Imitation is Flattery: How 4 Campaigns Got Taken Over by Audiences

Likeable Snickers

By Thomas Zukowski

At a time when nearly everyone has access to a decent camera and some editing software, no brand, artist or civilian is safe from being lampooned. As Weird Al once said, "By the time I'm in the studio recording my parody, 10,000 parodies of that song are on YouTube." On the surface, these spoofs only intend to mock the original source material. Ultimately, they end up bringing more exposure to the project. Here are four campaigns that audiences claimed as their own.

Shot on iPhone 6

After the iPhone 6/6S debuted, Apple launched a website takeover to showcase its camera upgrade and various filtering and processing apps. Billboards began appearing around major cities with striking images captured via the mobile device. While the iPhone 6 is capable of taking incredible photographs in the hands of a keen-eyed artist, the general public is using it for more... basic means. Taylor Glascock, a Chicago-based freelance photographer and master troll, spoofed Apple’s campaign by framing embarrassing selfies and other shots within the same campaign graphics.

Straight Outta Somewhere

In the early 90s, gangster rap asserted its unmistakable influence on music, pop culture, and yours truly. In August of 2015, its presence was even more rapidly visible thanks to the Straight Outta Somewhere campaign, promoting the film Straight Outta Compton. Members of NWA, the film’s biographical subject, never waste a chance to promote their Compton roots. A user-friendly image generator asked users to do the same. Social media audiences latched on and took the campaign into new territory, creating graphics based on films, current events, and their own lives. For two weeks, you couldn’t log in to Facebook without facing some variation of the iconic black and white graphic.

Hotline Bling

Make no mistake – Drake is a brand. The Canadian rapper’s latest music video racked up an astounding amount of impressions and engagement. The musical and visual basis of “Hotline Bling” is so heavily borrowed that it’s difficult to know where the line of homage begins and ends. It also means Drake was bound to be mocked. Immediately following the video’s release, fans began creating hundreds of Vines, memes, and mashups of Drake’s uninhibited dance moves. The result is both hypnotizing and hilarious. Drake's expression was honest and weird, and the internet thanked him for it.

Snickers Hunger Bars

The Snickers marketing team has been on their A-game lately. After a string of cameo-filled commercials (You're Not You When You're Hungry™), they were inspired by something far more simple their logo. The bold, 4-color wrapper is instantly recognizable. This year, Snickers replaced its brand name with 21 different hunger-related symptoms in an effort to have consumers engage with their friends. Graphic artists and Photoshop novices alike noticed the meme-worthy nature of the iconic design, and began whipping up messages that are a bit more personal than Snickers had originally intended (caution: strong language).

While some brand directors might cringe at the unintended outcome of these campaigns, they should ultimately be satisfied with the public conversation. As they say, any press is good press. Which marketing campaigns would you like to see spoofed?