Under the Influence

Why some companies negatively advertise their own products

From Volkswagen to Nestea, bold brands approach advertising with a little self-deprecating humour.
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Listen to the full episode27:28

From Volkswagen to Nestea, many brands approach advertising with a little self-deprecating humour.

This week, it’s the final episode of our 2019 season: Ask Terry. And as we do every year, we’re turning this show over to you, our listeners, and answering your questions on the air. From whether subliminal advertising exists, to if my career has made me a cynical consumer, to which of the Beatles was the best marketer, this year’s questions were fun and insightful. Oh - and you’ll get a chance to meet the team, too. Hope you’ll join us. 0:57

There is a rich history of negative advertising strategy. The Volkswagen advertising of the 1960s was firmly rooted in the negative.

The famous Volkswagen ads of the '60s. (medium.com)

The ads said the VW Beetle was ugly. They said it was slow and too small. They said it was uncomfortable in the backseat.

There was an honesty about the advertising. But more than that, it was endearing. No other car marketer had ever taken pot-shots at its own vehicle. But by doing that, Volkswagen became the most beloved car in history.

Avis celebrated the fact it was number two in the car rental business. Being number two was seen as a negative in marketing terms. Nobody ever boasted about being second-best. But Avis turned that negative into a positive by saying because they were number two, they tried harder than number one.

It was powerful marketing. That campaign made Avis profitable for the first time in a decade.

There is a funny commercial airing right now for Nestea here in Canada. It shows a shy teenager trying to work up the nerve to talk to a girl at school. So he drinks some Nestea for courage, only to realize that Nestea doesn't give you courage. It's just a drink:


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Under the Influence is recorded in the Terstream Mobile Recording studio, a 1969 Airstream trailer that's been restored and transformed into a studio on wheels. So host Terry O'Reilly can record the show wherever he goes.

Follow the journey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and search the hashtag: #Terstream.

(Image Credit: Sidney O'Reilly)