The end of the year is a time for reflection. So, we, the MMG team, put our heads together to share our favorite and least favorite campaigns of 2018 – and why.
Our Favorite Campaigns of the Year
“It was a brilliant way to get people talking about the brand and the fact that they didn’t announce right away that they were only doing the name change for a week or two and then going back to IHOP kept the conversation going,” says publicist Jana McDonough. “I think it’s really hard for a brand to stay relevant, especially for IHOP who had been stagnant in the media for years, I thought it was extremely clever and daring.”
McDonald’s Turns Their Iconic M into a W for International Women’s Day
“This was genius, it was also the first time in the brand’s history that they flipped the arches,” says publicist Ryan Leonard. “The campaign was a huge success worldwide and it topped Google as the No. 1 brand query on International Women’s Day.”
Palessi by Payless
“Payless shoes opened a fake pop-up store in a Los Angeles mall called “Palessi,” which was stocked with Payless shoes in disguise. Influencers attended the “grand opening” and were more or less tricked into paying upward of $500 for a pair of Payless shoes,” says publicist Kristin Hickey. “I thought the viral stunt, which also included a sleek website and Instagram account, was an incredibly clever way to remind consumers that Payless has affordable, yet stylish, options too.”
“Carvel and Captain Lawrence Brewing Company teamed up to make a Fudgie Stout. Why is this my favorite? This was a big move for local brewing company Captain Lawrence, based in Elmsford, NY,” says publicist Amanda Barry. “It’s no secret that breweries are popping up everywhere – and in order to differentiate themselves (Besides just making great beer), breweries are collaborating with big-name companies to get their name out there (See: Wawa and 2SP Brewing Company and Baldor and The Bronx Brewery).
“Carvel and Captain Lawrence are an unlikely duo. Fudgie the Whale is a staple at Carvel – and now you can taste the chocolatey goodness in a stout? Sign me up! A partnership that turned heads, had mass exposure AND created a great product = a win-win.”
Weight Watcher’s Influencer out of the company’s comfort zone
“Weight Watcher’s had a big win this year when they named music sensation, DJ Khaled the brand’s official social media ambassador,” says President Lynn Munroe. “It was a real departure from Weight Watcher’s traditional branding that skewed older and more traditional. But it worked in attracting a younger demographic to the brand. The company’s shares immediately rose 6%! And the collaboration also helped DJ Khaled slim down – a win-win for everyone!”
“The best comes from a small influencer account on YouTube that has the art of providing useful content down pat,” says content strategist and avid traveler, Chris King. “Sarah Funk, aka @SarahFunky, is a travel guru who’s wrapping up this year with 10 million minutes watched that verifies her engaged viewership. She uses contests and polls to augment that engagement, and packages all her travel content as useful lists and tips for getting around the cities and countries she visits.”
When the Clock Strikes for Taco Bell
“Taco Bell pulled a clever stunt this year and surprised London with a Big Ben ring to mark the launch of four new Taco Bell restaurants,” says content creator and blog editor Kevin Munroe. “With Big Ben under renovation, the bells only ring for special occasions. Taco Bell organized a team to replicate the famous chime – needless to say, the playful marketing generated buzz without any harmful repercussions – something Taco Bell is great at doing.
Burger King’s Net Neutrality
“My second favorite campaign was Burger King explaining net neutrality with the Whopper and a YouTube video. The topic of net neutrality was all over the news, but most people had no idea what it actually meant or how it would affect them personally,” added McDonough. “The campaign explained it to the world in a very simple way and was super creative.
KFC’s “FCK, We’re Sorry” Campaign
“The fast-food chain had to shut down most of its locations in the UK due to a shortage of chicken. As an apology, they came out with an ad that rearranged their letters to read “FCK, We’re Sorry,” says Leonard. “Probably the best way, if done correctly, to handle a crisis is with humor and finesse. Sometimes the best way to combat a PR crisis is to come right out and apologize – that’s what they did here, and they did it effectively.”
Our Least Favorite Campaigns of the Year
Diet Coke Falls Flat
“Diet Coke’s Rebrand to appeal to Gen Z by changing packaging and flavors to appeal to this social conscience and environmentally aware audience fell flat because their changes really had nothing to do with the environment or social awareness!” says Munroe. “It was simply new flavors with a younger toned marketing style. The campaign raised some awareness but didn’t give the company the sales boost they were hoping for because their marketing was irrelevant.”
“Wendy’s had a huge blunder this year when they were challenged by some customers over whether or not they were using real beef,” says Kevin Munroe. “Wendy’s hit back over Twitter with a “Pepe the Frog” meme, a caricature used by white supremacists in the US Presidential election in 2016! The images were immediately pulled, but not before screenshots of the meme went viral!”
PepsiCo’s Lady Doritos
“While not a traditional PR or social media campaign, the concept of “Lady Doritos” was one of my least favorite viral moments of 2018,” says Hickey. “The controversy stemmed from an interview with PepsiCo. CEO Indra Nooyi on the Freakonomics podcast during which she mentioned women might feel self-conscious about licking their fingers or pouring the broken bits from the bag into their mouth after eating Doritos.”
She then mentioned the company was exploring snacks for women that could be designed as packaged differently – which the internet soon dubbed “Lady Doritos.” Note: Pepsi later said they were not exploring a specific Doritos product for women consumers.”
It was just disappointing to me that an executive would make such a broad sweeping generalization about gender behavior in 2018. I think it’s also important to remember as a brand that social media can be a hugely effective tool to increase awareness and bring in consumers, but it can also swing the other way with something as simple as an insensitive comment.”
“The worst has to be Lockheed Martin’s #WorldPhotoDay tweet that asked people to share “an amazing photo of our product” in action. As one of the world’s foremost weapon’s producer what could possibly go wrong with a simple request like this one? A lot, apparently. This became a campaign that went viral in the worst possible way, as peaceniks across the world started posting pictures of the bloody and violent carnage caused by the defense contractor’s deadly arsenal. The tweet was pulled within hours, but that didn’t stop the stream of gut-wrenching pictures of bombed out hospitals and schools.
“2018 was NOT Facebook’s year. The past year has been riddled with scandals and handled with pretty much-damaging damage control,” says Barry. “As we get more and more into this digital age, consumers are questioning what’s being done with their data – and demanding transparency from big tech companies. From Cambridge Analytica and #DeleteFacebook to WhatsApp and Instagram drama – Facebook’s public image has taken a tumble, and it’ll be interesting to see how they’ll try to recover in 2019.”
“The Irish bookmaker spray painted a St. George’s Cross on a polar bear to raise awareness for the fact that polar bears are in danger,” says Leonard. “This idea was clearly not thought out – Yes it was for a good cause, but this stunt made it look like they were spreading awareness for animal cruelty and not awareness to save the polar bears.”
Snapchat’s Would You Rather Ad
“My least favorite campaign is the Snapchat ad featuring Rihanna and Chris Brown,” says McDonough. “The ad game was called “Would You Rather?”
“It’s highly insensitive and the ad makes light of a bad situation. Brands/Companies should know certain topics are just off limits when it comes to their campaigns.”
Is it just me, or is this ad that popped up on my Snapchat extremely tone deaf? Like what were they thinking with this? pic.twitter.com/7kP9RHcgNG
— Royce Mann (@TheRoyceMann) March 12, 2018
“BrewDog rebranded its Punk IPA as Pink IPA, “Beer for Girls”, for International Women’s Day in an attempt to combat gender stereotyping,” says Leonard. “Pink IPA wasn’t a bad name, but there was an issue with the use of the slogan, “Beer for Girls,” which was seen as a reference to underaged females. Furthermore, the whole concept implies that women don’t drink beer – which is kind of sexist.”