Anti-advertising is win-win

2 September 2014

TORONTO: Strategies that pokes fun at the world of advertising have succeeded in boosting sales of one beer and bringing in more business for another agency.

When Newcastle Brown Ale, an English beer brand owned by Heineken, was failing to make an impact in the Canadian market via television it opted to go fully digital and to play on the fact that it had a limited marketing budget compared to some of the brands it was competing against.

As a result, it has reported increased sales among its target audience of drinkers aged 21 to 39, while trial has leapt from 60% to 72% cent since December, according to the Globe & Mail.

Those figures were based on a campaign around the Super Bowl, when the brand produced a series of videos explaining that it couldn't advertise during the event itself as it didn't have the money but outlining what it would have done if it had the funds.

In a none-too-subtle dig at the millions of dollars spent to advertise in prime slots, it offered a ludicrous scenario involving 'battle apes', robots and actress Anna Kendrick wearing only body paint, along with a rudimentary storyboard version of its ads. To complete the joke, there was footage of Kendrick and a former NFL player complaining about Newcastle Brown Ale backing out.

"We felt that people were kind of tired of marketing that treated them like idiots," explained Scott Bell, creative director at Droga5, the agency behind the campaign.

There were more than 10m video views in two weeks, while the company estimated total media exposure at more than 1bn impressions.

A new campaign follows a similar strategy and takes crowdsourcing to task, inviting people to send in "mediocre" holiday snaps into which the brand plans to insert its product badly.

"Ads that make fun of ads acknowledge the truth that most advertising out there is awful," said Angus Tucker, partner and executive creative director at Toronto ad agency John St. "It's a very, very quick way of connecting to consumers over a shared hate. "

For several years now, John St itself has made an annual video mocking the ad industry, which has led to invitations to pitch for work as the spoofs have brought it to a wider audience outside Canada.

Data sourced from Globe & Mail; additional content by Warc staff