Welcome to the second instalment of ‘Being Remarkable’ – short reads that slice, dice and celebrate remarkable creative work from around the world. This month, Connecting Plots’ Creative Director, Chris Johnson explains how contentious campaigns can play an important role in earning your brand amazing exposure and attention, without it having to cost the earth…

When I started out in the advertising business I was promptly told by an older, wiser adlander, “if no one notices your ad, then you’ve failed.” It’s sound advice, rooted firmly in principle. Yet in today’s world, quite literally drowning in advertising, I barely notice anything. You would think that simple principle would apply now more than ever, right?

Behind the Doors of Remarkability 

But why are so few ads standing out? I think it has a lot to do with a lack of appetite for anything marketers deem “risky”. But is there anything riskier than going unnoticed? As American creative director Dave Trott correctly states – “Contentiousness equals free media.”

This idea is exactly what lies at the heart of any really successful viral or earned media campaign. Think Nike’s Emmy-award winning ‘Dream Crazy’ Kaepernick stunt. Or more recently, Heineken’s dig at the ill-founded breakaway European football league. Or even our very-own 420 hijack campaign for Menulog, celebrating the role of food delivery for the munchies in a funny way. All embracing something contentious for maximum remarkability.

Vegemite’s Viral Ashes Campaign 

That’s why I particularly love the viral 2019 campaign from Vegemite. The full-page ad, which was placed in London newspaper The Daily Mirror, threw its support behind the Aussie cricket team and celebrated Australia’s victory against England in the First Test. The campaign was a direct response to a Marmite marketing campaign, which launched before the First Test and was an attempt to convert Aussie cricket fans to the rival breakfast spread. As part of the campaign, promotional staff branded as the ‘Marmy Army’ handed out free samples of Marmite at the cricket. This is when Vegemite decided to take matters into its own hands with a cheeky full-page ad. 

Whilst it’s not in the same realm of contentiousness as Nike’s Dream Crazy campaign, it still sits in the uncomfortable zone of taking a shot at another brand. But how uncomfortable is it really? Isn’t it just good old-fashioned fun? The kind that everybody in their busy, serious lives love? Obviously yes, when you look at the results.

Engineered to be Remarkable 

What’s truly notable about this idea is that it’s engineered to be remarkable. It plays into an already established rivalry. The creatives behind the campaign and people who wrote the copy could almost be certain it would get a reaction from its intended audience because it was cheeky and controversial. Not to mention the brands are so distinctly English and Australian they sit atop the rivalry beautifully. The stunt also worked well within a series – someone had to win the next game, and the next. This meant there were plenty of chances to create fun, remarkable content as the Test series drew on.

I also love the idea of utilising a simple, old-fashioned newspaper ad, knowing full well it would quickly infiltrate the social space. Overall, it’s a highly successful campaign that’s even more remarkable because it was conceived and executed without an enormous price tag, simply because it was built around a natural rivalry and topic of debate. 

The ad is a good lesson for all of us. Nobody is waiting for our ads. We need to be clever in how we grab the attention of our intended audience. And in my opinion, creating noticeably contentious campaigns is a sure-fire shortcut to remarkability.