Marketing campaigns live or die by timeliness. In today’s fast-paced digital world, that can be incredibly difficult to maintain. Relevancy on the internet changes with hashtags that come and go like perennial garden flowers, only with less reliability. For a company’s ad campaign to stay relevant, they must not only be up to date on recent news, pop culture and media but they must also learn to shift their tone when what they’re selling isn’t working. It also helps to be on the right side of history.
One does not have to think too far back to find a relevant, tone-deaf campaign that didn’t capture the public sentiment. Kendall Jenner calmly walking through a crowd of protestors to hand the police a Pepsi in 2017 has already been the subject of ridicule. The same can be said of Starbucks’ “Race Together” campaign in 2015 shortly after Michael Brown’s tragic death at the hands of police. Starbucks was never considered a great gathering place for serious racial discussion, and the campaign became a laughingstock.
Nevertheless, there have been some exceptionally clever, well-read marketing campaigns in the last decade. Here are the best of them.
“Dumb Ways to Die” – McCann Melbourne
Leave it to the Australians to appeal to their citizens’ twisted sense of humour. Having dropped in 2012 on YouTube, “Dumb Ways to Die” was an addictively catchy music video that aimed to warn kids of the dangers of falling on a train track. In North America, we celebrate The Darwin Awards, which points out people’s lack of the “survival of the fittest” gene, but have yet to apply them in a way that actually might save lives. In Australia, the video was viewed over 185 million times, spawning countless covers and parodies. A search on Google found accidental deaths by train sadly still occur in Melbourne.
“Epic Split” – Volvo
This Cannes winner played on an old trick that has become popular in recent years: rekindling a man’s love for fading action stars. Bruce Willis similarly appeared in an ad for DieHard batteries recently, but Jean-Claude Van Damme does more than just carry his star power into the ad; he re-enacts his famous split sequence in 1994’s Timecop, reminding older fans why they loved him back then.
“Mother Knows Best” – Thai Life Insurance
Over recent years, empathy has become a cornerstone in marketing. Once the pandemic gripped the world, it became a necessity. There was no company better prepared for it than Thai Life Insurance, which had specialized in creating emotionally compelling ads for years. “Mother Knows Best” won the Stevie International Business Award and fits perfectly in line with the rest of the insurance company’s brand, which is entirely focused on better living through a better society.
With a new decade already in progress with vaccines being administered and the first real potential for a post-Covid world, the future of marketing is very much unknown, but it will certainly continue to adhere to internet trends.
Kenny Hedges | Contributing Writer