar scored a goal.

Understandably, people were outraged online. Why should the starvation and malnourishment of children be left down to a glorified game of fetch? (Sorry football fans - Ed)

There were surely good intentions behind this campaign, but the stunt did nothing but wind up social media users and paint Mastercard in a bad light.

If an organisation has the ability to donate such large amounts of money, it seems like a better idea would be to donate the money rather than publicly flaunt it online for the sake of a football match and a bit of misplaced PR.

 

IHOP/IHOb Name Switch

In June, the American brand IHOP (International House of Pancakes) announced to its distraught followers that they were changing their name to ‘IHOb’ and invited everyone to guess what the ‘b’ stood for.

It caused a lot of dismay with its audience, and earned them a lot of sassiness from other brands.

This stunt seems to have been a lot more trouble than it was worth. After a month or so of IHOb drama and many ‘b’ related tweets, the company announced that the ‘b’ stood for burgers.

I think Mashable put it best when they called the stunt ‘thoroughly underwhelming’. A brand’s name is a huge part of its identity, and the month long change doesn’t seem to have had the desired results for IHOP.

H&M Sweater

Moving on to a social media crisis that should really have been anticipated, H&M found itself in hot water due to one of its clothing adverts. The image depicted a black child wearing a sweater that said ‘coolest monkey in the jungle’.

 

Social media users were immediately enraged - citing the fact that the other white models were wearing different sweaters, and questioning how this photo got approved by an entire team.

This particular controversy caused a lot of debate. Some people immediately declared this a racist act, with celebrities such as The Weeknd publicly breaking any ties that they had with the company. Consumers boycotted the brand, and stores were even faced with vandalism in response to the advert.

 

Here's a video of the protesters destroying a store, via EuroNews on YouTube.

 

However, some determined that this was not at all a racist act, including the boys own family, who said that it did ‘not ring alarm bells’ and they didn’t deem it offensive. Other social media users defended the company’s actions, questioning whether a large company would have deliberately tried to offend people in this manner.

 

Heineken Light Beer

Continuing the theme of unintentional offensive advertising campaigns, this particular one had critics wondering whether Heineken had deliberately created a racist advert in order to attract more attention.

The advert in question is for their light beer, and features a bartender sliding a beer bottle down the bar. It passes several black people, and ends up being picked up by a light skinned woman - with the tagline ‘sometimes, lighter is better.’

People were fuming. The ad suggests a preference for light skin, and the tagline comes across in a horribly offensive way.

Chance the Rapper, a popular musician, branded the advert as ‘terribly racist’ on social media. He also opened up an interesting discussion about whether brands were deliberately using racist imagery or offensive slogans to gain more media coverage.

Shortly after, the advert was pulled, and Heineken issued an apology, announcing that they ‘missed the mark’ with this advert.

 

Snapchat Rihanna Advert

The final example we have today is an advert that caused a lot of distress and outrage online.

For those who may not know, the singer Rihanna was a domestic abuse victim at the hands of her ex-partner Chris Brown. The case is understandably something that Rihanna has tried to distance herself from.

It’s therefore a shock that Snapchat would allow a game to promote this advert on its ‘story’ feature.

The advert was for a ‘would you rather’ styled game, and presented the option to slap Rihanna or punch Chris. Social media users called it ‘tone deaf’ and ‘awful’.

As one user pointed out on Twitter, adverts on social media have to go through an approval process. This means that multiple people looked at this advert, thought about it and said to themselves ‘yes, this is fine.

Rihanna herself condemned this advert, wiping over £700m off of Snapchat’s parent company's value in the process. She discussed the ad on an Instagram story, saying it was ‘intentionally shaming domestic abuse victims’.

 

Snapchat immediately pulled the advert and issued an apology, saying it had been put up in error, but it seems the harm had already been done. Countless people were upset by the fact this advert had ever been created in the first place, regardless of Snapchat’s insistence that it was a mistake.

 

Overall

Overall, there’s been some pretty poor advertising and marketing mistakes this year. From the ‘simply underwhelming’ to the ‘disgustingly offensive’, there hasn’t been a shortage of questionable campaigns to learn from.

So, what can your business learn from these examples in particular?

Firstly, and I know it sounds obvious, but consider carefully how people will react to your campaign. This is especially important if it features something sensitive, e.g. poverty, discrimination or politics.

For example, there were undoubtedly good intentions somewhere in the Mastercard football campaign, but the delivery and perception of it online led to it being seen as something twisted and ugly.

Using crowd feedback to gauge responses on topics like charity can be a great way to prevent things like this happening. Try tools like Instagram or Twitter polls, or encourage users to submit questions or statements - perhaps which charity they’d like your business to support.

Another important consideration is how social media will impact your campaign. I’m sure that the H&M photo didn’t seem like a huge issue at the time to the photographers and creatives, but once social media users got hold of it, the story took on a different turn.

Consider how your campaign will look out of context. Does it still make sense? One of Dove’s ads from 2017 shows the importance of considering context more carefully. A sequence of 4 photos were taken out of the whole advert, and they spread like wildfire.

Here’s the sequence of 4 photos.

 

And here’s the full advert, from Business Insider's channel on YouTube.

The set of four photos looks to be implying that dark skin is dirty and that white skin is pure. It’s crucial to make sure that your advert can’t be taken out of context and be given a whole new meaning.

The final thing to consider is using humour. It might be hilarious to you and your team, but jokes in marketing and advertising can often be lost in translation, especially if it’s dark/offensive humour. If you’re not sure, it’s best to leave it alone.

What’s the worst example of marketing or advertising that you’ve seen this year? Feel free to let us know on our Twitter at @37agency.

At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging, informative and shareable so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a whitepaper.

Marketing

The unsexy content which needs to be part of your communications strategy

Adam Fisher 13th February 2018 — 4 mins read
O

ther forms of content, such as the less formal eBooks, blogs, infographics and interactive games appear more exciting and attractive and ultimately seem to have become more popular.

You could be forgiven for thinking, therefore, that whitepapers have had their day and are just another victim of digital progression.

But there is another school of thought – one which we subscribe to at Thirty Seven – that whitepapers are alive and well and continue to play a crucial part in effective content marketing strategies.

In fact, we believe they have an integral role in providing the comprehensive, detailed material which is all too often missing in other parts of content marketing.

It is the perfect long-form content medium in which to position a brand as a genuine authority in its field and take a deep look at the issues which matter to its clients and potential customers.

Here are a few more of its strengths:

Whitepapers have longevity

A whitepaper which successfully tackles an important issue will be saved and printed out and people will refer back to it again and again when they make important decisions.

Whitepapers are shared

They may not go viral in the social media sense, but whitepapers are typically shared by colleagues and teams and can travel extensively within just one organisation, greatly increasing the size of the audience and spreading awareness of your brand. My boss, for example, will regularly share whitepapers with me that he has downloaded and found useful and I often pass these on to other colleagues and even people in other organisations.

Content that can be reused

A common concern organisations often have about whitepapers is that they require considerable time and effort for just one piece of content. But actually that isn’t the case. A good whitepaper can typically be sliced and diced into a series of blogs. Not only is this fresh content, but each resulting blog can be used to encourage the reader to download the whitepaper for detailed analysis of the wider issue.

Whitepapers create strong leads

Whitepapers are not for the casual reader – they require too big a time commitment from the consumer for that. So, when someone signs-up to receive a whitepaper they are looking for a solution to a particular problem and they are trusting your organisation to provide it.

If whitepapers have all these benefits, how can you ensure yours doesn’t fall into the ‘unsexy’ trap?

Tackle a topic which matters to your audience

As with all content marketing, understanding your audience and the issues that matter to them is pivotal.

For your whitepaper to gain the interest of your customers it needs to tackle both an issue they want to be resolved and offer a unique perspective.

This involves detailed research, information being verified and experts being interviewed - and a clearly communicated argument.

Improve the visual

One key way to improve the image of whitepapers is to make them look visually better. Page after page of text is only going to cause readers to lose interest and stop reading, no matter how well it is written.

Photographs, infographics, charts, pull-out quotes and even coloured boxes all have a role to play in adding a creative touch and making whitepaper content more visually appealing.

Length

Even though whitepapers are long-form content a careful eye needs to be kept on length.

A 10-15 page document should easily be enough to construct a credible and persuasive argument and will be much more digestible and less daunting than something double that length.

This means that writing needs to be sharp, concise and waffle free.

Use variety to spice it up

If you’ve already got whitepapers as part of your content, try using different templates and styles to make new ones stand out. Find different ways for readers to test what they have learnt in different sections of the paper, add bullet point summaries after specific sections and use different layouts.

Produce an attention-grabbing headline

No matter how strong the content of your whitepaper you still need to find a way of ensuring you customers are going to read it.

The headline is key to ensuring that your whitepaper stands-out, generates curiosity and promises the solution to a problem.

Enable people to preview whitepapers before they download

Allowing customers to preview a few sample pages of the whitepaper before they need to enter their details and download it is a great way to entice readers and highlight the quality of your document. If it is good enough for Amazon and the books they sell then I think it is something we should all consider.

Check out this example we created for Every Angle.

Whitepapers may not be sexy. They may not provoke instant excitement. But get them right and your customers will find them hard to resist.


At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a whitepaper.

Mark Mars
3rd October 2017 - 5 mins read

Every company wants to be an authority in their sector - those that engage the media usually are

Media First designs and delivers bespoke media and communications courses that use current working journalists, along with PR and communications professionals, to help you get the most from your communications plan.