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
cmo-xs-promo

Latest Videos

More Videos

Anyone can become a victim of the sophisticated schemes set up by these scam websites. It's not about being smart; I don't consider mysel...

Mathieu Lecompte

ACCC takes Meta to court over scam cryptocurrency advertising

Read more

Nice blog!Blog is really informative , valuable.keep updating us with such amazing blogs.influencer agency in Melbourne

Rajat Kumar

Why flipping Status Quo Bias is the key to B2B marketing success

Read more

good this information are very helpful for millions of peoples customer loyalty Consultant is an important part of every business.

Tom Devid

Report: 4 ways to generate customer loyalty

Read more

Great post, thanks for sharing such a informative content.

CodeWare Limited

APAC software company brings on first VP of growth

Read more

This article highlights Gartner’s latest digital experience platforms report and how they are influencing content operations ecosystems. ...

vikram Roy

Gartner 2022 Digital Experience Platforms reveals leading vendor players

Read more

Blog Posts

​Why we need to look at the whole brand puzzle, not just play with the pieces

Creating meaningful brands should be a holistic and considered process. However, all too frequently it’s one that is disparate and reactive, where one objective is prioritized at the expense of all others. So, what are the key pieces to the ‘good’ brand puzzle?

Marketing overseas? 4 ways to make your message stick

Companies encounter a variety of challenges when it comes to marketing overseas. Marketing departments often don’t know much about the business and cultural context of the international audiences they are trying to reach. Sometimes they are also unsure about what kind of marketing they should be doing.

Cynthia Dearin

Author, business strategist, advisor

From unconscious to reflective: What level of data user are you?

Using data is a hot topic right now. Leaders are realising data can no longer just be the responsibility of dedicated analysts or staff with ‘data’ in their title or role description.

Dr Selena Fisk

Data expert, author

Sign in