Since 1970, April 22nd has marked a worldwide observance of Earth Day, an annual celebration of our planet’s beauty and value often accompanied by pleas to preserve the environment. But few years’ acknowledgements have included quite the same level of vehement activism as 2017’s, which most notably manifested in the “March for Science” that drew crowds in cities across the United States. This year’s observance of Earth Day made abundantly clear that on today’s contentious global political stage, issues like climate change and funding cuts are capturing the attention of more and more minds – and, in typical fashion, marketers are taking note.
Brief social media shoutouts and mini-campaigns are standard fare for major companies on an average Earth Day, and certainly many companies kept their annual messages simple as such. Ben & Jerry’s, which runs sustainability initiatives year-round, posted simple social media imagery invoking a melting planet-themed ice cream cone to encourage its customers to make environmentally conscious decisions. Apple, meanwhile, released ads stripped of their usually slick style to educate the masses on the company’s earth-friendly offices and sustainability programs.
Some companies, however, crafted activist approaches to the holiday with far further reaches and greater power than the standard hashtag or televised ad. In a shining example, Netflix released its brand new original series aimed at exploring social and political issues surrounding science – Bill Nye Saves the World – on the day before Earth Day. At the least, Netflix has found a way to key into holiday hype to promote its new creation, but a more likely theory would suggest that the company structured the entire series and its related promotional content to invest in a growing spirit of mainstream activism among consumers.
Netflix’s timely new series is just the latest in a trend of marketing forays into activism. The movement, however, has perhaps been most memorably accelerated by the 2016 US Presidential Election, which saw ad agencies taking far bolder stances than have been standard in past years. Those who spoke up spoke loud and clear: agencies including Droga5, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, and Burrell Communications created pro-bono content for the Clinton campaign, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners rolled out a “Personalized Anti-Trump Ad Generator,” and Wieden + Kennedy opened a physical stand in Portland peddling “Donald Trump’s BS” (baloney sandwiches, that is).
Since then, the tide of activist advertising, complete with brash political statements and integrated campaigns, has only swelled, as we’ve seen in instances from 84 Lumber’s gutsy Superbowl LI ad to Pepsi’s well-publicized flop. Marketers across all industries are taking note of the passionate activism dominating today’s discourse and attempting to keep their brands relevant in its midst, with mixed results. While some see activist advertising as a logical extension of a brand’s purpose and values, others view the marketing trend as a crass attempt to profit by pandering to socially-conscious groups.
While no one can say how this marketing movement will develop down the road, many have already been eager to sound off on its current direction. Consider what you think the future holds for activist advertising – and, while you do, enjoy Saturday Night Live’s take:
Francesca Kennedy. You may not have heard her name before. However, the young Latina entrepreneur has quickly grabbed the attention of Goop, Birchbox, Rebecca Minkoff, and Gary Wassner through her product, IX Style. IX Style aims to help Guatemala’s local artisans thrive, while simultaneously adding to its clean water sources.
Getting the attention and funding of such prominent brands was not easy for Kennedy, but here are some of the tips that led to her success:
Build your brand and do something great!
United Airlines is having a PR fiasco after failure to correctly address public outrage over videos of a passenger being dragged off an airplane. They have offered refunds to every passenger on that flight, and have promised to no longer remove passengers from planes that are too full. Even after doing all this the problem hasn't gone away. Since the incident countless memes, tweets and videos making fun of the entire incident and of United have taken over the internet.
Late night TV show host Jimmy Kimmel also took a jab at United:
The incident has caused United to lose more than $1.4 Billion in valuation. They have taken a larger hit on their reputation in China. The man on the video is a Chinese-Vietnamese doctor, and people in China have noticed. In China’s version of Twitter, Weibo, users have voiced their opinions by saying that they will boycott United. Pictures of shredded mileageplus cards have been posted and #Unitedforcespassengersoffplane was trending on Weibo. The damage has not stopped there. Oscar Munoz, chief executive of United Airlines, was named communicator of the year by PR Week last week, which said that it would not give him the honor if it were being awarded now.
This week, MktSoc hosted an event featuring Nathan Lindberg, Director of Twitch.tv Esports Sponsorship Sales. He started off his talk by mentioning that we now have a shorter attention span than a goldfish (8 seconds and 10 seconds respectively). Therefore, marketers only have 8 seconds to get people’s attention. Since games could hold people’s attention for a longer time, many marketers are using games to engage with their customers.
As marketers are starting to realize the powerful influence in gaming, competitive gaming market is rapidly growing as well. Nathan pointed out that Esports is just as exciting and competitive as MLB and NBA. More and more people around the world are watching League of Legends World Championship and live streaming their game plays through Twitch.tv. Competitive gaming is still a niche market, he said, but has a lot of potential to grow and become profitable.
So, do you want to be a part of this awesome industry? We could tell you some initial steps to follow. You could come up with an idea or innovation to help this industry change and grow. If you don’t have anything in your mind, you could always engage by becoming a volunteer for one your favorite Esports teams or gaming company. Most importantly, be passionate and eager to explore this industry every day!
Every year, April 1st marks the day when clever brands compete to release the weirdest, wildest, and most surprising ad campaigns to fool and amuse the public. We're now used to seeing wacky "new products" released on the first of the month, but several creative companies have continued to raise the bar with hilarious ads and content. Here, we've compiled the top ten of 2017's most entertaining.
10. The T-Mobile ONEsie
Riffing off of the wireless carrier's T-Mobile ONE unlimited plan, the T-Mobile ONEsie boasts full-body fitness tracking, a built-in WiFi Hotspot, and of course, fashionable options for lounge, sport, and even professional settings! This is exactly the kind of ad we've come to expect on April Fool's Day, but it's charming, well-produced, and cleverly tied to T-Mobile's newest mobile offering.
9. Ikea Bïgland
Ikea cleverly reimagines its well-known in-store kids' playground, Småland, as "Bïgland," a playground for adults. Bïgland features a full-service bar, a Swedish massage center (offering luxuries like the crepe body wrap and meatball eye mask), and even counseling services for bickering couples and roommates. Explore the furniture store's witty writeup here.
8. Micro Mac / Nano Slider
This is the first of several April Fool's ad campaigns creating some interesting, and likely unintended, duality. Here, both McDonald's and White Castle have supposedly launched teeny variations of their typical hamburgers: the Micro Mac and the Nano Slider, respectively. We'll give White Castle points for going the tiniest (their burger isn't even visible), but neither earn points for originality.
7. Google Play Pets / Petlexa
Another 2-for-1! Once again, clearly originality was lacking this year (or great minds simply think alike). Both Google and Amazon launched pet-themed versions of their techy offerings, Google Play and Amazon Echo. Google's ad had the wholesome, vanilla feel of a real pet product commercial, whereas Amazon's version had the dry humor we love to see in April Fool's ads.
6. She Sheds
In a nod to the supposed alternative to "Man Caves," storage container company Life Storage has rolled out a new offering for access to personalized "She Sheds" for the low price of $99, or "what [a mom] spends on Band-Aids in a month." This mom-centric ad is cute and amusing, especially for the frazzled matriarch desperately in need of five minutes' peace. View the video on the Life Storage website here.
5. Patriot Puffs
This imaginary new Popchips flavor, Patriot Puffs, throws some serious shade at our current commander-in-chief. Encouraging you to "grab 'em by the bag," Popchips brags that their new chips are perfect for "frequent golf trips and early morning Twitter rants," among a myriad of other sick DJT burns. A bold campaign for a humble chip company - check the full page out here.
Quilted Northern is an unexpected player in the April Fool's big leagues, but this ad was a masterpiece of cringey, bowel-related humor. While not the most mature of topics, the toilet paper company's gag ad proposes a Fitbit-like tracker of your "sits," which goes so far as pinging your friends when a movement is underway and boasting your personal best. Bold, funny - and a little gross.
3. The Nanodrop
This Paris Hilton-fronted epic from SodaStream announces a single drop of sparkling water that is 5,000 times more hydrating than regular water and reduces plastic bottle waste. Hilton promptly reveals, however, that utterly shocking research has proven that the drop is not, in fact, any more hydrating than regular water, and her taxi driver makes a moving public apology. What does reduce plastic waste, however, is SodaStream, a neat tie-in that wins this ad points for effectively marketing its real product.
The Hallmark-E is an emotional intelligence assistant that the greeting card company boasts will improve your relationships and help you remember important dates (or forget that recent heartbreak). Ranging from ghostwriter to mom-master to post-breakup-shoulder-to-cry-on, the Hallmark-E shines in this brilliantly funny ad that makes us wish we really had one.
1. Google Gnome
Now Google's Home has an outdoor counterpart - the Google Gnome! In this hilariously written ad, Google's sassy new companion keeps his rather bumbling humans in line, makes sharp distinctions between indoor and outdoor tasks, and even delves into some existentialism. This ad topped our list for its subtle product placement, brilliant writing, and clever humor. But we do have one more ad for you:
Bonus: The Harambed
The bed of your memes. Or nightmares.
Happy April Fool's Day!