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Madness or Marketing? 10 greatest advertising stunts ever pulled

Go hard or go home is the mantra that now fuels many advertising agencies. It is believed that marketing isn’t marketing if it is not done with a touch of “madness”. The industry is already saturated with agencies doing the crazy things that the old boys have always abhorred. However, it seems the old boys will have to flow with the disruptions or consider themselves dinosaurs.

Mind blowing campaigns have been a regular feature since the earliest days of marketing. Ad men of the golden age (1960 – 1980) churned out a couple of them.

We’ll do a quick rundown of some of the truly incredible marketing campaigns from the 1900s till date, starting from number 10 to number one, and leave you to decide whether they were pure madness or just some ingenious level marketing.

Number 1

Coca-Cola Share A Coke:

The Share a Coke campaign started in Australia in 2011. What made it unique was the way it personalized the coke experience by making it possible for consumers to have their names on the bottles and cans containing the drink. So, if your name is John, for instance, you’d have “Share a coke with John” boldly written on it. The warm reception this campaign received was universal. Everybody wanted their name on the Coca-Cola bottle. Coke went ahead to rake about 1 billion impressions on Twitter and sold more than 150 million personalized bottles among others. Madness or Marketing?








Number 2

MTN Man in the Box:

Nigerians were confused at first when, instead of the regular display billboard, they started seeing a man doing regular office work in box. He would make calls, sit down, pace around, and even work on his computer. The confusion soon turned to amusement, speculation, and genuine surprise before MTN’s announcement demystified the whole thing. MTN said it was part of a campaign to restate its commitment to helping Nigerian businesses grow by providing communication and connectivity needs.



Number 3

Bright Idea by The Economist:

A gigantic bulb was placed on the road by the publishing company. Whenever anyone passed under it, the bulb got lit up. The goal, of course, was to demonstrate that we all have bright ideas. The campaign was to support a new wave of clean lighting technology which uses one eight of the power of a regular bulb and can last for up to 10 years.

NBA basketball campaign


Number 4

See Finish by Leadway:

See Finish campaign started with naked people wearing boxers in popular locations around Lagos. People became curious. What is happening? Is it madness? Are so many people mad at the same time? Certainly not! Mad people don’t carry placards. It didn’t take long before the campaign cascaded into television commercials and radio jingles. Sure enough, Nigerians started sharing and talking about it on social media.


Number 5

Piano Staircase by Volkswagen:

Partnering with the ad agency, DDB Stockholm, Volkswagen set out to test “The Fun Theory,” which suggests that people are generally likely to change their behavior if the model behavior is novel and fun. Volkswagen did put this theory to the test in the most spectacular fashion.




Making the staircase give off sounds as people walked on it, compelled more people to choose the stairs over the escalator. The campaign aimed at helping people live and lead healthier lifestyles. According to Volkswagen, it is easy to change people’s behavior with fun.


What was the result? 66% passers-by opted to use the piano-like stairs than the escalator at the subway terminal where the piano staircase was laid.


Number 6

The Three Orange Men by Pepsi:

In the mid-90s, three men with orange heads would appear unannounced in Lagos. They caused quite a scare. Trust Nigerians who aren’t used to such strangeness. Many ran away, frightened to death. Conspiracy theorists were already hinting. – ‘the end of the world is near’, and with the men as a reflection of a testament. About three weeks later, Pepsi announced that it was a gimmick to introduce their new product, Mirinda, into the Nigerian market!



Number 7

Take a Bite of Your Pizza, Not Your Pocket by Godman Sachs:

Imagine that a delivery or sales person takes a bite from your ordered pizza before handing it to you! I’m sure you’ll go wild. That was exactly what Goldman Sachs did. Actor, Marcus, was sent to a pizzeria to pretend to work there. He takes a bite from ordered pizzas before delivering them. People were amused and confused at the same time. He would have sure gotten a sound beaten if not for his popularity. According to Goldman Sachs, the campaign was meant to tell people it doesn’t charge any fee for its personal loans, while also letting them know how other lenders take a big “bite” from their pocket whenever they loan them money.  What do you think about this Ad? Crazy you may say. But that’s the industry we’re in.


Number 8

Agege Video by Tekno:

Lagosians were shocked when they saw popular musician, Tekno, dancing with half naked girls in a transparent bus in Lagos. People started talking about it on social media. He was even quizzed by police about it. Unknown to many, it was meant to be part of the video shoot for the song “Agege” where he featured another Nigerian musician, Zlatan. The video tells a story of the regular Agege life, but instead of the hardship and bad living conditions, it spotlights enjoyment and vanity. Although, it was reported that he apologised for it, we both know by the number of views the video has, that the trick worked out just fine.


Number 9

Ma Contrexpérience by Comtrex:

French water company, Contrex, literally sold the world on this one. It had arranged for some exercise bikes and neatly placed them in front of a huge building. Passers-by, mostly women looking to shed some weight, saw it and decided to use it a little. To their surprise, the more they pedaled, the more light sprung off the bike, travelling to the wall of a huge building in front of them. The lights powered a turntable nearby, started the music, powered neon image of a person on the wall who started dancing to the music. During all these, the women furiously and excitedly pedaled on. The fun continued as long as they kept pedaling.


The campaign which was targeted at women had a simple message; do some exercise when you want to shed some weight. And if you get thirsty in the process, drink (Contrex) water.


Number 10

Fearless Girl by State Street Global Advisers:

This campaign was spearheaded by New York’s McCann for State Street Global Advisers. It was a campaign for the girlchild advocating for more women in leadership positions. The stature featured a girl fearlessly standing in front of a charging bull. The campaign went home with three Grand Prix awards at the Cannes. Indeed, Ad Age reported that it came to the awards as a clear favorite.




Daniel Chukwu

Digital Markerter,

Etu Odi Communications

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