Surprisingly good? Five controversial marketing campaigns

After its last bank branch closed in 2018, the Scottish town of Denny welcomed a high-tech startup offering day-to-day banking services to the town’s Co-op grocery store – Copyright GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File Brandon Bell

While women’s health brand Elvie recently caused a stir on social media with its provocative 2022 campaign normalizing female incontinence in sports, print and brand marketing firm Solopress has investigated the top five campaigns of the past decade. who still agitated the social sphere. Digital diary took a look at the findings.

When judged based on social media “noise,” the five ad campaigns that garnered the most attention and ticked the required boxes for “controversial” were:

Always #LikeAGirl

Feminine hygiene brand Always’s #LikeAGirl campaign succeeded in overturning gender stereotypes and redefining what it means to do something “like a girl”. This took the form of a short video ad which depicted a casting call with young women, men, boys and girls asked to pretend to run, fight and throw like a girl.

While women, men and boys chose to act out stereotypes and mock how women would do these things, prepubescent girls provided a powerful response by pretending to perform these actions. with pride and confidence.

Social media statistics:

  • 70 million views on YouTube
  • 20.5 million views on TikTok
  • 10.62 likes on Twitter
  • 814 retweets on Twitter

What this has meant for the company, a survey found that 94% of respondents, by Always, agreed that their #LikeAGirl campaign encouraged girls to be more confident and 70% of women and 60% of men claimed that the video had changed. their perception of the term “like a girl”.

Gillette #TheBestMenCanBe

The social media video campaign was created in the wake of #MeToo and aimed to challenge traditional male stereotypes and encourage positive behaviour. Gillette’s video showed various situations involving boys and men, from men making derogatory comments towards women to young boys fighting, with the intention of encouraging others to make better choices.

Social media statistics:

  • 4 million views on YouTube (via Guardian News)
  • 203,000 retweets on Twitter
  • 76.3k tweets quoted on Twitter
  • 513.3k likes on Twitter
  • 11,752 likes on Instagram
  • 2.1k likes on Facebook

As a measure of advertising success, the company’s research found that Gillette’s #TheBestAManCanBe campaign encouraged 65% more purchase intent.

Elvie Leaks Happen

Women’s health brand Elvie has launched a 20ft “pee” billboard to confront the taboo of urinary incontinence with social media censorship around this widespread issue.

Social media statistics:

  • 3 million views on TikTok
  • 1.9k views on YouTube

As a result of the campaign, searches for “Elvie Trainer review” have increased by 60% and searches for “Elvie Curve” (two of the brand’s key products) have increased by 70% according to Google Trends since the launch of the campaign. country.

Weetabix, Beanz on Bix

Compared to the previous three campaigns that focused on gender issues, Weetabix chose to focus on pairing its cereal offering with baked beans.

Social media statistics:

  • 36.3k retweets on Twitter
  • 68.8k tweets quoted on Twitter
  • 130,000 likes on Twitter
  • 1,839 likes on Instagram


The fried chicken company ran an ad showing an empty bucket of chicken with FCK replacing the KFC branding on the front following a stockout in a bid to counter negative publicity. This lens of youthful humor has appeared in tabloids like Metro and The Sun.

Social media statistics:

  • Reach a global audience of 797 million
  • 814 likes on Twitter
  • 428 retweets on Twitter
  • 114 tweets quoted on Twitter
  • 700 press articles and TV debates

Whether these campaigns were actually “controversial” depends on your social and cultural perspective. They are certainly different from the norm and seemingly successful.