5 controversial advertising campaigns by big brands

CMO takes a look at five great - and controversial - brand purpose-led advertising campaigns

Consumers are increasingly demanding the brands they support contribute a positive impact on the society in which we all live. From HSBC to Schweppes, many big brands are leading the way to do just this successfully, or sometimes not so successfully, while also selling their wares.

We highlight five such examples globally over the last 18 months to gauge what makes purpose-led marketing campaigns tick.

1. Gillette: The best a man can be

No purpose-led list could possibly start without the recently applauded and condemned Gillette commercial ‘We believe: the best men can be’, a play on its traditional tagline, ‘the best a man can get’. This ad has been resoundingly supported or hated, without much in between.

Inspired by #metoo, it aims to challenge traditional male stereotypes and encourage men to support other men in better behaviour. It is too soon to measure impact on P&G’s bottom line, however, Ace Metrix recently reported the response to the ad was overwhelmingly positive, with a 65 per cent more/much more purchase intent.

2. HSBC: We are not an island

Similarly, HSBC UK was either encouraged or condemned with last year’s 'Global Citizen TV' advertising campaign. In the age of Brexit, the brand has caused some controversy with its push to be open to new people, places and opportunities.

The campaign was followed up with 'Own the unknown', in May, and ‘Mind your business’ in October, all starring former IT Crowd actor Richard Ayoade. According to HSBC last year, third quarter revenue was up nine per cent.

3. Schweppes: Dress for respect

Schweppes Brasil’s recent ‘The Dress for Respect’ ad involved creating a touch-sensitive dress to measure how often women get groped in a nightclub on a night out. In less than four hours, three women were touched 157 times, or over 40 times per hour, without consent.

'Dress for Respect' was created to encourage men to rethink their behaviour and approach women in ways that are respectful. It's another campaign to tie into the #metoo movement, and included more formal statistics in Brazil that show 86 per cent of women are harrassed in nightclubs.

4. AXE: Is it ok for guys...?

These ads are not all for women. Well before Gillette's toxic masculinity exploration, AXE created an advertising campaign around the concept:" ‘Is it ok for guys..’ based on the questions thousands of men have searched the Internet for in order to shy a lot on men struggling with modern masculinity.

The ad invited men to start questioning what defines a man, and takes the position that there’s no one way to be a man.The campaign was part of Axe's 'Find your magic' and saw the body spray brand partnering with gender justice research group and lobby organisation, Promundo. Its wider research found 72 per cent of guys have been told how a real man should behave, 59 per cent believe they should act strong even if they feel scared, and nearly half think they shouldn’t ask for help with their problems.

5. Nike: Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything

Nike, one of the world's most prominent sporting brands, has been using the tagline 'Just do it' for 30 years. To celebrate the milestone, the brand opted to take a strong stand not just on sporting excellence but also upstanding moral behaviour by featuring sportsman, Colin Kaepernick, in the campaign. The quarterback controversially took a knee during the American national anthem in protest at the way migrants are being treated politically in the US.

Nike’s example not only became a call to action for social change, it also enjoyed financial success. In fact, the group's sales increased by 36 per cent last year, adding US$6 billion to its bottom line.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu  

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

Does your brand need a personality review?

There are five tell-tale signs your brand needs to take a long hard look at itself.

Charlie Rose

Senior Strategy Consultant, Principals

How to create profitable pricing

How do we price goods and services? As business leaders, we have asked ourselves this question since the history of trading.

Lee Naylor

Managing partner, The Leading Edge

Sport and sponsorship: The value of event sponsorship

Australia’s cricketers captured the nation’s attention during their recent run to the semi-final of the ICC Men’s World Cup. While the tournament ultimately ended in defeat, for over a month it provoked a sense of belonging, hope and empowerment for millions of people across Australia. Cricket, and sport in general, has a near-unique ability to empower individuals, irrelevant of their background, demographic or nationality.

Nikhil Arora

Vice-president and managing director, GoDaddy India

I should check these guidelines. I think it's important for me. Thanks for the info!

Juana Morales

IAB releases social media comment moderation guidelines

Read more

I didn't know about that. Thanks!

Jamison Herrmann

Twitter 'recap' helps you catch up with missed tweets

Read more

😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂

Max Polding

What it takes to turnaround an iconic Australian brand

Read more

I spend a lot of time in my professional life as a provider of marketing solutions trying to persuade customers that CX, UX, UI and Custo...

sketharaman

Gartner VP: Why CMOs and CIOs must band together to make CX a discipline

Read more

I live the best deals at LA Police Gear.

Tyrus Rechs

6 Ways to ramp up Social Media to Your Web Design

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in