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 week in the marketing world, SunnyD looked to make a splash with its first national campaign since 2015, while Van Heusen tested the sturdiness of its menswear with UFC fighters and a U.K. company called Beyond courted controversy with some edgy ads about dying:
SunnyD refreshes look with bouncy campaign targeting Gen Z
The rundown: Harvest Hill Beverage Company brand SunnyD is looking to win over teen-aged Gen Zers with its first national ad campaign in three years, the company announced in a news release. The effort, made with the independently-owned ad agency Terri & Sandy, includes a refreshed logo, website and social channels.
Creative is centered on a cast of diverse teens and backed by a bouncy soundtrack called "Boldly Original," which doubles as SunnyD's new tagline. The song was made with the help of DJ Kass, whose song "Scooby Doo Pa Pa" went viral on YouTube earlier this year and currently has over 7 million hits. The campaign is targeted at the 13-18 demographic and Hispanic consumers, per the release, with media buys across MTV, VH1, Spotify, Pandora, YouTube, Hulu, Bravo, Lifetime, Unimas and Galavision.
Ads include 60-, 30-, 15- and six-second spots, and will be supported by interactive digital and social content made with shops 360PR+ and SFG. Media duties were handled by Media Storm.
The results: SunnyD has long targeted kids and young teens but, like soft drink makers, has in recent years felt a pinch as consumers opt for less sugary beverage alternatives. The year before its last major national ad push, in 2015, the marketer's U.S. retail sales dipped to $188.8 million — down 36% from its sales in 2005, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Rather than centering its latest push on more natural and health-conscious ingredients, as other food marketers have done, SunnyD appears to instead be catering toward teen sensibilities. The focus on diversity might resonate particularly well with Gen Zers, who often favor marketing that calls out individuality and is less broadly demographic-based. Extra-short ads running six seconds or less are also seen as an increasingly viable means of reaching mobile-minded younger consumers.
The music included in the campaign is rhythmic and earworm-y in a way that might make it more memorable, being done in the style of already-popular YouTube hits. Plenty of food and snack brands have recently leaned into dance-heavy campaigns targeted at teens: for the Winter Olympics this year, Cheetos released a music video that put a spin on the popular Dougie dance from several years ago. Peanut butter maker Skippy in February also rolled out a campaign riffing on Mark Ronson and Bruno Mar's chart-topping single "Uptown Funk."
Van Heusen teams with the UFC and turns an office into the Octagon
The rundown: Men's clothing brand Van Heusen has partnered with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) to become the mixed-martial art organization's first-ever "Official Men's Dress Furnishings Provider." Van Heusen represents the "VH" in global apparel company PVH, which also owns brands Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and IZOD.
To mark the partnership, Van Heusen launched a 360-degree marketing campaign that includes advertising on national and local cable television, including the NFL Network, Comedy Central, FOX Sports 1 and TruTV; programmatic and pay-per-view; video on-demand on Hulu, DirecTV Now, Sling TV and Roku; digital advertising on news, sports and retail sites and signage in retailers and Life Time athletic resorts. The campaign will run through the fall and holiday seasons.
The campaign features UFC bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw and UFC welterweight contender Stephen Thompson. The pair — outfitted in Van Heusen Flex collection shirts and pants — turn an office into the Octagon, battling in an MMA-inspired fight sequences that shows off the flexibility and stretchiness of the clothing collection. The ad will premiere during UFC 227 on Aug. 4, and Van Heusen branding will be featured at the UFC event and across UFC's digital channels.
The results: PVH claims that this is the "most robust" campaign Van Heusen has ever run, and they've definitely picked one that packs a punch. By including national and local TV, programmatic, VOD, digital and in-store signage, Van Heusen can reach a wide audience of men who might be among UFC's self-reported 284 million fans worldwide.
While Dillashaw and Thompson don't have the name recognition or star power of well-dressed former champion Conor McGregor, the ad is a humorous way to show the versatility of the Flex collection with an action-heavy approach usually reserved for summer movie trailers.
However, it's interesting to see Van Heusen team with the bloody, ultra-violent UFC at a time when many brands are moving away from hypermasculinity in their advertisements. Both Axe and Dollar Shave Club, brands known for macho and slapstick ads, respectively, have changed directions as of late. Perhaps Van Heusen saw the backlash Bonobos received by challenging the definitions of masculinity and decided to swim upstream instead.
UK funeral company banned for taboo ads
The rundown: This week, a U.K. company was banned by London's transportation bureau for a series of advertisements that hit a bit too close to home, per the BBC. Beyond, a funeral price comparison site, aimed to break the taboo around death with some tongue-in-cheek marketing, including a posters of a sporty couple on the beach running to catch some waves with coffin-shaped surfboards under their arms, alongside promotions for a one-way ticket to "roasting temperatures."
Another piece of creative showed a young woman planning her funeral in the style of preparing for a wedding, with the caption "for that perfect look on your big day." The third was a faux flu medication ad that listed typical symptoms — headache, sore throat and shivers — and urged people to update their will on Beyond's website, according to the BBC.
The results: While dark, Beyond's campaign is clever, playing off consumers' familiarity with cheery vacation ads and picking out accessories for "the big day" á la the TV show "Say Yes to the Dress." Beyond intentionally developed the campaign to be edgy and attention-grabbing, with the goal of raising awareness around the idea that consumers typically face steep prices for funerals because they feel they can't shop around.
Despite Transport of London banning the campaign, which could've hindered its exposure, the move appears to have garnered the company plenty of attention, with numerous publications covering the news. The kerfuffle mirrors a similar one between the Chicago Transit Authority and the dating app OKCupid last month, where the CTA felt a "DTF" campaign — the "F" standing for a certain swear word — was too suggestive.
Beyond publicized its campaign on Facebook, sharing the photos and asking the public to voice their opinions on the ban and the campaign that mixed death with humor. It also issued a statement on its blog, aptly named "The Last Word," that "our fear of engaging with the subject — creating that shared code of silence — allows predators to rip us off." The company reworked its creative for "a more acceptable campaign" that's now running in London.