Best PR and social campaigns of 2018

Joanna Wild
By Joanna WildPR and Social Media Executive
7 minutes to read

Can we really enter 2019 without reviewing the last year?

We think not. And what better way to review 2018 than by analysing our favourite PR and social campaigns from the year. Unfortunately, Greggs’ vegan sausage roll was just a touch too late and will have to wait for our 2019 review instead…

Without further ado, here’s our five favourite PR and social media campaigns of 2018.

1. Stylist Magazine’s celebration of International Day of the Girl

11th October is the UN’s International Day of the Girl. To mark the occasion, Stylist Magazine creatively took on the subject and published a special issue that generated plenty of discussion online.

Stylist Magazine collaborated with a group of girls aged 5-17 to create an exclusive ‘Made By Girls’ issue of its print magazine. This combined with a digital takeover on their site and the daily ‘Emerald Street’ email, ensured the message was spread loud and clear, and wasn’t short of driving online conversation. The girls spent the day pitching, editing and writing the site’s digital content as well as having contributed to the magazine.

Despite being brief, the day was extremely well executed and proved the simplest of ideas are often the most effective. The female takeover gained plenty of coverage and mentions on social media and discussion continued over the days that followed. It certainly made a change from those who jump on the back of national days with a loosely fitting press release!

The campaign also aligned perfectly with the magazine’s Visible Women campaign which ran throughout 2018 and sought to draw attention to women who history has overlooked or who hadn’t been offered a platform before.

2. KFC launches its new fries

Campaigns around food always grab our attention and when KFC launched their new fry recipe, we were all ears. But this wasn’t just a run of the mill product launch.

KFC turned tweets from its biggest critics into an ad campaign and seemingly took on-board feedback. It began the campaign by promoting a selection of tweets that were critical of the original recipe fries – with no commentary - causing fans to speculate that something was about to happen. Questions went unanswered and KFC bred an air of mystery around the impending announcement.

The same tweet was plastered across British high streets with billboards screaming criticism about the chips. And then, once the campaign had completely launched, the chicken giant announced it had listened to feedback and would be introducing new fries. Much to the joy of members of the public.

Despite the criticism it receives for its fries, KFC can’t be criticised for its self-depreciating humour. Earlier in 2018, KFC experienced a crisis as a change of supplier meant that it experienced a shortage of chicken. The problem got so bad that some branches were forced to close their doors. This obviously attracted a lot of media attention and social media ire – it was a chicken shop that couldn’t sell chicken.

So in response, once the crisis was resolved, KFC released a print ad that simply said ‘FCK’ on a bucket, notably empty, of chicken. The ad nailed KFC’s tone of voice and toed the line between genuine and cheeky. It was so well received it won a Cannes Lion award and placated angry chicken fans too.

KFC will certainly be a brand we’ll be keeping a close eye on throughout 2019.

3. Twitter’s #NotARetailStore

Another brand utilising the power of their social media and incorporating tweets into their campaigns is (unsurprisingly) Twitter.

The social media platform launched its campaign #NotARetailStore in November, following the release of the highly anticipated Christmas advert from retailer John Lewis. Twitter’s ad embarked on the story of the person John Lewis, who famously receives thousands of mistakenly delivered tweets intended for the store, thanks to his Twitter handle - @JohnLewis. John famously responds to the tweets he receives with patience and wit and has subsequently acquired a following of over 65,000 people.

Twitter created an advert which was shared only on, well, Twitter. The ad contains Easter eggs hinting at previous John Lewis Christmas ads and manages to tie everything together nicely with human John Lewis spreading the message that Twitter is ‘a platform for everyone to join in, even if it’s by mistake.’

Given that John Lewis (the person) receives more than 50,000 tweets every year intended for John Lewis (the shop), it’s hardly surprising that Twitter have jumped on this. The ad has over three million views and has even earned Mr John Lewis a verified tick and some goodies from John Lewis.

For Twitter, the campaign demonstrated that, despite a lot of criticism to the contrary, it is in touch with the areas of its platform that delight. Its inclusion of John Lewis is self-aware and a nice way to end what’s been an otherwise turbulent year.

4. Marie Keating Foundation’s #TakeNotice

One campaign that has stepped up how brands utilise out of home campaign was the Marie Keating Foundation’s #TakeNotice campaign. In alignment with breast cancer awareness month last October, the foundation decided to centre its campaign on one of the most photographed and recognisable statues in Dublin.

Said to bring you good luck, passers-by often rub Molly Malone’s famous breasts. So, to capitalise on this, the Marie Keating Foundation placed a small lump on her breast to see if anyone would notice. The Foundation secretly recorded footage of the statue and tracked social posts to see if the lump had been spotted. As expected, the small lump went completely unnoticed and emphasised the Foundation’s message which encourages women to be extra vigilant when checking their breasts for lumps and to #TakeNotice.

A sensitive topic approached in a completely new light, the campaign is hard hitting and communicates its message well. It also proves to consumers that they can digest messages they’re constantly fed without actually acting upon them. The Marie Keating Foundation has definitely caused people to stop, think and pay attention.

5. Captain Bird's Eye 2019 calendar:

Last and by no means least, the Captain Birds Eye 2019 calendar certainly depicted a change in brand direction as the once jolly sailor has transformed into a rugged skipper that evokes cries of ‘hello sailor!’

When they first upgraded Captain Birds Eye to 56-year-old Riccardo Acerbi in early 2018, the brand reportedly received an ‘overwhelming response’. This move made alongside an £8m marketing push has seen their sales increase 6%. And what better way to respond to the public’s support with giving something back in return. Not just anything, an exclusive 2019 Captain Birds Eye calendar.

The release of the calendar was introduced alongside a social media competition (of course) driving those interested to snap up one of the 50 exclusive calendars on the Birds Eye Facebook page. Entrants had to tell the brand how they enjoy their fish fingers for the chance to win.

It’s a great way to jump on the back of an already well-received brand campaign, ensuring the brand keep up the online conversation, and ultimately thanking consumers for their year-long support. We’re only gutted we didn’t get our hands on one!

So, there we have it. A short and sweet review of a few of our favourite PR and social media campaigns brought to us in 2018.

Which was your favourite campaign from last year? Let us know in the comments!

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Articles by Joanna Wild