Usually, brands put the focus on positive things while promoting its products, but sometimes they decide to forget about sweet things and dare to come close to the line, which divides the gritty criminal world and the life of model citizens—of course, only in advertising, not when doing business. Humorous or ironical advertising campaigns featuring robbers, spies, thieves, corsairs, undercover agents, peace-breakers and all sorts of baddies (barring cruel dictators) as well as their victims are showcased in this review.
Probably, the most well-known ‘criminal’ brand, which still hasn’t released any illegal-themed campaign so far, is Captain Morgan, which mascot, a pirate, was ruthless in the past and is a very sociable guy now. Despite his reckless image, Morgan is always extremely decent in the brand’s promotions (being a bit obsessed with ladies is not criminal, is it?).
The whole ‘Be Stupid’ campaign by Diesel comes as tribute to being outrageous and stirring it locally with unpredictable behavior. Remember all of those jaw-dropping prints showcasing people doing unsuitable things in museums and subways (these visuals were released as part of the Diesel Denim F/W 2010/11 ad campaign), this harsh ‘Not made for running. Great for kicking asses’ sneakers promotion (which is quite insulting actually and could be qualified as personal injury if those ‘victims’ were real), and the much more appropriate espionage-themed campaign launched to promote the brand’s S/S 2011 collection.
Intel released a series of projects to highlight the capabilities of its 2nd Generation Core i5 processor. One of them is a stunning promotional video features a lady who tries to escape from two bandits—they are chasing the girl to take something very important from her. The hunt ‘gets out’ of one media player and continues on a range of platforms including Word document, a Facebook page, Google Earth, YouTube, iTunes, a stop-motion series of images, a chat, Photoshop, an arcade-style fighting game, a banner, QuickTime again, Google Street View, Grand Theft Auto, and more.
A similar idea—a guy tries to protect state secrets from baddies—is behind the 12,5 interactive movie launched by Lexus last spring to show the ‘Dark Side of Green’. This time, viewers were invited to get into the action as a co-pilot of the insane driver. “The opposition tried to steal our hybrid technology… you must make all the decisions and get the car to Los Angeles in one piece,” said the voiceover in the teaser.
The theme of prison was also employed in brands’ advertising projects. For instance, Audi, launched a nice campaign encouraging people to break free from the old opulence world and turn to modern luxury. The spot features two guys who escape from the golden cage—literally, a prison where people live in the rich rooms but behind the bars. The brand also offered viewers of the ad on Facebook to click on luxury items in the ad for a chance to win prizes.
adidas launched another action-packed campaign, revolving around the theme of stealing goods. The brand posted a footage taken by security cameras at the brand’s HQ in Germany, in which some person stole adidas adizero sneakers and ‘demanded’ to ‘find them fast.’ The thief didn’t specify what exactly he was going to do with the footwear, but his intentions were clear: most likely, he was going to store the fast shoes in some gritty basements for ever. The brand’s fans were encouraged to spot the shoes as fast as possible using tips posted on the brand’s Facebook page, since a range of top athletes were supposed to be wearing them in upcoming international sport competitions.
Stealing shoes seems to be quite a usual thing, but there’s some kind of theft that may seem really unbelievable. In a shot film dubbed ‘Lemon Drop‘ and promoting Absolut vodka, the brand was inspired by the film style of 70-ies and featured a villain, who stole kittens’ meows which were then converted into his sweet voice.
But this is not the weirdest thing that can be stolen. As part of its ‘Great Ideas just click’ campaign, in December 2010, LEGO launched a stop-motion video in which it revealed a secret intriguing just everyone who constructed something with the colorful bricks at least once. Why the pieces go missing, who steals them and why? The spot gives the answers: as it turns out, there is one crazy guy with fruitful fantasy and gorgeous mustaches, who needs LEGO bricks to build new things. To get ones, he just puts his hands into special openings in the wall and takes the pieces from kids, when they don’t see it.
Which is more valuable and wanted, gold or ice-cream? If you think that the first, you are wrong—at least, the sweet treat attracts first-class robbers more than hundreds of gold ingots. In its ad shot by Brian Singer, Unilever’s brand Magnum features two bank robbers, a couple (Benicio del Toro and Caroline Correa), who break into the bank’s vault, which is full of perfect bricks new ice cream, a “blend of vanilla and caramel in crackling golden dipped milk chocolate.” The product launch was stated for the following day, but the criminals decided to take risks and steal it before the official presentation, and drove away with a track full of ice-cream.
But bad people sometimes can forget their negative past, start teaching people good things and warn about all the dangers of infringing the law. LG kicked off a promotion revolving around teens who misuse mobile phones and problems this may cause. Actress Jane Lynch, who “used to be a mobile criminal” became the face of the ‘LG Text Ed’ campaign, which covered such issues as sexting, mobile harassment and bulling, texting while driving to name a few in a series of educative clips and articles.
While usually the characters featured in this ‘criminal’ inspired commercial are fictional, sometimes brands decide to put real people in the spotlight. Last December, the Hublot luxury watches brand released a print ad featuring mugged Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone, who was attacked before Christmas for his £200,000 timepiece. He had a black eye, and sent his photo taken shortly after the incident to the boss of Swiss firm Hublot with the words, “See what people will do for a Hublot.” The phrase was featured in the ad—probably, one of the best examples of turning drama into money-making move.
No matter how fun these campaigns might seem, ‘don’t try this at home.’ Brands are not responsible for any illegal actions inspired by these advertising campaigns.