BrewDog, Brandalism and Bad Advertising

Authors: Jack Maycock, Jece Shunmugam, Kate Savin
  • Reading time: 5 min.
  • Posted on: September 7, 2020

Read on for a hand picked selection of the good, the bad and the one to get involved in in the world of social impact communications and campaigning. This week, we’re highlighting BrewDog’s carbon negative announcement, Dettol missing the mark and the guerrilla collective known as Brandalism. 

| NAILED IT: BrewDog goes carbon negative

The Scottish brewery BrewDog is the world’s first beer company to become carbon negative, announcing this in classic BrewDog style. Just three words, “F*CK YOU CO2”, were emblazoned on billboards and magazines across the country, emphasising the company’s focus on producing sustainable beer that does not contribute to the climate crisis. 

BrewDog was able to go carbon negative, meaning they remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than they produce, by switching to wind power for its breweries and pubs and using leftover grain from the brewing process that is then converted into gas for power. 

We love that in just three words, BrewDog has managed to encapsulate the urgency of the climate crisis, highlighting the need for companies to actively make a difference. Plus taking such a bold approach guarantees the campaign will cause a stir (and translate into high engagement rates for their digital marketing team). You can read more about the announcement here.

Photo credit: helloalegria

| ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: Dettol misses the mark

Since March, every business, third sector or otherwise will have posed the question of how they account for the pandemic in their communications. Dettol’s most recent piece of offline advertising is perhaps a cautionary tale for many in how not to do it. 

As the Government urges workers to go back into their offices, Dettol has attempted to piggyback on this moment with their “Keep Protecting” campaign. However, the lighthearted campaign—that sought to list relatable things commuters may have been missing— missed the mark. Colloquialisms that feel lifted from a corporate Twitter account like “proper bants” and “cheeky afternoon in the sun” come across more cringe-worthy than they do relatable. Unsurprisingly, the campaign was roundly mocked on Twitter. It also overestimates many people’s desire to return to their workplaces by listing a number of office traits that either aren’t appealing or are unrealistic for the majority of workplaces. Let alone workers’ fears over the potential health ramifications of returning to work (as evidenced by polling earlier this year).

Lastly, it isn’t completely clear that some of their adverts are for Dettol at all. With the campaign emerging while the government pumps out return-to-work messaging, it’s speculated that the  billboards reflect, or were commissioned in light of this. 

We’re sure Dettol will be back with an improved concept very soon as their products become even more essential by the day. We just hope they’ll leave this idea behind.    

| THE ONE TO GET INVOLVED IN: Brand vandals call for artists to target HSBC 

At Shape History we sit in a niche spot within the advertising industry. Our campaigns often rely on traditional advertising techniques, but we use these tactics to make the world fairer, faster rather than to line already deep pockets. So we’re big fans of anyone who prioritises causes over pockets, including Brandalism, a guerrilla collective of international artists using public ad space to challenge corporate power and corruption. 

Their latest action will target HSBC for investing in fossil fuel companies and supporting political repression in Hong Kong. Whilst getting on with all this pleasant business, the bank has spent a lot of money projecting a warm and fuzzy brand through their ‘We Are Not An Island’ billboard campaign/ Running in major cities around the UK, the campaign is designed to promote the idea of openness and cooperation at a time of apparent global division. Whilst clever and absorbing, its misty-eyed copy of community and toleration sticks in the throat given HSBC’s investments and strategic decisions. If anyone deserves a bit of honest ‘subvertising’, it’s HSBC. 

Brandalism is currently accepting submissions from artists online, who have a chance of being featured in an Autumn 2020 public exhibition. The group has designed a copycat poster template which individuals can edit and upload ahead of 30 September with their own interpretation of HSBC’s ad. 

Get involved here.