Brainfood: Oddvertising – does weird work?

Welcome to this month’s Brainfood session! And this time, we’re getting weird with it!

Welcome to this month’s Brainfood session! And this time, we’re getting weird with it! Advertisements that turn the oddity up, leaving viewers feeling uncomfortable, confused, curious, entertained, engaged, convinced, or even in awe! These ads include the “puppy monkey baby,” a moldy whopper, and “wasssup”. With more and more of these ‘weird’ ads popping up, it begs the question “Does weird work?” Or is it just the birthplace of temporary PR buzz that fizzles more than it does fascinate…

While “weird” is subjective, here are a few common DNA components of a ‘weird’ ad:

– Weird is often used as the hook to break through a “sea of same.”

– Weird can be funny, surreal, strange, deadpan, dark, unintentional, etc. – it’s all up for grabs.

– Weird can be used to reach a younger audience that an older generation might not ‘get’, incorporating meta-humour, unhinged social trends, or anything Internet-y.

– Sometimes RTBs (Reasons To Believe) can be completely absent from the commercial or are expressed in a very lateral or nonsensical way, resulting in a “How is that advertising?” reaction. But on the flipside, the weirdness of the ad or communication can be expressing the RTB itself!

Who, what, and when to be weird?

If you are a deciding whether ‘oddvertising’ makes sense for your brand/client, here are a few examples that can spark some thought starters but remember, most of the time, weird for weird sake doesn’t work.

Dunlop – “Tested for the Unexpected” | Patrick Carter, Art Director


This TV spot subverts the viewer’s expectation with a bit of a wink at the end, saying “Bet you weren’t expecting that.” This serves as a genuine RTB – Dunlop Tyres make you ready for anything, even things you can’t imagine. And it commits to the unexpected, unimaginable message, a.k. the weird. Weird doesn’t work if you don’t press hard on the goofy gas pedal. If you start to water down the weirdness with too many hard-selling points and product placements, it wouldn’t have worked in this case.

But Dunlop owned it. The ad itself is unexpected for the brand, informs the tagline and breaks out of the long-copy conventions of the category. If Dunlop had a history of strange, breakthrough ads, the “unexpected” would be routine.

Ocean Spray – “Power Your Holidays” | Madison Rogers, Creative Strategist


Ocean Spray’s brand tone of voice has always been lighthearted and humorous, like with their classic ads of the two men in the cranberry field. However, their latest approach to humour has taken a ‘weird’ turn, which is an evolution for the cranberry juice brand.

Since humour was already in Ocean Spray’s wheelhouse, this new spot their cranberry sauce in a can doesn’t fall flat. It tried to be adaptive and appeal to a younger audience and take advantage of their unique product attribute: the jiggle. With the electronic dance track, jiggling dance moves, Wes Anderson look and feel, quirky characters, and zero dialogue, it’s weird all right, but seems to capture awkwardness family holiday dinners perfectly.

PlayStation 3 – Creepy Baby | Emily Farrugia, Creative Strategist


The ads definitely grabs your attention and is a departure from a lot of other gaming ads, so it’s buzzy in that sense. PlayStation has done some other tongue-in-cheek ads so I wouldn’t say these are a departure, but they’re more purely “weird”, and lack a clear plot, unlike their other ads. But the ads got people talking, so maybe it doesn’t totally matter if it’s “on-brand.”

Weird doesn’t work without purpose. When brands try to force weird, consumers cringe. Take Burger King’s “The King” campaign for example, which was retired because quickly due to soft sales. It mostly got headlines for being simply too strange and creepy, making the company’s mascot off-putting. With PlayStation, their weird approach drove huge awareness, so the ad worked.

Weird, right?

Here are some weird takeaways as you embark on your next oddvertising campaign:

1. The right weird breaks through.

Capitalizing on “weird” is a high-risk / high-reward approach that can make a brand memorable or forgettable. Consider how you showcase “weird” in style and/or subject, the breaking of category / ad conventions, or in small human moments that punctuate an otherwise normal ad.

2. Weird ads often get a second life online.

The modern-day water cooler “moment” exists online, allowing weird ads to be shared en-masse. There’s social collateral in sharing something weird that gets a reaction.

3. Be authentic.

Brands need to ask themselves why they want to be weird. Is it to evolve the brand and entertain their audience, or is it for short-term gain? If “weird” feels too calculated, it just won’t land, it would well, be weird.