A series of campaigns have employed opposing forces to their advantage without countering them with equal and direct force. And won Lions in the bargain
The fundamental reason we go to work as marketers and advertisers is to change behaviour. Over the years we have done that by surprising, shocking, disturbing and incentivising people. And we got some results too.
But this year at Cannes we look at five serial winners! Work that have picked up metal after metal across categories they entered in. These campaigns are very different from each other: differing by categories, markets, objectives and audience. But they were common in one way. Jujitsu.
Jujitsu, a form of martial arts is based on the technique of manipulating the opponent’s force against himself rather than confronting it with one’s own force. And all these campaigns are champion black belts in doing just that. And as expected of champions, they have been dominating the Cannes stage.
Let’s look at how they used the opposing forces and played it to their advantage:
Holograms for freedom
People in Spain were outraged by what they call the country’s ‘gag law’. The law’s purpose, it appears, is to maintain the hold of the ruling power by discouraging anti-austerity protests. Any form of public protest by actual persons in front of Parliament and other government buildings is punishable under this law.
Rather than showing force and risking arrest, the campaign allowed individuals to participate in the protest outside the very buildings they were not allowed, without actually having to be there. By use of holograms. People just needed to sign up, upload a picture, which then gets converted into a holographic representation of the person. Where people couldn’t put their own bodies on the street, the virtual projections served as the protest and a reminder of suppression. Without a single arrest!
The point was made. Global attention was drawn. And the bill has little hope in getting passed. The opposing force was countered creatively without an obvious and direct counter force!
Nazi Against Nazi
A local charity group in Germany decided to raise funds to fight extremism by staging a charity walk. The twistvthough is that they used the extreme right wing Neo Nazis, the very people they were up against, to do their job!
The Neo Nazi group participates in a march every year in Wunsiedel in Bavaria. This year, though, they inadvertently raised 10,000 euros against themselves and other extremist organisations. Dubbed as the most involuntary walkathon, every metre they walked, 10 euros went to a programme called EXIT Deutschland, which helps people escape extremist groups. At the finish line of the neo-Nazis’ memorial march, locals showered the neo-Nazis with confetti and gave out ironic certificates of completion.
The idea was not to counter or disallow the walk. It was not to show anger of displeasure by the local residents. No force was required if the opposing force can be so brilliantly used as an advantage. Keep walking, we say!
The Gun Shop
Thousands of people are killed every year in the US. Possession of firearms even for self-protection increases the risk of homicide and suicide. But how can we discourage new gun buyers? Instead of telling them not to buy guns, the campaign idea was to actually open a ‘real looking’ gun shop. To create drama, they put disturbing tags on each weapon, indicating which models were used in particular mass shootings, unintentional shootings, homicides and suicides. Over 80% changed their mind and weren’t as excited to take a gun home! Now that’s what we call a silver bullet!
Marathon Walker. Water for Africa
In certain parts of sub Saharan Africa women have to walk almost the whole day to get some potable water. The mission of the ‘Water for Africa’ group was to sensitise people and help raise support for sustainable water for Africa.
So they got a woman from Gambia to participate in the Paris Marathon earlier this year. Not as an athlete. But as a walker who carried a can of water on her head and two boards hung on her shoulder with the message ‘this is the distance they cover everyday to get water’ and to help ‘shorten the distance’. The world noticed, remembers and now rallies around that single woman who walked that day.
Rather than begging, shaming or scoffing at the indifference of the privileged world, this idea simply brought everyone in. By walking with them instead of against them!
Like a Girl
In a gender biased and insensitive world we live in, the phrase of acting or behaving ‘like a girl’ is used as an insult, implying inferiority. The P&G ‘Like a girl’ campaign by Leo Burnett didn’t oppose the context and usage of such a phrase, rather it simply gave it the right meaning. It focused on changing the meaning of ‘like a girl’ from an insult into something positive and amazing.” It asks: “When did doing something ‘like a girl’ become an insult?”
And instead of taking men head on, it talks to two sets of females. The young pre-pubescent girls who simply understand the phrase as ‘to do the best they can’ like anybody else. The campaign turned the mirror to older girls and women who unfortunately had bought into the ‘inferior’ meaning. It helped change that. Like a girl now has a correct meaning. It means ‘amazing’, ‘go girl’, ‘you rule’.
All these inspiring campaigns, so awarded and so much loved, have simply employed opposing forces to their advantage without ever countering it with equal and direct force. They were not gimmicky. They are solid cases that have changed perceptions, changed attitudes, changed behaviour and changed the fortunes of the brands and causes they championed.
Jujitsu is not about being cute or clever or cost effective or even different. It’s rather looking for a solution within the problem than trying to finding a solution for the problem. It’s a nuance but that’s what separates a good campaign from a great one as we have seen. And when that’s done like the way these multiple metal winners have demonstrated, you may win some metals. But more importantly you will win.
Here’s hoping that brands and people responsible for them get their Jujitsu moves right.
The author is executive vice president – integrated strategy planning, Leo Burnett