June 12, 2013

It’s okay to ship your pants!

In a world where advertisements hawking everything from cars to cleaning products bombard our oversaturated brains at every waking hour, a little shock can go a long way towards driving a company’s message home. Witness Kmart’s most recent YouTube ads entitled “Big Gas Savings” and “Ship My Pants.” If you say the names of the commercials out loud (try it in a crowded office), you’ll quickly figure out the hooks. Both videos rely on “potty” words and a mischievous sense of humor to relate a message of convenience and savings.

Blurring the line between propriety and indecency has proven effective. More than 22,000,000 people have seen and heard Kmart’s message in the past month. Combined, the videos received 103,732 likes and only 4,411 dislikes.


The videos generated a forum for the company to promote itself to a fan base of people who, though previously indifferent, appreciate Kmart’s radical departure from the clean, cookie-cutter advertisements served via television, computers, billboards, magazines and virtually every other form of media — at every possible hour. Mattress sale at 4 a.m. You in?

It doesn’t even matter if the viewer dislikes the commercials — they still received Kmart’s messages and will walk away thinking about them and repeating their taglines. One clever commenter even wrote, “Whoever made those videos deserved a big gas raise.”

So what does this mean? It means that a little well-calculated risk can sometimes pay off. It means that advertisers should occasionally reach past the world of bland, undifferentiated advertising and reaches towards that riskier frontier. It means that sometimes, slightly (or even blatantly) offensive material can elicit the desired response. It means that companies should pay heed to what advertising professionals have been saying for years — find an unusual and compelling hook to grab your audience and plant your message in their brains.

Shock your audience effectively and you can expect big gas results.