Campaign Trail is our look at some of the best and worst new creative efforts from the marketing world.
This week, our editors examine Facebook's heavy-handed emotional appeal to remind users of better days, along with Realtor.com's efforts to ride the popularity of Hulu's "The Handmaid's Tale" and a Swedish payment company's goofing on its own creative via some help from the viral content platform 9GAG:
Facebook tries to rehab image with multi-channel ad campaign
The rundown: In an attempt to rebuild trust with users following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook launched what is reportedly one of its largest-ever advertising pushes and the overall message is very straightforward: Facebook was once great because of how it brought people together; then a flood of fake news and clickbait made it bad. Now, the company is promising to take steps that will return the platform to its former glory.
The campaign consists of a TV ad, that also appears on YouTube, titled "Here Together," as well as billboard ads across the US. The look and feel of the ad borders on syrupy, with an abundance of clips depicting heartfelt moments of connection that have been shared on Facebook and a sincere voiceover. The billboards say things like: "Fake news is not your friend."
The results: Facebook leans heavily on themes of friendship, both the good and the toxic kind, in the campaign. The TV ad sounds like the script for a movie about betrayal, but the sappy type and not the scary version that users whose data has been misused might feel like they are living. The voiceover highlights all the wonderful times Facebook and users have had together, openly admits what it did wrong and then outlines the steps it will take to make amends.
It's not a bad move for Facebook to express remorse for how things have turned and to sound sincere about it. After all, the personal data for more than 87 million users were exposed to misuse. The problem is that Facebook's mea culpas — and there have been quite a few over the years — are starting to sound similar, yet the problems not only continue, but also appear to have escalated, at least with the most recent scandal.
It's also not clear if the ad campaign is even necessary, as Facebook's Q1 results show that ad revenue and use continue to grow at healthy paces. However, for marketers, the campaign could be an indication that Facebook plans additional steps to downgrade news and brand content. In the conference call to discuss the company's Q1 results, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook is pleased with how the platform is seeing less passive video consumption following earlier moves to prioritize content from friends.
Realtor.com makes an odd pairing with Hulu's 'The Handmaid's Tale'
The rundown: Realtor.com announced a new brand campaign — what it claims is its largest to date — with a dozen "warm, funny" TV spots along with a heavy digital push. Part of that, and less warm and funny, is the brand's signing on as an exclusive sponsor for Hulu's Emmy Award-winning series "The Handmaid's Tale," which this week returned for its second season.
Spots for "The Home of Home Search" debuted during the show's premiere Wednesday, with creative centered on how house hunters can find their dream home based on factors like privacy, square footage and other amenities. In "You Want Privacy," a man is happy to have neighbors, as long as they're far away enough not to hear him blasting loud music through an outdoor sound system.
The campaign was created with Pereira O'Dell New York and includes social media, audio and out-of-home content as well as appearances during "American Idol," "Rise," "60 Minutes," "Survivor" and the NBA Playoffs.
The results: On paper, a tie-up with "The Handmaid's Tale" likely sounds appealing to marketers, since the show, adapted from the 1985 Margaret Atwood novel of the same name, is incredibly popular with both audiences and critics.
It's also about as bleak as television can be, detailing a dystopian near-future where women are subjugated as sex slaves and are sometimes sent to do penal labor at radioactive waste-laden areas called the colonies, where large portions of the second season are set.
Not exactly homey, and maybe an odd fit for a home-searching campaign shooting for warmth and good humor. It's hard to fault Realtor.com for wanting to get in on a pop culture craze, and they've smartly steered away from tying their brand too closely to "The Handmaid's Tale," unlike other recent efforts, such as some hilariously tone-deaf lingerie punning on the main character Offred's name.
Maybe Realtor.com's spots will come as a welcome respite from the show's misery?
Klarna spoofs its own ad to show how "Smoooth" its payment platform can be
The rundown: Swedish payment company Klarna is back this year with another bizarre ad in its ongoing "Smoooth" campaign highlighting how easy payments can be using its platform. The latest spot, which aired on Instagram last week and reeled in more than 2.2 million views in a few days, shows a topless man jamming out to bass-heavy music in his living room, bare stomach rippling to the soundwaves.
While the video alone stands out from the typically sterile ad efforts of the finance industry, Klarna and agency DDB in Norway took things a step further by teaming with 9GAG to spoof their own spot on Instagram two days later with a video designed to look like a low-budget remake. The original is available to view below, with the parody at the 9GAG link here.
The results: Klarna seems to be making quite a name for itself when it comes to out-of-the-box advertising. The latest spoof spot saw more than 3.5 million views in just 24 hours after airing, nearly doubling the viewership of the original video. The goal, the company told Marketing Dive in an email, was to extend the ad's life and potential to go viral, an area that the financial company, surprisingly, is known for.
This year's Smoooth effort isn't the first time Klarna has seen success from its quirky advertising. Last year, the payment company's snippet of a "mermaid" Afghan dog swimming became a viral sensation on Instagram. Klarna's 2016 videos of a cheese slicer satisfyingly peeling off a layer from a block of swiss and a fish slipping down a yellow slide won an award from the Advertising Club of New York.