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

How to avoid writing content no one will read

Adam Fisher 6th April 2018 — 5 mins read
T

o put that quantity in context, according to TrackMaven, over the past five years, the average number of blog posts published per brand per month increased by 800 per cent. 

Everyone wants their written content to engage, entertain and entice their readers, but with this content overload – or ‘content shock’ as I have also seen it called -  it is increasingly hard for your words to stand out.

So how can you ensure your written content gets read?

 

Adopt a conversational style

It might break certain grammatical rules, but adopting a conversational style when writing your content will help your readers feel you are talking directly to them.

When I write, I always try to use the same informal language I would use if I was talking to a friend.

That doesn’t mean I write exactly how I talk, but, to adopt a quote from American novelist Elmore Leonard, I don’t want my writing to sound like writing. Formality is boring.

I avoid long words and unnecessarily complicated language and I place a lot of emphasis on the words ‘you’ and ‘I’ because I want to make it personal. I want to foster familiarity and for you, the reader, to believe the content you are reading has been produced specifically for you and not everyone on our mailing list.

And I ask a lot of questions. Why? Well because conversations are full of questions. The only difference in my writing is that I also (hopefully) provide the answers.

 

Make your writing look appealing

Inserting picture and infographics and including lots of white space into your content will certainly help, but there are other subtle techniques you can deploy to make your written content more appealing.

Readers find huge paragraphs and big blocks of text daunting and ultimately off-putting. If you look at newspapers, and yes I know print circulation figures are in decline, almost every paragraph consists of just one sentence.

Similarly, long sentences can be a big turn-off. If your sentence is longer than 30 words it needs to be split up into smaller sections.

You may have been told at school not to start sentences with ‘and’ or ‘but’.  But now is the time to break those rules because there is nothing wrong with this in the grown-up world of content. And it is a great way of keeping sentences short and snappy. (See what I did there!)

Pull-out quotes, click-to-tweets and sub-headings are also great ways of breaking-up large sections of text.

 

Show you are human

People are interested in stories about other people.

The human touch lights up content and prevents the author sounding distant, detached and boring. It also builds connections with your audience.

I often include experiences from my career and even parts of my home life to illustrate points in my writing and the content which includes these examples and anecdotes is often the best performing.

Why? Because it make the content more relatable and also validates why I should be in a position to offer advice.

Strong personal opinions can add the human element we look for in an increasingly automated world.

At Thirty Seven, we thrive on creating authentic content which is original, credible and packed with human interest. Via: @37agency

 Offer something unique

Type ‘content marketing’ into Google and it returns more than 33 million results.

So your content needs to offer something different to stand-out from the noise.

That doesn’t mean you can’t write about the issues that other people in your sector have already been speaking about. But you need to offer a different perspective, point of view or an interesting twist.

You need to be able to add to the conversation, not repeat it.

Narrowing your subject down will help. I blog a lot on media training issues for our sister company Media First.

That is a broad subject area, so I often break it down into specific areas where it can be easier to add something unique or unusual. For example, I have written blog on how to handle specific types of questions, such as personal ones, and particular types of interviews, such as doorstep interviews.

 

Know your audience

The best way to attract readers is to ensure you know who you are trying to appeal to.

If you don’t know enough about your readers and the questions they are looking for answers to, it is unlikely you are going to be writing on topics that are relevant.

 

Spend time on the headline

The headline is obviously crucial for attracting people to your content. It is the gateway.

But it is a balancing act.

Over promise and you are in danger of creating click-bait which could result in people visiting your website and leaving again almost immediately (this is known as a bounce rate).

Under-sell it and you are not going to attract the number of readers your content deserves.

So how can you get the headline right?

Numbers are a good tool, particularly odd ones, and questions are enticing – just look at how often the Daily Mail uses a question in a headline on its website.

Words like ‘how’, ‘why’, and ‘who’ also have reader appeal. 

And, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, keep it short.

Sites like CoSchedule will analyse your headlines and give tips on how to improve them.

 

Nail the intro

The introduction is a crucial part of any written content - it is the hook to get people to invest time reading the rest of what you have written.

The first thing I would say here is don’t repeat your headline in your introduction. This is something I see quite a lot of and it is incredibly dull and pointless.

It is also a good way of ensuring readers will quickly lose interest.

To entice the reader your introduction needs to show them they are going to read something relevant, timely, unusual or controversial (without offending them).

As with the sentences in the rest of your content, you need to keep your introduction short.

 

Promote, promote, promote

As much as I would like to tell you it is all about the writing, promoting your content properly is vital.

Email marketing, social media, PR, guest blogging and paid promotion are just some of the tactics you can consider to attract more people to your work and ensure your content marketing works.

 

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. 

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.