Top 10 marketing moments of 2014

From the #icebucketchallenge to the hype around this year's Christmas ads, Nicola Kemp unveils the biggest moments in marketing in the past 12 months.


 Always boosts confidence with #LikeAGirl

For an ad to completely redefine a turn of phrase is no mean feat. Yet this is exactly what Always achieved with its ‘Like a girl’ campaign. The brand, which launched the activity in June, turned to celebrated filmmaker Lauren Greenfield to create the ad. It was born out of brand-commissioned research that found half of girls report a drop in confidence after their first period.

The ad’s first-person narrative beautifully depicted the way in which girls self-censor as they reach puberty; when the term ‘like a girl’ quickly, yet unthinkingly, becomes an insult. It is a seemingly harmless development, but one that is so important in under­standing and addressing how many young girls’ confidence is replaced by acute self-consciousness at the onset of puberty.

Amid the clutter of competing brands in this space, Always succeeded where many other brands had failed, in taking a marketing campaign and building a genuine movement from it.

The rise and rise of the ‘selfless selfie’

Online activism remained a key trend in 2014, and the success of the #icebucketchallenge and #nomakeupselfie left social-media agencies scrambling to decipher exactly how brands could ride the wave of this ‘selfless selfie’ bandwagon. It was a trend fuelled as much by the desire to show your ‘best side’ – both literally and metaphorically – as it was to do something good and act with purpose.

Ultimately, commercial ventures will struggle to achieve the same level of engagement and willingness to share that a charitable fundraising drive is able to. However, the ‘selfless selfie’ phenomenon underlines the potential to tap into the broadcasting power of ‘generation selfie’. With the rise of social media, recording and sharing experiences have replaced acquiring products as the key mechanism for consumers seeking to boost their social status.

Commentators have criticised the rise of the charity selfie for its narcissistic tendencies, but the emerging consumer behaviour it reflects is more nuanced than that. Connecting with others through a community, whether real or virtual, in pursuit of a shared goal is life-affirming. The selfie phenomenon might be a bubble and consumers may well suffer from selfie fatigue, but the desire to broadcast their experiences and the endless pursuit of validation will remain.

Royal-baby mania mark two is born

Nothing can prepare you for the love and excitement that accompanies the birth of your first child. If you are the Duchess of Cambridge, however, that excitement (among UK social-media managers at least) is not confined either to your own home (or palace), or your first child.

Having seen the impact of the birth of Prince George, who managed to propel brands to a global stage before he could even walk, marketers had their hands hovering over the ‘tweet’ button as the news broke that the Duchess of Cambridge is expecting her second child. Nissan launched a tactical ad just seven minutes after the official announcement emerged from Clarence House. The world may have changed irrevocably due to advances in technology, but it seems the fervour that surrounds the arrival of a royal baby is here to stay.

 Hashtag feminism strives for gender equality with #heforshe

This year has proved a landmark for hashtag feminism. While the advent of social media has shone a light on the very worst kind of misogyny, it is also being used as a conduit to bring people together in new and inspiring ways. Actress Emma Watson’s speech to the UN in September, launching the #heforshe campaign, duly went viral and marked the growth of a softer, more inclusive approach to gender inequality. Notably, afterwards, some news outlets covered Watson’s speech only in the wake of hoax threats to publish nude photos of her. However, the campaign succeeded where so many other efforts have failed by bringing the issue of gender equality to the top of the agenda for both men and women.

 Adidas wins ‘social World Cup’ with ‘All in or nothing’ campaign

All in or nothing’ was more than just a World Cup strapline for Adidas; it was a real-time marketing state of mind. The brand’s approach to ‘anticipated content’ throughout the tournament has provided a new standard for marketers attempting to maximise the potential of the social newsroom to better connect with consumers via social channels. The brand and its social-media agency, We Are Social, even brought an inanimate object to life; Brazuca, the official Adidas match ball, became a media player in its own right. The @brazuca Twitter handle was the fastest-growing account on the platform during the tournament, amassing 2.98m followers. The ‘social World Cup’ was a marketing masterclass and all eyes will be on next year’s Rugby World Cup, to see how brands develop their content in the months ahead.

 Nokia brand is cut off

For those of us who sent our first SMS via the grainy screen of a Nokia handset, which undoubtedly includes many marketers, the smartphone brand’s death knell is the source of intense nostalgia. Its demise is a stark reminder of the speed of digital disruption. Microsoft, which bought the Nokia brand in April for $7.2bn, wants to push its Lumia brand instead. The Nokia name will, however, continue in some form, with the brand providing telecoms networks and hardware. Nonetheless, the decision to axe the Nokia moniker in developed markets marks the end of an era in mobile. After all, many consumers’ enduring love affair with mobile phones began with one of the brand’s devices.

 Online privacy takes centre stage in ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling

Balancing the demands of freedom of expression with the right to privacy remained at the top of the marketing agenda in 2014. The ‘right to be forgotten’ was recognised in May by the European Court of Justice. Under the ruling, individuals may request that search engines operating in Europe take down links to articles about them. Reactions to it have bordered on the hysterical, with MailOnline publisher Martin Clark claiming that ‘de-linking’ was "the equivalent of going into libraries and burning books you don’t like". The change puts search engines such as Google in the impossible position of judge and jury, in that it will be required to make specific decisions about whether or not to link to content. In response, Google has scrambled to put together an advisory council, which includes Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales and Sylvie Kauffman, the editorial director of Le Monde, to limit the damage to the brand and attempt to create a workable solution.

From a brand perspective, this issue is going nowhere, with agencies potentially using the right to be forgotten as a dubious form of brand management in the months ahead.

For Google, the challenge remains the mounting concern globally over its virtual monopoly in the search sphere, and among consumers about their privacy and digital footprint. The backlash over the latter has already started to ripple through Silicon Valley, with the right to be forgotten just the tip of the iceberg.

 Paddy Power campaign takes root

Generating death threats is not generally the goal of brands. Yet Paddy Power, not unaccustomed to being in hot water, was on the receiving end of them via Twitter.

They were sparked following a spoof campaign, which it ran prior to the FIFA World Cup, sugges­t­ing that it had carved the words "C’mon England" into the Brazilian jungle. It was later revealed the pictures were fake and designed to draw attention to the very real problem of deforestation. The ‘Shave the rainforest’ activity was gutsy marketing at its best.

It is not the first time that Paddy Power has pushed the boundaries with cause-related marketing; this year also brought the return of ‘Rainbow laces’, a campaign aimed at tackling homophobia in football. While the betting firm has confirmed its role as the enfant terrible of marketing with several rather more questionable campaigns, it has also delivered huge awareness for two important issues.

 Uber hailed for shaking up cab ranks

Uber has officially arrived; in the true spirit of digital disruption, it has become a verb in its own right. How did you get home from that awards do? Chances are you Ubered it.

City by city, Uber is having a dramatic impact on the traditional taxi industry, providing brands with a stark reminder of the risk of steadfastly protecting the status quo. Moreover, the notion that there is no such thing as bad PR was brought into sharp relief in June, when thousands of cab drivers in major European cities staged a protest against Uber and other car-sharing services.

The rallies, which were spread across Berlin, Paris, Madrid and London, caused major traffic jams, but also served to place the Uber brand firmly on consumers’ radar.

However, the famously combative company has been in the spotlight for the wrong reasons of late. Uber came under fire in November after senior vice-president Emil Michael said at a dinner party that it could dig up dirt on journalists to fight back against critical coverage. This is not an isolated incident: its team reportedly has a history of frat-boy-style behaviour, questions have been raised about the way in which it does business, and there are signs the market is turning on the company.

The continued growth of rivals such as Lyft is a telling reminder that the brands that disrupt a market are not necessarily the ones that will succeed in the long term.

 Christmas ads get emotional

The retail market’s Christmas ad bonanza is the UK industry’s version of the US’ Super Bowl ad break, the most sparkling display of creativity of the year. While this year John Lewis’ Monty the Penguin got the early headlines, Sainsbury’s also won plenty of media coverage – and many viewers’ hearts.

The super­market and its agency, Abbot Mead Vickers BBDO, delivered a moving ad set during World War I’s Christmas truce, featuring a British solider venturing into no man’s land. Based on the football matches that took place between British and German forces on 25 December 1914, the ad ends with a British soldier giving his German counterpart a chocolate bar. Sainsbury’s is selling a limited-edition version of the bar for £1, with 50p of the proceeds going to The Royal British Legion.

The supermarket, which has a 20-year relation­ship with the charity, has provided a poignant reminder of the sacrifices of those who served – although its use of such a vast human tragedy in an ad has drawn criticism.

Campaign of the year: BBC Music

One could envisage the headlines regarding the BBC’s reworking of the Beach Boys classic God Only Knows, featuring a stellar cast, before the content had ever seen the light of day. ‘God only knows how much the BBC spent on its corporate video.’

As Adam Sherwin opined in The Independent: "With its message, that the BBC ‘owns’ the entire musical waterfront and licence-fee payers would do well to remember that, it is the kind of propaganda film an auto­cratic regime sensing that its legi­timacy is crumbling might produce."

In many respects, marketers at the BBC could have been forgiven for sitting on their hands, or, at the most, twiddling their thumbs while steadfastly maintaining the existing state of affairs.

Instead the team was supremely ambitious in scope and scale in its epic reworking of the track. With a choir spanning from One Direction to opera star Danielle de Niese, the video is testament to the creative vision of BBC Marketing and its agency Karmarama.

"Music says something fundamental about who we are and we really built on that; it is a unique platform," explains Neil Caldicott, director of marketing and audiences for radio at BBC Music.

Here is a campaign that succeeds because the result is greater than its component parts. The idea, and the creative endeavour it demanded, transcends the realms of a traditional celebrity campaign; something that in itself should be applauded.


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