Campaign Trail is our look at some of the best and worst new creative efforts from the marketing world. View past columns in the archives here.
This year, the idea of brands taking a risk has become increasingly popular as businesses look to make an impression with consumers hungry for politically- and socially-aware marketing. This week offers two notable examples, with a designer brand turning slurs and insults into style and a website for cheating putting its spin on Nike's divisive "Dream Crazy" creative:
Diesel embraces 'Hate Couture'
The rundown: Diesel's latest Publicis-created campaign, "Hate Couture," sees brand ambassadors wearing hateful online comments on their sleeves — literally. In the ad and accompanying clothing line, the fashion brand has turned social media hate and online bullying on its head, emblazoning clothing with insults and slurs that its ambassadors have received in real life, The Drum reported.
The ad features a diverse group of millennial and Gen Z icons, including rappers Nicki Minaj and Gucci Mane, actresses Bella Thorne and Bria Vinaite, actors Tommy Dorfman and Miles Heizer, Instagram star Yovanna Ventura, body positive model Barbie Ferreira and more. In addition to selling some of the items shown in the ad, Diesel has teamed with 150 social media influencers to create clothes and content using the worst comments they've received.
The campaign, with its "The more hate you wear, the less you care" tagline, will also include an in-store component. In October, customers will be able have a similar experience to the enlisted social media influencers. Plus, Diesel is putting negative comments it has received — "Diesel is Dead," "Diesel is uncool" — on the windows and walls of its stores. And it’s not all for show: the brand will be donating profits from the collection to anti-bullying programs around the world.
The results: Diesel is taking a risk by embracing the hateful words and slurs that get tossed around online all too easily, but it seems to be a risk worth taking. By having its brand ambassadors "take back" the worn words, ostensibly stripping them of their power to hurt, Diesel is offering a different tack when most brands and commentators are sticking to the serious, afterschool special approach to bullying. Meanwhile, Diesel has perhaps inoculated itself from controversy by partnering with and donating profits to anti-bullying programs.
"Hate Couture" also fits in with Diesel’s "edgy" brand, and follow's last year's "Go With The Flaw" ad, which put a body positive spin on so-called flaws like braces and unibrows. This consistent theme, along with the latest campaign's message, charity component and selection of ambassadors, could help Diesel engage with cause-driven Gen Zers who don’t want to be excluded by brands because of their identities.
Ashley Madison parodies Nike's controversial Kaepernick ad
The rundown: Marketing campaigns that play off pop culture happenings are nothing new, but Ashley Madison, the website for people looking to have affairs, this week took the idea a step further with a billboard that cribs from the theme and imagery of Nike's recent Colin Kaepernick ad, which sparked intense reactions on social media and a sales spike earlier this month. The sign on Chicago's West Side shows a woman with her finger over her mouth, as if in a hush, overlaid with the text "Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing nothing."
The creative, which was developed in-house, was also shared on social media with the #LifeIsShort hashtag that matches the one on the billboard. This placement is Ashley Madison's second out-of-home effort in Chicago within the past month, a spokesperson for the company told Marketing Dive, after it saw a 45% growth and more than 16,000 unique monthly connections in the Windy City alone.
Also this week, Ashley Madison debuted a 30-second national TV spot, created with 5 Stranger Films, to promote itself as a hookup destination for moms seeking a midday romp. The video shows a woman meeting a man while her kids are at school, in what the company’s president Ruben Buell says demonstrates that moms are "really choosing to maximize their freedom — and their empty house" during the back-to-school season. The ad rolled out this week on Viacom's Paramount Network, previously branded as Spike TV.
The results: Contrary to Nike's messaging in the now-famous Kaepernick ad, Ashley Madison is focusing on the idea that you don't really have to sacrifice much to get what you want — in this case, a steamy affair. The infidelity dating site was quick to turn around a campaign that required the production and installation of a large-scale billboard, and according to MediaPost, it plans to erect another billboard in Oakland, California soon.
The racy photo and play on Nike's messaging will likely spark some chatter online as it rides the continued wave of conversation surrounding the Kaepernick-starring "Dream Crazy" ad, which led to a 1,400% surge in social buzz for the athletic apparel maker. However, the strategy risks coming off as tasteless, turning a socially conscious ad featuring the NFL player who helped to popularize the national anthem protests against police brutality into a joke about it being easy to cheat on your partner.
For Ashley Madison, running the two campaigns — out-of-home and TV — simultaneously is a bid to reach different audiences. The company's VP of branding and communications Paul Keable told MediaPost that the summer and early fall, during the back-to-school season, is when women are most likely to join the site, while men typically join in the fall.