If you want your ad to stand out, you have to be prepared to go elsewhere. Many companies have done just that this year, jumping on trends like the metaverse and NFTs to promote their products. Others have ventured into unconventional PSAs or scavenged footage from blockbuster TV shows for door-to-door guerrilla marketing. Some of these efforts have worked, while a few definitely haven’t.
HThere are six of the weirdest ad campaigns and PR stunts of 2021.
1. Relief Squid game competitor
In October, Miamiians and New Yorkers may have found one of 10,000-style business cards seen on Netflix. Squid game. In the show, brown cards with a circle, a triangle and a square are an invitation to indebted South Koreans to play deadly games for big bucks. Those in New York and Miami were promoting Relief, an app that helps users reduce credit card debt.
The Miami-based startup didn’t partner with Netflix for the stunt, nor did it explicitly mention Squid game on the map. But the design is instantly recognizable even to casual viewers of the bloody hit series. Tucked away under the wipers and in the door frames, the reverse side of the business cards clearly showed the connection, “There’s a better way to get out of debt. “
2. Burger King’s “Keep it Real” NFTs
To promote the removal of 120 artificial ingredients from the fast food giant’s menu, Burger King launched its “Keep it Real Meals” campaign in September. Time-limited combo meals, each named after a celebrity, came with a QR code that customers could scan to redeem collectibles NFTs – “non-fungible tokens” representing ownership of digital assets that can be traded or auctioned on blockchain networks. In partnership with electronic marketplace NFT Sweet, Burger King distributed 6 million digital tokens across 28 models featuring Nelly, Anitta and LILHUDDY.
Burger King isn’t the only food company experimenting with NFTs. Taco Bell ran a similar promotion in March after adding potatoes to its menu, as did Pizza Hut Canada. Coca-Cola has also joined the token movement, auctioning NFT “loot boxes” in late June to celebrate International Friendship Day.
3. Chipotle x Roblox
Chipotle has been offering discount burritos to Halloween customers for over two decades with the annual “Boorito” promotion. This year, the fast-casual channel tried something different: they teamed up with online multiplayer game Roblox and invited audiences to “experience Boorito in the metaverse for the first time.”
For three days, the first 30,000 Roblox users to visit a virtual Chipotle restaurant and speak to the virtual cashier received a coupon for a free burrito – provided they were wearing a virtual costume, of course, like “Guacenstein” or “Chip Ghost Bag.” The site crashed a day after the promotion, but Roblox insisted the outage was unrelated.
4. Samuel Adams PSA Vaccine
This year’s coronavirus vaccine rollout used mascots, influencer partnerships and corporate referrals to convince unvaccinated Americans to get vaccinated. In April, Samuel Adams, the flagship brand of the Boston Beer Company, stepped in to do its part with a 30-second spot titled “Your Boston Cousin Gets Vaccinated.”
In the short PSA, a Boston man reveled in his “I got the shot” pin and enjoys drinking Samuel Adams beer indoors with friends. Then he wakes up from the dream streak on the floor of the immunization clinic, having pulled his pants down and passed out at the sight of a needle. As the logos parade, he casually reassures people waiting in line for their vaccinations that there is nothing to worry about, under the slogan “Don’t miss your shot.”
5. The 850 pound edible
To celebrate National Chocolate Brownie Day in December, Massachusetts-based cannabis company MariMed Inc. unveiled an insanely large, record-breaking 850-pound marijuana brownie. The three-by-three-foot brownie broke the record held by Something Sweet Bake Shop’s 234-pound pot-less competitor.
Cascade launched MariMed’s new “Bubby’s Baked” line of edibles and used three pounds of salt, 212 pounds of butter, over 1,300 eggs and 20,000 milligrams of THC. (A standard dose is 10 mg, by the way.) A spokesperson told the AP that the brownie would eventually be sold to a patient suffering from medical marijuana in Middleborough, although the price of purchase is always to be taken into consideration.
6. Voltswagen of America
Unlike the classic line from PT Barnum, not all balers are good presses.
In preparation for the release of Volkswagen’s new range of electric cars ID.4, the company “accidentally” issued a press release March 29 by announcing that it would change the name of its American subsidiary to Voltswagen of America. VW officials confirmed the leak on Twitter and emailed the news directly to reporters. After the announcement was picked up by mainstream media, VW admitted the name change was an elaborate (and premature) April Fool’s Day joke.
For many consumers, the bogus report was an inadvertent reminder of how the German automaker has lied for years about its diesel fuel efficiency and cheated on emissions tests. Before speaking candidly about “Voltswagen”, VW called the name change a “public statement of the company’s future investment in electric mobility.” The announcement pushed its stock price up to 12%, triggering an SEC investigation into whether the company’s bizarre prank violated securities laws.