It’s so bad… it’s good.

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By Consultant Ned Worledge

Have you ever watched a commercial, read a news article or looked at an advertisement which is so bad, ridiculous or cringe-worthy you had to show someone else?

Or maybe the ridiculous tagline gets stuck in your head, spinning around your brain for days like an earworm.

In the last few months I’ve noticed a few examples of seemingly ridiculous stories and advertisements going viral or achieving relatively large amounts of media coverage.

This raised the question, is the tongue-in-cheek approach a legitimate tool for communicating your message?

Perhaps the best example of something SO bad and cringe-worthy you have to share it with your friends is the Australian Government Department of Finance promotional video for their graduate program.

If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favour.

Some may think this kind of marketing is the equivalent of lining up a simple, straight forward shot in pool, shanking the cue ball, yet somehow managing to sink two of your other balls.

But if they meant it, then this is just brilliant.

Think about how much more exposure this video has achieved through countless shares on Facebook pages, news websites and blogs.

If the video was some standard, run of the mill piece, it would have sat on the Department of Finance’s YouTube page and the only people who would have viewed it would be the “actors” (if you’ve watched the video you’ll know why I’m air-quoting) and their parents.

It is ridiculous, but effective. And there is no doubt once you’ve watched the video, you’ll never forget the Department of Finance has a graduate program.

The tongue-in-cheek approach is a risky one. There is of course the risk of looking like a fool and being labelled a joke, however with a good PR strategy, such as the one executed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), it is possible to negate this.

As an example of clever, yet on the surface ridiculous, way of generating more media coverage was PETA’s request to the Huon Valley Council that they change the name of Eggs and Bacon Bay to Apple and Cherry Bay.

Now, this was a deliberate ploy by PETA to, in a tongue in cheek way, raise awareness of their cause.

As PETA say in their article, sometimes using humour is a good way of approaching a subject people pay little attention to. It is also a good way to draw attention to a subject which may be traditionally dry or boring, like finance.

Again, similarly to the DoF’s video, PETA was able to achieve significant media coverage through playing to people who take things too seriously or just on face-value. While the original article drew attention to the cause, the follow up article and PR allowed PETA to communicate their key messages regarding meat consumption, something mainstream media probably wouldn’t have turned their head for if PETA had just come out and made a statement.

Truth is, there will always be those who take things too seriously or just on face-value. But next time you read or see something you think is utterly ridiculous, have a closer look, is the comedic element being employed in order to generate an increase in media coverage?


  • Margaret Hunyady says:

    Unfortunately with a few other ridiculous requests and statements they lost some support, mine included. I now support another group doing similar work but without the theatrics. I am in the older group and perhaps this type of advertising appeals to the young but where is the disposable income?

  • Jan Davis says:

    Great discussion, Ned. However, I’d have to question whether PETA’s approach in this example was tongue in cheek. They have o history of having a sense of humour and their track record for dishonesty in other advertising is well documented. It is clear that they will stop at nothing in relentlessly pursuing their hard-line agenda. This certainly coloured my view of that incident – and of anything they say in the public arena.

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