Research Outline

Unconventional Campaigns


Support a client presentation with case studies of campaigns that challenged convention and were rewarded for doing so. These case studies should focus on campaigns that were for either CPG or healthcare and that had public-service oriented campaign messaging.

Early Findings

Procter & Gamble- The Talk (CPG)

  • The advertising industry tends to focus heavily on featuring whites in their work. According to a survey by Adobe, 59% of whites feel represented in advertising but only 26% of African-Americans, 10% of Hispanics and 3% of Asians feel the same way.
  • Instead of going with the usual bias of the industry, P&G launched a campaign called "The Talk" that shows black mothers talking to their kids about racism in a variety of situations throughout the decades.
  • This also flies in the face of the marketing wisdom mentioned above, where brands are often advised to steer clear of such touchy topics. This is reflected in some blow back they received, where conservative groups argue that P&G should stick to selling products instead of identity politics. It was also perceived by some as being anti-cop.
  • The ad has since won an Emmy, Ad of the Year at the AdColor Awards, and the Film Grand Prix at Cannes.
  • The ad can be watched here.

Gillette- The Best Men Can Be (CPG)

  • Gillette took a radical stance by questioning their own target market in the wake of #MeToo and various sexual scandals featuring powerful men. In the ad, the brand called for men to do better- to stop harassing women and bullying others. Rather than staying quiet, which would have been the safe choice for a man's brand, they challenged men to go further and to step up if they saw inappropriate behavior. Gillette even featured some content from its old ads, showing that they were owning up to their mistakes and were also complicit in creating that culture.
  • Along with the ad, Gillette promised that they'd donate $1m a year for the next three years to nonprofits that helped boys or men to be positive role models.
  • This ad challenges traditional wisdom in marketing, where brands are advised to be extremely careful or to even avoid highly-charged topics like sexuality, race, or gender. It also directly challenges beliefs their target audience may have about themselves and makes them uncomfortable on purpose- a direct challenge to the belief that feel-good content might do better.
  • This was an incredibly polarizing, risky move for Gillette. The team had to have crisis meetings every hour and the client even received a threatening phone call. The official ad on YouTuber has 1.5 million dislikes (although Gillette later found out that much of the negative press surrounding the ad was being driven by bots from two alt-right groups).
  • However, it seems to have paid off, with 110m views and 18b media impressions. Gillette even got to cancel the investment they were going to have for planned media, meaning the entire media bill for the campaign globally was only $104.
  • This massive effect on visibility and reach is reflected in purchase intent. As of June 2019 (about six months after the ad launched on social media), the brand said that they'd found 65% of consumers were more likely to purchase the brand. This figure was even higher for millennials with "84% of women and 76% of men aged under 35 saying they would be more likely to purchase from the brand".
  • The ad can be watched here.