Write on the money: Four examples of killer marketing copy from 2016

Tuesday 17 January 2017 by Drew Heatley

Sure, images are sexy. But words still matter. A lot. Google “advertising disasters” and, more often than not, it’s the humble written word that has landed a brand in hot water (just ask Bud Light). But, of course, when wielded correctly, words can make a campaign – rather than break it. Here are four of my favourite examples of killer copy from last year.

1. BBC Sport

BBC Sport's Euro 2016 line-up.

Liberté, Égalité, Footé

England’s national football team may have had a disaster on the pitch at Euro 2016, but the country’s broadcaster got it spot on with the promotion of its coverage of the month-long summer tournament, hosted in France.

While the BBC’s 90-second ad, which showcased the clichéd pomp and circumstance of the French, grabbed attention, the tagline of “Liberté, Égalité, Footé” was the real winner of the campaign. A play on the motto of the French Republic, “Liberté, Equalité, Fraternité” or “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”, the line and its ties to the French revolution complement the regality of the ad and dovetailed with the BBC’s traditional and almost stately brand identity.

2. Skittles

Skittles Pride 2016 ad.

Give the rainbow. Taste the rainbow.


For an established brand, latching onto a movement or event with which it has no prior relationship can be dangerous. But sometimes it’s an act of genius. Skittles got it just right last summer, with its campaign around London’s LGBT Pride celebrations.

To captialise on interest in the annual event, the confectionery brand launched a campaign that announced it would “give up” its famous rainbow – and let Pride bask in the limelight. The irony might be there for all to see, but the text in the Skittles ad, in the form of an open letter to Pride, set the right tone. In a playful message, Skittles wanted to address the “rainbow-coloured elephant in the room”, conceding, “only one rainbow deserves to be the centre of attention” and insisted it would still attend the festival – albeit “completely starkers”. The letter was accompanied by striking visuals that saw Skittles ditching its brand colours in favour of completely black-and-white ads, creating a real graphic departure and illustrating the importance of Pride in London and throughout the world. True to its word, Skittles went white for the event and only handed out plain packets to revelers on the day. And it scored a major marketing win in the process.

3. Spotify

Spotify's 2016 data ads.

To the person who listened to “I Took a Pill in Ibiza” 52 times on the 9th of February,

Everyone celebrates Pancake Day differently.

The rise of music streaming has provided the music industry with data it could only have dreamed of just a decade ago. And when you leverage that information you can create some brilliant marketing.

That’s what Spotify did with its end-of-year campaign, which analysed its 100 million monthly active users and their listening habits to pull out some fascinating anomalies – and immortalise them across giant billboards. From the listener in Manhattan who started playing Christmas songs in June to the thousands of Brits who streamed R.E.M.’s hit It’s the End Of The World As We Know It on the date of the Brexit vote, Spotify cleverly highlighted the interesting – and at times eccentric – ways we engage with music. The final sign-off? “It’s been weird.” Quite.

4. Netflix

Netflix's "FU '16" campaign.

FU ‘16

Brexit, the rise of Donald Trump – even the spate of celebrity deaths – made 2016 one to forget for many. And Netflix prophesied it all.

The video streaming service launched a multi-platform campaign to promote the new series of its popular original political drama House of Cards, back in February. The fictional presidential campaign capitalised on America’s real-life impending elections – and the movement’s headline was the jewel in the crown. “FU ‘16” captured main character Frank Underwood’s initials, but also his demeanor and general outlook. And ten months later it reflected the world’s attitude to the year just passed.

As everyone looks to a more upbeat 2017, brands are readying their campaigns for the year ahead. Let’s hope they don’t forget the might of the pen.

What copywriting gems or disasters did you spot during 2016? Let us know below.

Drew no longer works at The Frameworks


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