The good, the bad and the bizarre of Valentine’s Day marketing

Love might be in the air but studies show most of us will leave shopping for our loved ones until the last minute. That leaves plenty of opportunity for brands to offer inspiration to the men and women looking for that special something for their loved one. Beyond the sea of ads for red roses and cosy meals in, there is a sea of good, bad and bizarre campaigns. Take a look and decide your favourite for yourself.


Dumb Ways To Die

Metro Trains Australia’s Dumb Ways to Die public health campaign was a runaway success at Cannes last year and now its back with a special Valentine’s message. The animated character that sold both its kidneys on the internet is now selling off other vital organs and, unfortunately, ends up meeting his maker. The ad ends with the on-screen message “Be safe around Valentine’s Day … and trains”.

Ovo Energy


There’s not a lot of love for the big energy companies at the moment and so Ovo Energy is taking on the spirit of Valentine’s Day by encouraging people to split up, with their current energy supplier. It has been handing out chocolates at Liverpool Street Station and today starts an ad campaign with the tagline “Feel Loved Again”, accompanied by a Valentine’s poem.

”Rose are red, Violets are blue, Dump the ‘Big Six’, OVO loves you.”

If that doesn’t get you in the mood I don’t know what will.

Ann Summers

Ann Summers has gone all guerrilla marketing for Valentine’s Day, projecting messages on competitors’ stores to encourage people to be a little bolder in their choice of present this year. Thinking of heading to Thornton’s to buy some sweet treats, well Ann Summers thinks “Chocolates are for hospitals”, while “Roses belong in the Eighties”.

It also emblazoned “Happy Ann Summers Day” across competitors’ windows. It’s just a shame that in a survey by AXA, just a third of women said they actually wanted to get knickers from a loved one.



Heineken wants to challenge the stereotype of the emotionally-detached guy with an Instagram campaign called #DateInABox. The brand says it is usually women that take to social media to publicly declare their love, but it wants to encourage men to wear their hearts on their sleeves.

So far so simple. But then it gets much more complicated.

The actual #DateInABox is a mystery date for two that could include couples’ tattoos or judo lessons. Girls can tweet to have one mailed to their other half, but they only get access to the date if the guy shares his innermost feelings and posts a picture of the box on Instagram. Then they’ll get a code to unlock the box. Any couple that thinks this process is worth it may have a little too much time on their hands.


Nothing says I love you like a staged kiss, so Lidl has launched an app and site that offers customers a “love X-ray”. Using the cameras on their smartphone or PC, people can capture themselves kissing on camera. The app then “verifies” the kiss with its “hyper-advanced kiss sensor technology” and you’re entered into a competition to win one of eight £50 Lidl vouchers. The supermarket says it’s trying to combine “romanticism with tech and retail”. It may have failed.




Not usually the first place you’d think of for a Valentine’s Day present, but the gaming retailer has branched out and launched pheromone-fuelled his and hers underwear. The reason? To tempt men (and women) addicted to gaming away from their consoles for one evening. We think you’ll agree that once you’ve seen the undies you’d be hard-pushed to resist…..



Love was quite literally in the air last night when Durex sponsored a pre-Valentine’s light show on the South Bank aimed at getting lovers in the mood for the big day. It put on a light and dance show involving purple and pink beams moving in time to iconic love songs and dancing flashmobs. Couples could send their messages of love using #DurexEmbrace.

The whole event is aimed at celebrating the launch of Durex’s new range of “sensual pleasure gels”. However, if condoms are more your thing the Center for Biological Diversity is handing out 4,000 featuring endangered species in “the most romantic cities” in the US, including New Orleans and Honolulu. It’s aimed at raising awareness of how population growth impacts nature.


Seb Joseph

Will the Guardian going native solve ethical issues for publishers?

Seb Joseph

The Guardian launched its branded content division this week with much fanfare and a wide-ranging tie-up with Unilever. But the publisher’s decision to have journalists co-creating sponsored content raises just as many as ethical issues as it does opportunities to show the controversial format is growing up.


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