TomTom is venturing into new territory. Its newest product is a GPS cardio monitor for runners. The main point of difference is that it doesn’t use a chest strap; it’s a watch. Of course, it’s not the product that’s turning heads. It’s the brand’s campaign for it, “Run Strapless.”
The minute-long video features model -- and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue hopeful -- Alexandria Morgan as she runs down the beach in a strapless bra, a literal translation of the idea that the cardio watch needs no chest strap. While the gratuitous cleavage shots might be offensive in some ads, it is humorous when set against the “Chariots of Fire”stheme song.
In the week since its debut, the campaign has garnered more than 3.9 million views, 700 tweets, and 12,600 Facebook interactions. It’s TomTom’s most-viewed campaign to date, with more than three times the views of any other of its campaigns.
While Morgan’s beauty is certainly a draw for viewers -- as is her ample bust -- viewership is definitely boosted by the ad’s banishment from television. Nothing does more to spike interest in a campaign than being banned from airing on TV.
Let’s clarify. There are many brands the claim each year that they were “banned” from the Super Bowl. Most of these brands do this for the publicity; very few intend to ever air a Super Bowl commercial. Most experience a small increase in viewership, a headline or two, and then fade into oblivion.
But if a brand produces something with the full intention of airing an the ad on television – if the message is authentic – and then it is banned for being too provocative, that’s when people get interested.
Take this year’s Super Bowl from SodaStream, “Better Bubble Made By You,” starring Scarlett Johansson. The full ad from the home soda maker was banned from the game for its closing line, “Sorry, Coke and Pepsi,” two of the game’s sponsors and advertisers.
A censored version ran during the game, but the idea that a version had been banned because it would offend two of the biggest CPG brands in the world made headlines and piqued curiosity. To date, the campaign has generated more than 18.8 million views, with more than 16.2 million views coming from the uncensored version of the ad.
It was the second SodaStream Super Bowl ad in as many years to be banned from airing. Its 2013 ad also took on the big two – Coke and Pepsi – and again generated more than 10 million views, most of which came from the banned, and not the aired ad.
SodaStream proves that it’s not just ads banned for sexual content – like TomTom’s latest creative – that can inspire audience curiosity.
Because they are forbidden, banned ads make headlines and are shared, which drives engagement and viewership. And viewership only continues to grow as debate rages over whether it really deserves the scarlet A with which it’s been branded.
So, while once a banned ad was once an enormous waste of time and money for a brand, set free online, it can be the start of a viral hit.
If you're not aware of this phenomenon, just look up "Streisand Effect," and see how trying to stifle something can often cause it to go viral.