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Shockingly good? Five controversial marketing campaigns

When judged on the basis of social media ‘noise’, the five advertising campaigns that have attracted the most interest are revealed here.

After the closure of its last bank branch in 2018, the Scottish town of Denny has welcomed a hi-tech startup offering everyday banking services inside the town's Co-op grocery store
After the closure of its last bank branch in 2018, the Scottish town of Denny has welcomed a hi-tech startup offering everyday banking services inside the town's Co-op grocery store - Copyright GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File Brandon Bell
After the closure of its last bank branch in 2018, the Scottish town of Denny has welcomed a hi-tech startup offering everyday banking services inside the town's Co-op grocery store - Copyright GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File Brandon Bell

As women’s health brand Elvie recently caused a social media stir with their provocative 2022 campaign normalising women’s incontinence in sport, print marketing and branding firm Solopress have been investigating the top five campaigns of the last decade that have further stirred up the social sphere. Digital Journal has taken a peek at the findings.

When judged on the basis of social media ‘noise’, the five advertising campaigns that have attracted the most interest and which tick the requisite boxes for ‘controversial’, are:

Always #LikeAGirl

Feminine hygiene brand Always’ campaign #LikeAGirl managed to successfully subvert gender stereotypes and redefine what it means to do something ‘like a girl’. This took the form of a short video advert that depicted a casting call with young women, men, boys and girls being asked to pretend to run, fight and throw like a girl.

Whist women, men and boys chose to act out stereotypes and mock the way in which women would do these things, pre-pubescent girls provided a powerful response in that they pretended to complete these actions with pride and confidence

Social media statistics:

  • 70 million views on YouTube
  • 20.5million views on TikTok
  • 10,62 likes on Twitter
  • 814 retweets on Twitter

Has to what this translated into for the company, a survey found that 94 percent of those polled, by Always, agreed that their #LikeAGirl campaign encouraged girls to be more confident and 70 percent of women and 60 percent of men claimed that the video changed their perception of the phrase ‘like a girl’.

Gillette #TheBestMenCanBe

The video-based social media campaign was created in the wake of #MeToo and aimed to challenge traditional male stereotypes and encourage positive behaviour. Gillette’s video showed various situations involving boys and men, from men making derogatory comments toward women to young boys fighting each other, intending to encourage others to make better choices.

Social media statistics:

  • 4 million views on YouTube (via Guardian News)
  • 203k retweets on Twitter
  • 76.3k quoted tweets on Twitter
  • 513.3k likes on Twitter
  • 11,752 likes on Instagram
  • 2.1k likes on Facebook

As a measure of advertising success, company research found that Gillette’s #TheBestAManCanBe campaign encouraged 65 percent more purchase intent.

Elvie Leaks Happen

Women’s health brand Elvie launched a 20ft ‘peeing’ billboard to confront the taboo of urinary incontinence back at social media censorship around the widespread issue.

Social media statistics:

  • 3 million views on TikTok
  • 1.9k views on YouTube

As a result of the campaign, searches for ‘Elvie Trainer review’ increased by 60 percent and searches for ‘Elvie Curve’ (two of the brand’s key products) have increased by 70 percent according to Google Trends since the campaign’s launch.

Weetabix, Beanz on Bix

Compared with the previous three campaigns that addressed gender issues, Weetabix elected to focus on pairing its cereal offering with baked beans.

Social media statistics:

  • 36.3k retweets on Twitter
  • 68.8k quoted tweets on Twitter
  • 130k likes on Twitter
  • 1,839 likes on Instagram

KFC FCK

The fried chicken company ran an advert showing an empty chicken bucket with FCK replacing the KFC branding on the front following a stockout in an attempt to counter negative publicity. This aim at juvenile humour appeared in tabloid newspapers like was Metro and The Sun.

Social media statistics:

  • Reached a global audience of 797 million
  • 814 likes on Twitter
  • 428 retweets on Twitter
  • 114 quoted tweets on Twitter
  • 700 press articles and TV discussions

Whether these campaigns were actually ‘controversial’ depends on your social and cultural perspective. They are certainly different to the norm and seemingly successful.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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