In 2020, RC Cola Philippines released an advertisement that went viral for all the right reasons. For starters, the title of the YouTube video is “Nyahahakbkxjbcjhishdishlsab@!!!! Basta RC Cola!” The keyboard smash of a title is barely the weirdest part of the ad.
The video begins with a kid coming home from school, crying and a bit furious. With silent tears streaming down his face, he asks his mom if he’s adopted. His mom denies this assumption and comforts him. The scene becomes dramatic, as the kid takes off his polo shirt and lays flat on the table.
Still crying, the kid almost screams, “Explain to me why I have four glasses on my back.” Now, one would think it’s a metaphor of some kind—until the frame shows four literal glasses embedded to the back of the kid.
The mom and the kid cry some more as the mom prepares for a revelation—a long-held family secret. She detaches her head from her body, revealing a bottle of RC Cola also embedded on her neck. She opens the bottle and pours soda into each glass stuck on the back of the kid.
The ad doesn’t explain why the family is this way. The company, RC Cola, released two more weird ads in the next months. What’s even more astonishing is that this specific ad won the Bronze Lion award in Cannes Lions 2021 ‘Film’ category.
So, given the weirdness of it all, what makes this advertisement work? How is it advertising at all? And… just why? There are so many questions surrounding this story, but in terms of advertising, these kinds of gimmicks have earned a name in the advertising world: oddvertising.
What is Oddvertising?
In the time of social media, it’s hard to capture people’s attention. People are so used to ads popping up everywhere: articles, blogs, in the middle of videos, on TV, in the streets—literally everywhere. At this point, people have probably developed immunity to advertisements.
In the hopes to capture people’s attention, companies began releasing bizarre ads that are weird for weird’s sake. Companies continue to push the boundaries of advertising and how much of reality they can obscure.
This tactic was widely used by startup companies trying to be noticed by more people. Oddvertising could be dated back to the 90s, and bigger companies began to take notice. Burger King used a creepy version of their mascot. Skittles had a man who looks like a beaten-up pinata, screaming “I’m just like everyone else!” Snickers released an ad gathering historical figures singing in a car, eating Snickers.
Where Does the Line Go?
The line between weird and over-the-line is thin. A hand soap placed an image of a baby and a roach-covered hand together. The WWF used a trail of blood coming from a suitcase, pulled by a person in an airport. Pepsi showed a lime peeing into a glass filled with soda.
While companies and brands should be creative with their ads, there are limitations. Craig Allen, one of the people who has created successful oddvertisements in the past, suggests that “weird doesn’t work for every brand—and it definitely doesn’t work when handled improperly.”
This line could be subjective, as ads are left to be interpreted by the audience. Sometimes, they don’t need to be interpreted at all. They need to be watched. However, pushing weirdness too far could make people uncomfortable.
How Does Oddvertising Work?
Oddvertising is unrealistic, but it’s unrealistic in a way that it somehow exists in a realistic setting. The subject of the ad should also be relevant to the brand. This form of storytelling has a structure as well. It begins with a situation, and then the weirdness is introduced to be followed by more weirdness. At the end of it all, oddvertising normalizes this alternate reality.
Take, for example, the RC Cola ad. Adoption, family secrets, a regular kitchen, a kid who goes to school—these are all normal things. Then, the glasses on the kid’s back are introduced. To top it all up, the mom reveals that she has it weirder.
Oddvertising needs creativity to work. Whether you’re from an ad agency or an independent creator, as long as you let your imagination go wild, you’ll be fine. Couple your creativity with the elements and structure of oddvertising, your ad will go places—like Cannes.