Super Bowl Anti-Marketing

On Friday, Network Solutions launched its GoGranny campaign, a guerilla marketing effort featuring Cloris Leachman as a disgruntled, cursing elderly woman angry about being cut out of GoDaddy’s annual exploitative ads. The ad even features Lisa Stone, co-founder of BlogHer, endorsing NetSol as a serious ISP (full disclosure: NetSol was a former client in a past life). The well-received campaign continues an increasing trend from major companies engaging in non traditional “anti-marketing” during the Super Bowl.

Bucking the traditional advertising, PR and increasingly typical social media campaign, anti-marketing favors surprise, simplicity and exclusivity. Examples include clubs with no names, flash mob purchasing of suddenly available classic Nikes, and stripped-down menus that just offer one type of fare.

Anti-marketing principles are grounded in reverse psychology. It cuts through the noise by unselling, offering simplicity and clear value. Anti-marketing focuses on attraction, not promotion.

Pepsi Refresh’s controversial decision to pull its Super Bowl dollars last year to simply give the money to American nonprofits and individuals who wanted to better their communities is a classic example. While the campaign did receive criticism for its impact on nonprofits, it was wildly successful from a PR and social responsibility perspective, in large part because of the Robin Hood aura it painted around the brand. It was the exact opposite of what you’re supposed to do for a Super Bowl campaign.

Meanwhile the traditional Super Bowl spendathon continues with major brands engaged in a game of cloak and danger to distinguish themselves with advertising prowess. The debatable effectiveness of Super Bowl ads often depends on fantastic creative, even with the addition of social networking as a means of continuing the conversation started with a 30 second spot. With smartphones in hand, 18% of viewers are expected to visit advertiser web sites. Continuing interest from there demands a strong ladder of engagement.

For every great remembered Super Bowl Ad, there are dozens that slip the public consciousness by the Tuesday following. An academic study from Purdue revealed that a strong majority of people can’t remember any commercials from the 2010 Super Bowl. It may be the anti-marketing campaigns that continue to distinguish themselves.

What do you think of anti-marketing?


  • inadvertently double posted…

  • The idea is certainly appealing. I’d like more examples.

    • In addition to the five examples here, the links referring anti-marketing should take you to sites with more. If you are really into the concept check out William Gibson’s most recent trilogy, which started with Pattern Recognition. The whole trilogy focused on anti-marketing as a theme. Thanks for reading!

  • Whoa I love it! Hope this is the commercial model of the 21st C – attraction not promotion, via laughter. Maybe this could work for Home Depot/Loew’s? (217 sec)

  • I like Cloris, and I got flashbacks to her scene with Jack Black in my favorite episode of The Office, Stress Relief. (also Anti-marketing as it ran during half-time of the Super Bowl?) And the video made me laugh too. I had some criticism for them (I’m on an Advisory Board of NetSol – my big thing was where’s WGB’s fingerprints), but overall, I’d say it’s a good start on a series of wins for one reason:

    The GoGranny pokes fun of NetSol *and* GoDaddy. I have to appreciate self-mocking on any level, but especially in a company like NetSol.

    • Rarely are things perfect, but it was a good start. The one thing I would have liked to see was a shorter video, even one that was under a minute. But, the current one is likely to pass 10k by night’s end, and who knows what will happen tomorrow. Cheers, Tinu!

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  • Hmm. A rose by any other name is still…a rose. Anti-marketing? Or marketing by a different means/path and bucking the tide?

    From where I stand, NetSol is marketing by the same means as it competitors but in an alternate space. The selling was there – the cut to Lisa Stone promoting Net Sol domains couldn’t be a more blatant form of selling. I liked the approach and was amused by it although if I would have cut it into different, shorter segments.

    Time will tell if it will yield anyRO in terms of new domain sign ups and of course, I wish NetSol the best. Chances are they beat the pack on the longevity front. But to call a self-deprecating ad using a celebrity to bring attention to the product is anything but anti-marketing.

    • You’re right and you’re wrong. Anti-marketing is doing the opposite. Cursing and using an old burned out celebrity to mock your competition does the exact opposite of several PR and marketing axioms. It meets the definition, so you’re wrong.

      You are right in that it has intent is to sell. This was the crux of William Gibson’s recent trilogy is the unethical faux manipulation of people by using reverse psychology to sell and market. It’s slimy in his opinion.

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    […] to go “viral” such as my personal favorite the VW’s “The Force” Super Bowl Ad to anti super bowl marketing such as the Network Solutions GoGranny campaign. Visa even has a social media, twitter, measuring […]

  • Awesome post Geoff. I think ur way ahead of ur time on this. The traditional mad men style will prob still continue to dominate despite decreasing ROI.

    I think it’s called the splintered audience or something. You know where the eyeballs are no longer locked into one device on one channel.

    Steve – 1×57

    • Well, I do think the best Madison Avenue types do this naturally, create simplistic direct messages that penetrate through the echo chamber and communicate clear value. Unfortunately, that is not the usual fodder. Mediocrity is, thus the need for “anti.” Thanks for visiting!

      • I wonder if the cost of buying the time forces the companies to scrimp on the production value.

        Those were some terrible ads yesterday!

  • Practicing it this weekend! Thanks, Geoff, for the tip of the hat to #GoGranny. The anti-marketing idea also says a lot about where so-called “social” media should be situated in organizations. More of this is better…

  • As always, great post on anti-marketing and Super Bowl ads. And thanks for mentioning our GoGranny campaign. We wanted to give our customers a surprise, a laugh, AND “show our clear simple value” – how our services support their small business goals.

    I also think you hit an important point toward the end of your post – about many ads being forgotten on Tuesday. We’re betting that our ad – distributed primarily via social media – shared from person to person – is more likely to be acted on – than a brief ad seen on TV.

    • Well on thing is for sure. Groupons ads won’t be forgotten too soon . Thanks for the laughs with GoGranny.

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