Take, for instance, the "Speed Dressing" spot that took a Cannes Lions 2008 Film Bronze. Done on spec for JC Penney, it evidently was deemed too controversial by the client and never aired on U.S. television. The 60-second spot shows a teenage boy and girl separately practicing donning and doffing their garments in preparation for a make-out session in the girl's basement. The only words spoken are just after the girl lets the boy in her front door with a knowing smile and, passing the gatekeeper of the household, says, "Hey, mom, we're just going to go down to the basement and watch some TV." The tagline reads: "Today's the day to get away with it," before the Penney logo.
Reads one predictable comment on the Dropkick Monkey blog that posted the spot: "I'm from Europe and I don't understand what's the controversy supposed to be all about -- teenage sex, what the hell is controversial about that?"
Messing with sexual mores is one thing, but when it comes to symbols of national pride, such as the flag, it turns out that maybe we aren't so different after all. Kandia Dulce SA, formerly Cadbury Romania, and its agency, BV McCann, won two Grand Prixes yesterday by yanking the patriotic chains of young consumers who didn't realize that they had patriotic chains to yank until they were pulled. Reads the brief:
Romania's ROM chocolate bar launched in 1964 with the Romanian flag on its wrapper; had an aging, nostalgic consumer base. In a category in which success means continuously attracting younger fans, ROM's nationalistic values were a disadvantage. Young Romanians are disillusioned and cynical towards national values, and prefer 'cool' American brands like Snickers -- which lead as favorite brand with 19%. How could ROM, a chocolate bar bearing the Romanian flag, gain appeal to youngsters with few national values?
By replacing it with an American flag, of course. You can see end-aisle displays in all of their red, white and blue glory here. "The hoax was widespread and elaborate," reports Tim Nudd in Adweek. "The packaging was changed first, reinforced by promo activity and advertising that pointed to a microsite and the brand's Facebook page. Angry Romanians began stockpiling the old ROM bars with the Romanian flag."
I imagine the hordes descending on Kandia Dulce headquarters with kerosene torches, pitchforks and bulbs of garlic to exorcise the American demons that had possessed the Marketing Dept. Isn't that what Romanians do?
"Romanian consumers took the bait," Laura Petrecca reports in USA Today. "Masses posted remarks about their dismay and outrage online, and some even organized a flash mob to draw attention to the issue."
Then came The Reveal.
"A week into the campaign, the company announced -- to the relief of Romanian chocolate eaters -- that they were going back to the previous wrapper design," Petrecca writes.
Agency and client knew that would happen all along, they claim, thanks to a little footwork: "Our research showed that although Romanians tend to be negative and cynical, their patriotism returns and is voiced when challenged."
The campaign garnered Grands Prixes in both the promo/activation and direct categories. "The promo/activation jury had identified a holy trinity of traits it was looking for in a winning campaign -- an idea that was unexpected, single-minded and effective,' Abbey Klaassen reports in Ad Age. The entire PR Lions Shortlist, with links to all briefs, can be view here.
Promo/activation jury president Warren Brown, president-creative of BMF, says the ROM campaign is "almost like meeting your best friend for a drink and realizing he'd had a sex change. It really took you out of your comfort zone. ... You need a little bit of irreverence or anarchy in promo to make the idea truly sticky."
Klaassen's story contains a section on "what the jury didn't like" for all of you preparing for 2012. It all boils down to "tech for tech's sake." Says Brown: "too many agencies are mistaking technological innovation for an idea." And he also points out that having a Facebook page or a Twitter account is not the same thing as having an idea.
I located a Kandia Dulce page on Facebook but it has no content. The fact that eight people "like" it despite the lack of even a picture of a candy bar -- draped in either Romanian or 'merican raiment -- is a comment on something, but I'm not exactly sure what.