The advertising equivalent of “If a tree falls in a forest…”

I’m sure you’d have heard about the philosophical thought experiment, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”.

These days, the marketing and advertising equivalent of that is, “If a campaign is not being discussed or shared on social media, was the campaign even launched?”.

Two UK-based brands took this thought head-on in a brilliant demonstration of advertising ingenuity. Both use self-referential and self-effacing copy and fully expected the outdoor media copy to be noticed not on the road, but online. And shared.

The first was Emily Snacks, a vegan snacks brand, in what seems like an in-house creative effort.

The second was HUN, that oddly insists that it wants to sell wine in a can. HUN’s agency was TBWA.

Both brands start with the logic that if they launch their product with an outdoor campaign, nobody would see it, since everyone’s stuck at home in a nationwide lockdown (in the UK, and everywhere in the world too anyway).

This is a delightful twist on the fake Netflix campaign I had written about earlier, where they threatened to put up show spoilers on billboards. Even there, the intent was not to be seen on the medium chosen, but to be shared on the digital medium.

There are 3 parties being referenced with self-derogatory humor. The first one is the brand itself. The second, the advertising agency.

The third?

In both cases, you also need to applaud the courage from the media partner – digital outdoor vendors Clear Channel (for Emily Snacks) and JCDecaux (for HUN Wines). The brands are literally announcing that the media channel is not useful at all (under the circumstances) and goes on to actively poke fun at the part where nobody would see it. Emily’s campaign even has a line, “Maybe we should have made a TV ad instead!” directly pointing to the uselessness of the medium it is plastered on!

But it looks like everyone involved has bought into the inside joke, including the audience who had the opportunity to see all this only online 🙂

This is smart thinking, though I gather that Emily was up there first, long before HUN, with their mid-April launch in the same cities/country. But yes, HUN’s lines are funnier, sharper and snappier – far better and more impactful than Emily’s.