The best marketing campaigns of 2018: Part 2

From a finger-licking good apology and a laundry ad with a difference, to brands joining forces to stamp out online abuse, we look at some of 2018’s most memorable and thought-provoking campaigns. In no particular order they are…



KFC faced disaster in February when it was forced to shut hundreds of restaurants temporarily because it had run out of chicken. Beyond the obvious hit to its business, the shortage threatened to derail the brand as well and left its marketers facing a question over how to respond.

Where many brands might have tried to take a serious tone in fear of annoying customers still further, KFC instead chose wit, rearranging the letters of its name to spell FCK in a print ad apologising for the mess-up. That ad, created by Mother London, was a recognition that the apology needed to be both sincere and not too serious, a tough balance to find while also remaining on-brand.

READ MORE: KFC’s UK marketing boss on that ‘FCK’ ad and finding its brand voice

KFC UK’s CMO Meghan Farren admits it was a risk, saying she was initially “incredulous” that Mother wanted to turn the brand name into what was effectively a swear word. But the risk paid off. Mother gained praise from across the marketing industry and has been widely rewarded for its creativity. It won a number of Gold Lions at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity and KFC was nominated for Brand of the Year at the Marketing Week Masters awards.

More importantly, the response helped turn what could have been a damaging PR disaster into a coup. YouGov BrandIndex figures show that while the company’s index score (which measures a range of metrics including quality, value and reputation) plummeted at the height of the closures to -10.6, it has since recovered to -0.7, higher than in the weeks before the crisis.

Its impression score has also rebounded, from a low of almost -15 up to 6.2, again back to pre-chicken shortage levels. While KFC system sales in the UK fell by 9% and 6% respectively in the first and second quarters, by Q3 it was back in growth with sales up 1%. SV

READ MORE: Vote for your favourite marketing campaign of 2018

BrewDog – ‘Rate My Beer’


BrewDog has had quite a year trying to establish itself as a household brand while retaining its edgy outsider status. Despite not always getting it right (pink beer for International Women’s Day, for example) its ‘Rate My Beer’ campaign baiting its macrobrewery rivals certainly did.

In September, the brewer took on four of its biggest corporate-owned competitors, using print, digital and outdoor to show consumers why its Punk IPA is the superior beer.

The campaign, created by agency Isobel, took the overall consumer score of big brewers’ lager brands from the website, and put them right next to that of BrewDog’s Punk IPA. It directly compared BrewDog’s score of 97/100 to Budweiser’s 0/100, Carling’s 1/100, Fosters’ 3/100 and Stella Artois’ 9/100.

In typical BrewDog style, shaming them was not enough. It also parodied the brands’ taglines on the ads, asking ‘Wassup, Bud?’ and ‘Good Call, Fosters?’ to add insult to injury.

It was a direct attack on the big brewers but it also put the question of taste front and centre. An ad that highlighted Punk IPA’s high score alone would wash over consumers but comparing that to its competitors with a tagline baiting them got it noticed.

It was a good move from BrewDog, which has dominated the UK craft beer sector but is looking to solidify its position among the big dogs. Marketing Week columnist, Mark Ritson, put it best when he said: “BrewDog is building a brand, not despite the presence of the major breweries but because of them.” MF

Tide – ‘It’s a Tide Ad’

There is always one ad that stands out at the Super Bowl for all the right reasons and this year was no different, which is good given advertisers reportedly shell out a whopping $5m for a 30-second slot. With a mix of humour, celebrity and nostalgia, ‘It’s a Tide Ad’ for the Procter & Gamble-owned laundry brand got tongues wagging for all the right reasons.

Stranger Things actor David Harbour stars in what initially appears to be an ad for a car/beer/aftershave/fizzy drink before he reveals it’s a Tide ad, much to the dismay of everyone else starring alongside him.

At one point a mechanic with grease all over his face asks what makes it a Tide ad, and Harbour responds: “There are no stains. Look at those clean clothes.” At the end, he asks: “Does that make every Super Bowl ad a Tide ad?”

And that was just the beginning. Rather than settle on one 30-second spot, Tide opted for a minute-long ad followed by several 15-second spots peppered throughout each ad break to keep up momentum.

The campaign, which was created by Saatchi & Saatchi New York, clearly made an impact, according to an analysis by Lucid and Realeyes of more than 75 ads among 5,000 viewers. Ads were rated across four metrics – attraction, retention, engagement and impact – to give an overall ‘EmotionAll’ score, with two of the It’s a Tide Ad executions appearing in the top 10.

P&G’s chief brand officer Marc Pritchard also singled out the campaign at ISBA’s annual conference, saying the ads are “a great example of creativity sparking a national conversation on something as everyday as a laundry detergent”. He added: “This is the kind of marketing we want on all our brands – driving what we all want – more growth.” LT

READ MORE: Vote for your favourite marketing campaign of 2018

Channel 4, Nationwide, McCain’s, Maltesers – ‘#TogetherAgainstHate’

In 2018, brands started calling out abusive behaviour online. In September, Diesel took a swipe at the trolls with the release of its ‘Hate Couture’ campaign, turning hateful comments into fashion, while the Home Office used its platform to highlight why online abuse is a hate crime.

A standout campaign came courtesy of Nationwide, McCain’s and Maltesers, which in September teamed up with Channel 4 on a prime-time ad break takeover exposing the hateful and violent social media posts sent to the real people cast in their ads.

Vile comments were added to the existing ads and visual effects applied to the screen, replicating the feeling of being on the receiving end of abuse. Aired on 7 September during Gogglebox, the Nationwide spot showed the screen gradually filling with mould, while the Maltesers ad featured digital distortion and the McCain’s ad disintegrated into a cracked screen.

READ MORE: Nationwide, Maltesers and McCain take a stand over online abuse

Mark Hodge, McCain’s UK marketing director, explained the brand knew it needed to take on the trolls after being “devastated” by the homophobic abuse sustained by Lee and Mat Samuels-Camozzi, who starred in its ‘We Are Family’ campaign.

Nationwide CMO Sara Bennison realised she needed to act after seeing a worrying trend of racist, homophobic, violent and misogynist comments appearing on social media whenever Nationwide’s ‘Voices’ campaign featured people of colour, members of the LGBT+ community or young women.

‘#TogetherAgainstHate’ caught viewers’ imaginations the moment it aired. A single tweet from the official Channel 4 account supporting the campaign generated 1.9 million impressions, 520,682 media views and 102,541 total engagements between 7 and 28 September. Over 90% of the media views and engagements happened within the first three days.

McCain’s tweet promoting #TogetherAgainstHate received 27,038 engagements, with an engagement rate of 23.97%. The success of the ad break takeover proves consumers will support brands prepared to stand up to hate. CR

John Lewis and Waitrose – ‘& Partners’

This year John Lewis and Waitrose made the landmark decision that the John Lewis Partnership’s two brands would be better as one, with the launch of their first joint marketing campaign since adding ‘& Partners’ to both their names.

The partnership’s biggest ad outside of Christmas, the 150-second spot featuring a primary school performance of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was everything you’d expect from John Lewis (and Waitrose): big, theatrical and uplifting (and long).

The campaign, created by adam&eveDDB and called ‘& Partners’, used the tagline ‘For us, it’s personal’. It aims to shine a light on the stories and skills of its staff, which the retailers call partners, to illustrate what makes it different from other retail chains.

But the rebrand was more than just a name change. It was an effort to bring the brands closer in an ever more challenging retail market, which has seen a number of doors close on the high street this year and many businesses scrambling to stay afloat.

Following a tough first half of the year, where profits at John Lewis slumped 99%, this campaign shows John Lewis and Waitrose realising that they would perhaps have a better chance of combating these woes together (with the help of some singing children).

What effect this has on profits and sales, and whether this has any impact on engagement and sentiment towards both brands, will become much clearer as 2019 unfolds. The business took some criticism for rolling the campaign out shortly before announcing it had made 1,800 redundancies in the year. But this campaign should mark a turning point for the John Lewis Partnership as a business and shows it is looking ahead while other high street retailers struggle to keep up. EH

Lacoste – ‘Save Our Species’

Lacoste’s green crocodile logo is one of the most distinct designs in the world of fashion branding, so it was a surprise when the French fashion company decided to ditch the 85-year-old logo as part of one of its global activations.

Why, you might ask? For a good cause of course.

Partnering with the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Paris-based agency BETC, the brand replaced the crocodile with depictions of 10 rare animals in a bid to help save some of the world’s most endangered creatures. The number of shirts available with each logo was matched with how many of the corresponding animals are left in the wild.

Read more: Lacoste replaces crocodile logo with endangered species

For instance, there are only 350 Sumatran tigers, so there were only 350 polo shirts with the tiger logo available for purchase, whereas the Gulf of California porpoise only had 30 shirts. Other endangered animals included an Anegada Rock iguana and Javan Rhino.

The collection included just 1,775 shirts in total, serving as a stark reminder of just how few of these animals are left in the world. It was unveiled at Paris Fashion Week with proceeds from each sale going toward the preservation of its species.

Whether it be the context of the story behind the collection or simply the appearance of the range, it was so popular the collection completely sold out, indicating that despite removing a key brand asset from its product Lacoste remained recognisable.

And to be able to do this without any brand confusion shows the real power of the green crocodile. EL

READ MORE: Vote for your favourite marketing campaign of 2018

BBC – ‘The Tapestry’

Creating a lasting impression was the goal of pretty much every player and team during the FIFA World Cup 2018, and while England might not have made it past the semi-finals in Russia, the team far surpassed expectations.

The BBC was also looking to create a lasting impression with its World Cup campaign, using the unconventional medium of tapestry. Rather than rely on individual players’ participation in this year’s tournament, the BBC – which also has to remain moderately impartial – looked to highlight some of the pivotal moments from throughout the World Cup’s rich history, including familiar faces such as Diego Maradona, Zinedine Zidane and Paul Gascoigne.

Using more than 227,000 metres of thread, ‘The Tapestry’ film features 600 individually embroidered and then photographed frames, which if laid end to end would measure more than 1,200 metres in length.

The idea, which was developed by the BBC’s in-house creative team and BBC Sport marketing, was also brought to life in a separate 7 metre long tapestry, with moments from this year’s tournament added throughout the competition, which gave a double meaning to the campaign’s end line ‘History will be made’.

For the final frame the BBC asked fans to share their suggestions via its social platforms. Charlotte Lock, director of marketing and audiences for BBC content, radio and education, told Marketing Week this was another “critical part of this campaign; engaging, responding, meme-generating to every moment of elation and despair”.

The 7 metre tapestry was also on display throughout the summer at the National Football Museum, giving football fans another way to access it. LT

READ MORE: The World Cup marketing that could have been

Postmates – ‘We get it’

Never heard of Postmates? It is best described as the American equivalent to Uber Eats or Deliveroo, only, it claims to “get it”.

From ice cream to ramen to an entire cake, the brand promises it can deliver consumers whatever they want through this out-of-home campaign.

The simplistic ads appear on billboards scattered across New York and Los Angeles, one reading: ‘When you’re so hungry, you’ll eat anything except meat, cheese, milk, eggs and hundreds of other options. Vegan food. We get it’.

Other favourites include: “When you want to ironically toast the country that secretly controls ours. Vodka. We get it.” Or, “When the breakup was bad, but only 360 calories bad. Halo Top. We get it”.

Read More: Postmates reveals cheeky minimalist out-of-home ad campaign.

Nailing this outdoor campaign was vital for Postmates, which is competing for market share within the crowded food delivery sector. Not only did the company create an amusing way to connect with consumers, it also tailored its adverts for each US city. For instance, a post in NYC reads: “When everyone’s in the Hamptons but you. Rose. We get it.”

The company has since caught the attention of fast-food giant Burger King which in October signed a partnership with Postmates allowing the famous Whopper Burger to be delivered to your door.

Postmates is the largest on-demand delivery network in the Los Angeles market. According to US media, its revenue grew more than 85% to around $250m in 2017 and between 2015 and 2017 Postmates says it generated $380m in sales in Los Angeles and $127.7m in New York. EL

To read more of Marketing Week’s 2018 marketing year in review, sponsored by Salesforce, head here.