Woolies cops flak over guerrilla marketing campaign: Lessons for your business

Woolies cops flak over guerrilla marketing campaign: Lessons for your business

Woolworths took to the streets of Adelaide this week to project advertisements for its “Show Stopper Specials” on buildings, but the supermarket giant’s latest marketing technique has rubbed the ABC the wrong way.

A spokesperson for Woolworths confirmed to SmartCompany this morning the supermarket received a letter from the ABC asking it to refrain from projecting outdoor advertisements on the broadcaster’s buildings, after a Woolworths advertisement for $1 Doritos chips was seen on the ABC headquarters in Collinswood.

“We’ll be talking to the media company who provided the projections to leave that site off the list in the future,” the spokesperson says.

A spokesperson for the ABC also confirmed to SmartCompany that it wrote to Woolworths “requesting it not to use the ABC’s buildings for advertising, noting the ABC’s statutory requirements of independence and integrity”. 

But the spokesperson says the ABC “has not threatened Woolworths with legal action”. 

Attention was drawn to the advertisement after the Adelaide Advertiser reported two men were seen projecting the Woolworths ad on the ABC building on Sunday evening.

The ad also prompted ABC radio host Michael Smyth to tweet that Woolworths “has been sent a letter from the ABC’s lawyers” over the campaign.

However, SmartCompany understands this is not the first time the building has been used for guerrilla marketing purposes because of its prominent position in the Adelaide CBD.

The ABC’s charter prevents the national broadcaster from engaging in this type of commercial activity.

Marketing specialist Michelle Gamble from Marketing Angels told SmartCompany part of the problem with this campaign is the high-profile of the advertiser: Woolworths.

“It’s quite a cheeky way to use outdoor media,” she says. “But if it was a smaller brand, or not so blatant advertising … potentially there would not have been so much drama.”

Gamble says this type of guerrilla marketing is likely to increase until local councils or other bodies find a way to require businesses to obtain a licence to conduct such activities.

But Gamble says “the whole idea of guerrilla marketing is surprise” and it can often be difficult to gain permission for campaigns that are yet to be tried or tested.

That said, Gamble says businesses considering taking this approach should consider the risks that their campaign may not go in their favour and weigh those up against the benefits to the brand.

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