Several members of the Evolving Web team attended a marketing cocktail with Pete Favat, Chief Creative Officer of Deutsch North America. He shared several important lessons about guerrilla marketing strategy that he used in creating high-impact TV ad campaigns such as “truth”, which shocked late-90s viewers into realizing the harm being caused by Big Tobacco.

Evolving Web team members raising a glass at an A2C cocktail evenet

Huge thanks to A2C - Association of Creative Communications Agencies for organizing another amazing event!

Here are four things we learned about creating better marketing campaigns, using examples from Pete’s/Deutsch’s work:

1. Have an antagonist.

Just like how good stories have a protagonist and an antagonist, introducing two opposing ideas in your marketing message grips our attention. Our minds are naturally wired to seek out this conflict, so positioning your campaign as a battle against a common enemy can increase engagement. Identify what you dislike about your topic and use that to build the antagonist your campaign will fight. 

Before the “truth” campaign, anti-smoking public service announcements used statistics and graphic visuals to discourage teen smoking. “Truth” broke this pattern by positioning Big Tobacco as the enemy and encouraging youths to unite against the lies they’ve been fed by the industry. When your audience understands what you’re pushing against, they’re more likely to push with you.

2. Sometimes the best ads aren’t ads.

Platforms like Snapchat and Instagram don’t need ads because their users do the marketing for them. These platforms succeed because they do a great job of fulfilling their target market’s needs to connect, self-express, and get validation. The same idea applies for strong brands like Starbucks and peer-to-peer services like Uber.

Today, people are bombarded with more content than ever before, so it’s not enough just to have a clever message. To stand out, think about how you can build great products that meet the top needs of your customers and inspire them to share your brand with others. Use social proof and word of mouth to create more impact with less marketing spend.

3. Be Provocative.

Don’t be afraid to push boundaries. Sometimes it’s necessary to be provocative to get your target market out of a habit or routine and to see things in a new way.

The body bags ad involved getting teens to dump 1,200 empty body bags in front of a large tobacco company to show how many people die every day by smoking cigarettes. The video was filmed as though it was a youth-organized event and created enough controversy to save many lives.

You can also use a light touch. When Taco Bell launched their breakfast menu, they needed to shake customers out of the habit of eating at McDonald’s. To do this, Taco Bell ran ads showing real people named Ronald McDonald enjoying and endorsing their new breakfast items. This unexpected twist allowed them to compete with the biggest player in the category.

4. Do good things—and show it.

People want to buy from companies that share their values. If you support a charity or cause, show this in your marketing.

The “Tree-Roll” campaign, which supported Busch’s partnership with the National Forest Foundation (NFF), informed viewers of their pre-roll YouTube ad that they will plant a tree if viewers don’t skip the ad. The campaign quickly helped the NFF plant the most trees—50,000 trees, one tree for every person who didn’t skip—over a single year.

Companies that do good things connect with people on an emotional level. Consider how you can strengthen your relationship with your customers by tapping into people’s natural inclination to contribute to a worthwhile cause.

Summing up

Pete had a lot of great ideas to share, which he demonstrated with the funny and impactful Superbowl-quality ads he produced.  We didn't even realize how much we were learning until we were writing this post. Huge thanks to A2C for organizing such a great event! If you'd like to attend the next one be sure to follow the A2C Facebook or LinkedIn pages. À tantôt!

Photo credits: Xavier Legault et Hao Yin (Voltaic). We also thank Millie Ho for her substantial contributions to writing this article.