Failed marketing campaigns! How we aim to help marketers avoid these disasters.


What seems like a good idea within a creative brainstorming space can fail catastrophically when put out in the open market. A lot of money, time and resources are invested into creating advertisement campaigns as they carry forward an organization’s brand image and communicates its Unique Selling Proposition (USP) to the public, in an effort to increase revenue for the firm.

When a marketing campaign goes disastrously wrong, it not only fails to deliver on its promise of improved profits but also incites undesired responses towards the firm running their brand equity. Ad campaigns receiving criticisms and anger or even disgust from the masses immediately endangers their brand value as a whole, along with the perception people carry in their heads about the brands creating them.

An already successful brand carries with it a tremendously positive brand image and value. According to Thompson Reuters’ report, 75% of the average corporation’s value lies in its intangible asset, which in simple words, conveys that a company’s good reputation contributes heavily to its brand value.

This is why jeopardizing its brand reputational value is the last thing any firm wants to do.

Ad campaigns aimed at improving business returns, positioning and maintaining a firm’s brand image must ideally be tested to see how the public would potentially receive it before they are released into the public domain. Traditionally, advertisement contents were not tested to see the full range of human emotions they stimulated, owing to the fact that until recently, marketers and ad creators did not have access to technologies capable of measuring the full spectrum of human emotions including those that are not expressed verbally or on someone’s countenance.

Today, marketers have the option of previewing the impacts of their ad campaigns with Emotion Recognition Technologies. Our Emotion Analytics platform measures consumers’ unspoken, unarticulated, subconscious emotional responses, enabling ad creators to test contents without verbal interaction, connect more deeply with consumers and capture authentic and honest preview results.

Using our platform, AffectLab we analyzed failed marketing campaigns that received a lot of backlashes from the general public. Our emotion data can be used for pre-launch testing to ensure such kinds of unsolicited negative publicity are prevented.

    1. Benetton’s Controversial Ad Campaign

A few years ago, Benetton launched a series of ad campaigns called ‘UNHATE’ which aimed at uniting people with an underlining message of peace and acceptance. The brand’s intention is well-meaning and its desire to positively influence the society and global community at large is admirable.

However, the advertisement’s bizarre sense of creating unity did not go down well with the public as it portrayed various global leaders at that time, lip locking with closed eyes. And in particular, the ad that depicted Pope Benedict XVI kissing an Egyptian Imam on the lips was considered offensive by the Vatican. The White House did not exactly approve of Barrack Obama being photoshopped as kissing the lips of the Chinese premier at the time, Hu Jintao in one picture and of the Venezuelan leader, Hugo-Chavez in another.

What we found using Emotion Analytics at our AffectLab

At AffectLab, we analyzed Benetton’s ad campaign using our entire suite of Emotion Recognition Technologies including Brain Wave Mapping, Facial Coding, and Eye Tracking. We invited the test subjects to watch the pictures individually and measured their subconscious responses. The respondents were not asked any questions and the results were directly derived from various behavioural and cognitive parameters.

We have found that 60.8% of the people watching these pictures were not thrilled at these sights and their ‘emotion data’ reveals that they experienced a mix of negative emotions. Meanwhile, 31.8% of the test subject remain neutral, not displaying any extreme feeling, while 7.4% seem untouched by any negative emotions and respond positively to the ads.

    1. Ford’s advertisement posters accused of being sexist

When Ford launched its made in India hatchback car named Ford Figo, its partnered creative agency decided to create a humorous ad campaign that was most likely intended to tickle the funny bones of those who love cars and heighten their positive feelings towards the Ford brand. The ad series featured caricatures of various people bound and gagged and shoved inside the boot space of the hatchback – which might have also been intended to convey the spaciousness of the car’s trunk.

Unfortunately for the carmaker, people did not find these ads humorous at all and some even considered them distasteful. One of the ads has a cartoon character of the Italian Prime Minister at that time, Silvio Berlusconi, looking back from the driver’s seat flashing a sly smile with a victory sign hand gesture, and his three captured women dumped in the car’s trunk. It received a lot of disapprovals as Silvio Berlusconi was alleged to have paid for sex with a juvenile and rumoured to have thrown wild sex parties.

To be fair to the carmaker, these posters were never used by Ford to advertise its cars but were uploaded by Ford’s partnered advertising firm at the time, JWT India on ‘Ads on the world’ – an international advertising website. And soon after, it attracted a lot of criticisms as they were accused of having a sexist message and also being insensitive to India’s struggle to come to terms with dreadful incidences of sexual violence against women which prompted a nationwide outcry.

What we found using Emotion Analytics at our AffectLab

 When we analyzed Ford’s advertisement posters on our AffectLab, the emotion analytics produced reveal that 62.2% of our test subjects’ were stirred with mixed emotions, leaning towards the negative side of the spectrum, while 26.2% remain neutral. On the other hand, 11.6% of the respondents’ emotional reactions were unperturbed and positive, as given above.

As human beings, we are driven by our emotion which in turn is influenced to a degree by the cultural environment we are living in. Extracting people’s emotional reactions to ad content creatives is hence a top priority for designers and marketing ad creators today, and Emotion Analytics has the potential to help them escape pitfalls such as the ones covered in this story.

This is one of the reasons why we occupy the space that we do – to allow creative designers preview their ad performance by measuring the kind of emotions they evoke in people.

To optimize your marketing campaigns with Emotion Analytics, click here and sign up to enjoy a free trial.

To see a detailed report and further segregation of data based on individual emotion like – anger, disgust, bored, relaxed, happy, sad, etc. drop us a line in the comments section or write to us on


Affect Lab