When a marketing stunt becomes global news it is a marketing home run! And when your marketing stunt reinforces your message and you get free international publicity you’ve won the cup… and that’s what we search for in our annual Say What! Top 3 Marketing Campaign Review.

We search for true brand marketing genius that breaks through the clutter and makes your brand newsworthy and social network friendly. If you do it well, it’s like getting millions of dollars in free advertising and kudos from us!

At Say What!, we watch for those marketing stunts that spiked social media traffic and converted it into international news coverage. In 2013 our top 3 choices were “a rock classic from outer space”; “a Disney girl reborn” and “an anchorman who was everywhere”.

2014 was the year of the real people sharing the good, the bad and the ugly – everywhere, and our Say What! top 3 marketing campaign panel salutes “a politician out of control”; “a viral media phenomenon” and “big fish in a Great Lake”. Look and learn from these breakout stunts and you could be on our list for 2015.

Bronze Medal for Top Marketing Campaign of 2014
Rob Ford: A local politician out of control on the world stage

By January of 2014, Toronto’s crack smoking mayor, Rob Ford, was already known around the world for his out-of-control antics and he was single handedly dragging down the reputation of North America’s third most important city to that of a “bad joke”. His disregard and bullying of the political process, his snubbing of authority and his continual denial of his substance abuse made him the perfect media story – the untouchable crack smoking mayor from the clean city on route to a major breakdown. His story was that of a poorly written made for TV movie – the really sad part was it was true.

Over the next few months, the Rob Ford story grew bigger than life – from the laughing stock of Toronto, to the opening joke of every monologue on every talk show around the globe. The whole world was watching Rob Ford spiral out of control and his bigger-than-life ego grew larger as he moved from Mayor to international celebrity, climaxing with his famous trip to LA and live interview on the Jimmy Kimmel Show in March 2014.

The interview was a controlled attack to ridicule Rob Ford and make him look like the fool he really was. By the end of the interview, you almost felt sorry for Rob Ford and that he didn’t get it. Jimmy Kimmel seemed sorry and backed off on the attack and by the end of the show, they had sort of become friends. This was a stranger than life piece of late night television that foreshadowed the downfall of Canada’s most controversial politician.

The campaign was really a major league case study in damage control with a flare for taking advantage of any opportunity for media exposure. The overall outcome is still unrolling as Rob’s battle with substances has moved to fighting cancer and the story continues to be worldwide news.


Silver Medal for Top Marketing Campaign of 2014
Discovery Channel and their Lake Ontario Shark


Prankvertising hit a home run in July in Lake Ontario when a YouTube video of a few guys fishing off a dock by Wolfe Island took an iPhone video of them catching a shark… it went viral quickly and became news. Pandemonium hit and like in “Jaws” people were frightened of the fresh water sharks of Lake Ontario! Discovery Channel had to come clean and admit it was a hoax to start their promotion for Shark Week.

This promo is a classic get noticed stunt in the vein of “War of the Worlds” and it did exactly what they wanted it to do in spades – bravo Discovery Channel, well done!

In contrast to some other media experts we applaud you on this well executed prank.

All we can think is that people lost their minds to believe that sharks could survive some 2,000 kms from the Atlantic Ocean. Come on people wake-up, or has the fear of climate change got you thinking that science fiction and fact have blurred? All we can hope is that they don’t watch Sharknado!


Gold Medal for Top Marketing Campaign of 2013
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

How many times did you get nominated to do the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge?

The chances are you or someone you know filled your social medial channels with videos of a bucket of ice water splashing. You weren’t alone. In fact this was the most successful viral campaign ever. So far these Ice Bucket Challenge participate generated content created around 456K videos with 1.3 billion views (as reported by reelseo.com) and raised over $115 million for ALS research in under six months!

This social media epidemic of a campaign brought celebrities and average people together to create and distribute content at an unheard of rate. The most amazing part of this story is this was happened with market budget of zero. A true success to help a terrible and virtually unknown disease. find out more at ALS website


2014 was the year of viral success stories with real people in some not so real stories… what does 2015 have in store for us?

Let us know your thoughts on these and other Marketing Campaigns that caught your attention.


Cheers grant

Grant Ivens
brand surgeon | rocket scientist
Say What! Communications Corp.
116A Main Street North, Markham, ON, Canada L3P 1X8
T 905.752.3110 grant@saywhat.com