There is a large advertisement in Times Square, New York just now featuring Barak Obama wearing a Weatherproof jacket. The photograph was taken on the US President’s recent trip to China and he’s standing next to the Great Wall just in case having only one of the world’s great icons in their ad wasn’t enough. It’s a great picture and something of a coup for Weatherproof; if only they had permission to use the shot. Of course they know this, it’s a calculated gamble. They didn’t pick the most public site the world for their poster in the hope no one in the White House would notice, they want the White House to notice and ideally make a big fuss about it. It’s an old trick, pay $100,000 for the site and generate tens of millions in publicity, it’s certainly the only US jacket company I’ve heard of recently so it’s working.
One of the great proponents of it in this country (well Ireland, I know that isn’t this country so don’t write in) are Ryanair. They come out with the most ridiculous press releases like the one about offering standing room only on their flights, send it to a compliant media and stand back as it makes headlines, causes much debate and features heavily on phone-ins. At no point does anyone say ‘no your not, stop sending us stupid press releases’ which they clearly should as the whole thing is simply a marketing wheeze to reinforce the ‘we’re very cheap’ message that has been so successful for them.
A few years back we had a client in the dairy industry. They had a small budget and a very unsexy product and their brief to us was simple, design something that will get banned so we can get lots of publicity. We were a bit unsure about this at first but after some deliberation we embraced the strategy. We booked a full page in one of the biggest selling magazines in the UK, one with a well known conservative editorial stance I should add, and commissioned a fashion photographer to give us a shot of two models that wouldn’t look out of place in a lads mag. Needless to say as soon as the magazine saw the ad they said they wouldn’t run it and the client had his banned ad; he didn’t even get charged for the space in the magazine. The press ran the story of the banned cheese advertisement with gusto, sales of the brand went through the roof and the client sold out to the French conglomerate Lactalis and retired to the Algarve. To this day that ad still gets used whenever a local paper runs a feature on risquÃ© or banned advertising.
What’s ironic for us about the Obama/Weatherproof poster is that we once ran a very small press ad for the same dairy firm at the same time as American President Bill Clinton was embroiled in the Monica Lewinski affair. It was for Islay Cheddar which is reputed to have aphrodisiac qualities. In it we inferred that Clinton had been snacking on Islay Cheddar and so it was no wonder he’d landed in trouble. It was mildly amusing but ran only in some local broadsheets. So you can imagine our surprise when we received a call from the New York Times asking about the ad. We naturally assumed it was someone winding us up but on investigation it became clear it wasn’t, somehow they gotten wind of the ad and wanted to know if we had been given permission by Bill Clinton. Of course we hadn’t. We then waited pensively for a writ from the White House and a rebuke from the client. We received neither, the client was actually over the moon, asked for the ad to be run again and the seed was planted for his next campaign, the get me banned one, and we never heard any more from America, I guess Bill Clinton had other things on his mind.
So good luck to Weatherproof, and the agency that put up the poster, it might not be up for very long, but long enough for plenty of people to see it.