Campaign Trail is our look at some of the best and worst new creative efforts from the marketing world.
Marketing Dive's editors review Netflix's over-the-top humor, KFC pitting a cassette tape against GPS and nut butter brand MaraNatha's first campaign featuring "Sad Jelly."
Netflix kids around with 'joke' billboards, Emmys spot
The rundown: Netflix, the video streaming service whose subscriptions have grown 20% to about 104 million over the past year, is a divisive figure in the entertainment industry. Instead of going on the marketing offensive, however, Netflix leans into good humor in its latest ad push, "Netflix Is A Joke." The effort, first appearing via a series of cryptic billboards in New York City and Los Angeles, continued with a TV spot at the Emmys Sunday night, per Adweek.
The commercial, created with the LA-based agency Battery, features comedians with standup specials on the platform — Jerry Seinfeld, Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock and Ellen DeGeneres — humorously injecting themselves into series like "The Crown," "Orange is the New Black," "House of Cards" and "Stranger Things."
TV networks and even movie studios don't like how Netflix is taking up more of viewers' time and also attracting more serious talent. When "Okja," the new film from Korean master Bong Joon-ho, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this summer under the Netflix banner, it was roundly booed. The latest ad shows the company is taking those hits in stride.
The results: Even the Emmys, a staple of destination TV viewing, isn't safe from Netflix's over-the-top tendrils. That's not to say advertising around the ceremony didn't make sense: the streaming service's shows snagged 91 nominations total this year, according to Adweek. And while the Netflix Is A Joke commercial serves as a plug for some of those nominees and also Netflix's impressive stable of comedic talent, it can't help but also feel like subtle ribbing of more traditional industry players who wish they could take the OTT player less seriously.
Netflix's rollout of the ads offered a nice one-two punch as well: First with a mysterious out-of-home stunt that piqued people's interest — there was no branding or text on the stark white billboards other than "Netflix Is A Joke" in black lettering — and then the ad itself. Directed by "Chappelle's Show" alum Neal Brennan, the spot does a good job of showcasing each comedians' distinct brand of humor, adding irreverence to otherwise weighty prestige television drama. Like Netflix programming, it's proven to be a huge draw, already racking up nearly 2 million hits on YouTube.
KFC pits cassette tape against GPS and social media in quirky road trip
The rundown: To promote new menu flavors Georgia Gold Honey Mustard BBQ and Nashville Hot, Kentucky Fried Chicken enlisted Instagrammers Cameron Fuller and Bound for Nowhere to chronicle a two-day road trip from the chain's hometown, Louisville, KY, to the Big Chicken restaurant in Marietta, GA. Along the way, they will compare the experience using GPS technology with a homespun cassette featuring Colonel Sanders giving overly-detailed directions, telling humorous side stories and sharing sing-along songs. Consumers can follow along via #GPSCassette on Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook. A video of the full cassette recording is also available on YouTube.
The results: As a standalone promotion, the GPS cassette tape and related influencer campaign are likely to gain some attention because of consumer interest in nostalgia and analog technology like cassettes in a world dominated by digital.
The effort's real power, however, comes from how it dovetails with a growing list of unusual marketing stunts from KFC, most recently the launch of a VR game called The Hard Way that traps players until they learn to fry thighs and wings. The GPS Cassette promotion is based on a similar idea, that the chain does things the hard way, in this case navigating with 30-year-old technology instead of GPS.
While any number of brands these days are trying to engage social audiences with quirky promotions designed to be shared on social media — from Starbucks' Unicorn Frappuccino to Cheetos' recent pop-up restaurant — the fried chicken chain stands out for consistently being surprising while grounding each effort in an element of branding.
MaraNatha nut butter gives 'Sad Jelly' the boot
The rundown: Nothing lasts, even the bond between classic peanut butter and jelly — or at least that's the case made in MaraNatha's new campaign, which stars an anthropomorphic jelly-slathered slice of toast that's depressed after being dumped by its one true love.
"Sad Jelly," as the Hain Celestial brand calls the character, cycles through the stages of grief in a series of 15- and 30-second videos produced by New York-based agency Terri & Sandy. Breakup clichés abound, such as the forlorn lover ripping up old photos, walking dejectedly through the rain and drinking alone in a bar, at which point its former counterpart Peanut Butter calls it out for being slightly drunk on corn syrup — which hits the brand's message that its all-natural, organic nut butters don't include high fructose corn syrup.
The results: As MaraNatha's first campaign, it debuted last week on TV, online, social media and in theaters, and it's set for upcoming content partnerships with the Food Network and Cooking Channel, according to The Drum. Its tongue-in-cheek tagline of "too good for jelly" successfully drives home the brand's message that its nut butters' flavors stand on their own and need no embellishing. So far, the six sweet and creative spots have reeled in a total of nearly 1.2 million views on YouTube within a week of airing.