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

Podcasts are the business

Mark Mars 3rd October 2017 — 5 mins read
G

etting people to listen to your story or message for 15 minutes to an hour is challenging when you think about how short our attention spans have become (just eight seconds according to recent research). But businesses are increasingly realising the power of podcasting.

Savvy brands are recognising that well produced podcasts differentiate them from many of their competitors.

The most successful are those where products and services are subtly woven into the story the podcast is telling rather than being pushed as a hard sell.

Here are some of our favourites:

 

InterContinental Hotels

The hospitality chain launched its podcast series exploring unique features about its hotels with the goal of tapping into a traveller’s passion for new discoveries.

For example, one episode revealed that deep within the InterContinental New York Barclay Hotel’s basement there is a hidden tunnel which was used to transport wealthy travellers to and from Grand Central Station in the 1920s.

The 20-minute Stories of the InterContinental Life podcast is aimed at reigniting the guest’s passion for travel and intrigue in discovering new places. It is produced to inspire travellers to experience the world and create their own stories.

The podcasts were created as part of a global marketing campaign to drive engagement by connecting the InterContinental brand to what is relevant in culture.

There are now a series of videos to go alongside the podcasts to really bring the stories to life.

 

General Electric

This multinational company which operates in many sectors including aviation, digital, healthcare, oil and gas etc. launched its first podcast series, The Message, in October 2015 and garnered 4.4 million downloads.

The sci-fi podcast show managed to reach the No. 1 podcast spot on iTunes and fans called for the series to be made into a film.

It was a huge success with an average of 450,000 people tuning into each episode. When the podcast series ended the episodes were collectively listened to another 90,000 times.

A new series, LifeAfter, was launched in 2016 and explored the question of what happens to our digital identity when we die, and the role AI can play in the grieving process.

The goal of the podcast series is to tell a really good story that touches on a theme that reflects General Electric’s work in science and technology.

It’s clear to see General Electric saw an opportunity in the story telling space and took it. They learned that quality generates an audience reaction and being clear on their objectives and not naming General Electic and its products in every other word builds value and trust. Something that clearly brings listeners back again and again.

 

Tequila Avión

The Rich Friends: The Elevated Conversation podcast by spirits firm Tequila Avión, launched in 2016 in association with GQ associate editor Mark Anthony Green and The New Yorker nightlife editor Matthew Trammell.

Its podcast explores current affairs, music, lifestyle, art, culture and fashion in New York.

Both men bring their own unique tastes to each episode with their experience in fashion and lifestyle magazines. The dynamic, enthusiastic and opinionated hosts make this podcast feel like you’re with them exploring the best of what ‘the city that never sleeps’ has to offer.

Tequila Avión’s forward thinking attitude combined with Matt and Mark Anthony’s cultural backgrounds makes this the perfect podcast partnership which has resulted in a unique piece of programming.

Topics are always discussed with a cocktail in hand and in any way the duo see fit. Founder of Tequila Avión, Ken Austin said “When we came in, we said, we’re willing to sponsor this thing, but I said to the guys, I don’t want to tell you what to say […] it was more about the audience and the listener versus a brand dictating anything”.

With 24 episodes under their belt, it seems the elevated conversation continues.

 

Slack

The Slack Variety Pack podcast launched in 2015 and is held to be the gold standard of branded podcasts. This is down to the fact it understands its audience very well.

As a result, the company – a cloud based collaboration tools and services firm - has grown dramatically, predominantly due to word of mouth in Silicon Valley and among other American workforces, and it is now slowly making its way across The Pond.

The podcast drew in the ‘tech-savvy, young, curious and light-hearted’ with their stories about ‘work, life and everything in between’.

The 20-40 minute long episodes that included work-life anecdotes and self-contained stories, as well as Slack’s signature quirky and curious personality, enabled the podcast listenership to grow with every episode.

With success like this, we can only assume that Slack will continue to create podcasts.

 

Shopify

‘Thank God it’s Monday’ is not something everyone utters as they walk into work (although we do, in case you are reading boss), but this is the title of Shopify’s podcast.

It was created for ambitious entrepreneurs who can’t wait for a new week to begin. Shopify aimed to inspire listeners by telling success stories of like-minded innovators.

In addition to a very successful blog, Shopify created the podcast in order to capture a part of this growing marketThey identified that many people prefer audio to text as a learning format, and as portable content, anyone can listen to it wherever they are.

By interviewing high-powered businesspeople including marketing guru Seth Godin, Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes and serial start up entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk in 30-45 minute episodes Shopify creates quality content that people want to listen to.

Mark Macdonald, content manager at Shopify, said: “We would much rather be the content than the advertising. We are creating something that people want to consume, rather than interrupting them with something they wish to ignore.”

 

 

At Thirty Seven, we offer content marketing 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 a podcast or blog post.

Adam Fisher
10th December 2018 - 4 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.