Belo Medical Group knew what it was doing when it recruited the very de rigeur advertising agency Gigil Group to develop their latest campaign. Known for its viral attention-grabbing video ads that more closely resemble arthouse shorts, the leading aesthetic clinic knew that whatever Gigil came up with would elicit strong reactions. And elicit strong reactions they did—except of course, as we all know, for all the wrong reasons.
As soon as it was posted on Belo’s social media accounts on August 10, the #PandemicEffect commercial was universally panned online. Many felt the ad was in poor taste, as the real #PandemicEffect was less about failing to feel beautiful and more on losing jobs and loved ones. Others denounced the ad’s decision to uphold outdated beauty standards and portraying women with plus-sized bodies and body hair as ugly.
In response, Belo quickly deleted the video ad in less than 24 hours. Still, the damage has been done. The overwhelmingly revolted reaction to the commercial brings about a learning opportunity: not just for the creative team involved but for all of us marketing and advertising professionals. What does the #PandemicEffect snafu teach us about effective marketing strategy and how to carefully craft a campaign message?
The science backs it up: studies find that ads that evoke pleasant feelings consistently resonate with consumers more than negative, neutral, or information-based commercials do. In fact, positive-based messaging can strike a chord in consumers and is most likely to translate into positive beliefs and attitudes towards the brand. It may be tempting to go for scare-tacting messaging in order to elicit a strong reaction, but positive ads in the long term are still the best ploy for a brand to strengthen and maintain its relevance.
Times and cultural norms have changed, and the way people talk about beauty nowadays has become more inclusive and empowering as opposed to the oppressive standards of yore. The Belo ad might have benefitted from lengthy focus group discussions or even social listening, at least just to get a handle on how their desired customers discuss beauty online.
A great example of a campaign that had a perfect handle on how women feel about beauty is Dove’s 2013 “Real Beauty Sketches” digital ad. The company ran with an empowering message on how women are more beautiful than they perceive themselves, and the results speak for themselves: the ad won the Titanium Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity and achieved 4.6 billion media impressions. But more important is the campaign’s lasting impact on the brand: nowadays, when people think of Dove the brand, they equate it to inclusive beauty that empowers and encourages.
How would you have improved Belo’s #PandemicEffect video ad? Chime in the comments below!