• ClickInsights

5 Controversial Commercials That Paid Off Big Time

Controversies in the marketing world have often led to brands pulling down their ad campaigns. However, it is also an effective way of getting noticed, which is why some brands try to stir up controversies purposely. Controversial and edgy campaigns lead to an experience that people often want to share, thereby, resulting in impressive traction for the brand.



If you can pull it off, a controversial campaign can stir the perfect storm to give your brand the boom it needs. And what could be better than learning from brands that broke the mold and found success? So, here we are with 5 controversial commercials that generated the right kind of buzz and made everyone take notice.


1. Nike: Believe in Something

Nike’s ad featuring ex-NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick in its “Believe in Something” has been one of the most controversial commercials in recent history.



The Nike commercial raked up a controversy that had already been building up due to Kaepernick inspiring a player protest movement by kneeling during the national anthem while the games were on.


While the strategy ran the risk of alienating countless consumers, the campaign turned out to be incredibly successful among Millennials and Gen Z consumers who want to see their brands taking a stand on issues of social justice. The campaign generated over $43 million in free advertising for Nike. Also, the sales boomed by 31% and its stock price hit an all-time high after the ad was out.


2. Burger King: Whopper Neutrality

Nobody expected a fast-food chain like Burger King, which is known for its quick and delicious burgers, to wade into a complicated issue like net neutrality. But that’s exactly what it did through this commercial!



The commercial presented a premise that customers would have to pay a premium along with the normal price for their food if they wanted it to be served quickly. The commercial showed Burger King employees explaining the new rules to angry customers by calling it “Whopper Neutrality”.


The commercial around this complicated topic reaped rich dividends for the brand as it got over 4.6 million views compared to its average views per video of 286,000. Moreover, it received 127,000 likes against 10,000 dislikes.


3 Gillette: We Believe- The Best Men Can Be

Gillette’s “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be” commercial didn’t have anything to do with beards or personal grooming. Instead, it took on the issue of toxic masculinity.



The commercial garnered both praise and scorn but it also went viral in no time with over 30 million views. While it received both love and flak from the audience, it led to unprecedented levels of media attention and customer engagement.


4. Anheuser-Busch: Born the Hard Way

While the U.S. has always had conflicting opinions on the issue of immigration, this Anheuser-Busch commercial about its founder’s immigrant roots sought to remind people that the U.S. is built on people who migrated there with aspirations of a better life.



Although the message of the commercial isn’t too polarizing, its release on the heels of widespread protests over a federal immigration ban led to backlash from many loyal customers. However, many also saw the commercial as an embodiment of the American spirit, which made it one of the most-watched Super Bowl ads with over 21.7 million views in only three days.


5. Airbnb: We Accept

Airbnb came up with this campaign to send a message of acceptance around the Syrian refugee crisis.



The commercial shows a montage of faces from different nationalities blending into one another. The commercial highlighted Airbnb’s commitment to providing short-term housing for the needy.


As one would expect, the commercial received a fair amount of hate on social media. However, the response was widely positive as it generated 33,000 tweets during the first half of the Super Bowl. also, Airbnb’s call to the public to open their homes to displaced populations resulted in over 15.4k volunteer signups to date.


Wrapping Up

It’s clear that while controversial ad campaigns run the risk of receiving widespread hate from people, they can also generate enough buzz around your commercial to give it much traction. In any case, you can’t keep everyone happy. Therefore, if you know what clicks with your audience and whether or not it’s worth taking a risk, you can have the perfect controversy to propel your brand faster than nearly everything else.


We’ll be back with more interesting videos for you. Till then, stay tuned!