Rebel with an ROI Cause

Should you get in trouble on purpose?

The Blogfather devises a troublometer to allow you to determine if controversial marketing is for you.

I started my morning by reading about another instance of the sailing-close-to-the-wind geniuses Paddy Power successfully navigating another ASA ruling. They certainly have a distinct presence. Which got me thinking: should we be getting in trouble on purpose?

I immediately proceeded to throw our George’s Mac out the window (I have a blog to write), Keith Moon style. Yes! That’ll show the lovely people from the opticians who work below us!

I have also prepared a sliding 1-4 scale of trouble – a Troublometer, if you will, replete with examples of what you could, should, and definitely should not be doing: 

1 - Placing a cat amongst the pigeons – Quite safe really, but can be effective. Distributing leaflets outside the premises of a competitor, for example. Or get yourself down on the Underground and put some posters where you shouldn’t, like Strike! Magazine did in raising awareness of poorly paid, unrewarding jobs.

2 - Putting a few noses out of joint – BrewDog is good at this.  Here’s a snippet of a corker of a press release from co-founder James Watt, in response to being found guilty of encouraging anti-social behavior by the Portman Group:

“On behalf of BrewDog PLC and its 14,691 individual shareholders, I would like to issue a formal apology to the Portman Group for not giving a shit about today’s ruling. Indeed, we are sorry for never giving a shit about anything the Portman Group has to say, and treating all of its statements with callous indifference and nonchalance.”

Arguably the most controversial campaign of the year to date, ‘Are You Beach Body Ready?’ by Protein World, worked. If you are serious about being a marketing rebel then some outdoor advertising on the Tube seems to be the place to go as, akin to Strike!, this is where Protein World’s posters also went up, and then got defaced. We blogged on this before, but in essence they strengthened and improved their customer base.

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 10.25.22.png

"On behalf of BrewDog PLC and its 14,691 individual shareholders, I would like to issue a formal apology to the Portman Group for not giving a shit about today’s ruling"

3 - Landing in hot water – But even those artists of controversy, Paddy Power, can get it wrong. Their leaked campaign for the Ashes using Rolf Harris’ incarceration was a bit much. But at least it never went to press.

Combining sex and smoking is a surefire way to get some petitions on the go, something which VIP e-cigarettes did. With innuendos that must have been picked up from the cutting room floor of a Carry On movie, this ad got banned by the ASA for glamourising smoking. Which is does. But with the Daily Mail et al covering it, and with it having a decidedly silly feel, surely not all the attention was bad.

4 - Doing a Lord Sewel – Reckless abandon. Or just appalling judgement. You might want to reconsider signing that off. Not too much makes me flabbergasted, but I did a double take when I first saw the below ad from Hyundai.


Combining sex and smoking is a surefire way to get some petitions on the go

Dave Trott says that all advertising must have Impact > Communication > Persuasion. Well, this ad does have undoubted impact. But Communication? It’s bizarre, dark and unclear. Are they saying the car has life saving qualities, like an air bag? I think they were trying to be darkly humorous but it was utterly misplaced. And finally, Persuasion? Zero. I’m not sure who at the Innocean agency thought it was a good idea to sell more cars off the back of depicting a suicide attempt, but the result is something you would expect to see on Brass Eye. In response to some understandably vigorous opposition, Hyundai rightly pulled the ad, before they got hauled over the coals.

So, at a time when it seems to be a lot easier to offend people, you have to ensure that you are getting the right kind of attention. For some companies, courting controversy just doesn’t make sense. Pampers might want to think twice about sponsoring an adult fetish baby nursery, by way of a hypothetical example.

And with that, I’ll sign off and tweet Pampers my idea.

Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 13.15.22.png

Pampers might want to think twice about sponsoring an adult fetish baby nursery



If the Blogfather’s forthright opinion and pithy wit is to your liking, then click here, and we can keep you connected, if you know what we mean (what we actually mean is that we will send you an email to notify you every time he writes a new one, nothing heavy is going down).

Other articles that you may be interested in


Let us know your thoughts:

Tell us about your next project

we would love to hear from you