Sometimes things don’t go to plan. Mistakes are made. Accidents happen. Business goes sour. Competitors take the lead.In business, it’s easy to try to brush an unfavourable situation under the carpet and hope that everyone will forget about it.

Some businesses actually go the opposite way entirely, and embrace their blemishes with open arms. And the results, from a marketing perspective, can be incredible.

Here are a few examples of ad campaigns that dealt commendably well with awkward and/or negative situations.

Avis — ‘We Try Harder’

Car rental company Avis had always stood in the shadow of their rival, Hertz. They were number 2, and there wasn’t much to be done about it. So when ad agency Doyle Dane Bernbach were drafted in to create a new advertising campaign, their approach was simple: admit to being the underdog and turn it to our advantage.

The result was a piece of world-class, perfectly self-deprecating advertising. The “We Try Harder” campaign. It essentially turned the company around, massively boosting turnover and slowly closing the gap between themselves and Hertz.


KFC recently got themselves into hot water after a hiccup with a new delivery partner which resulted in a country-wide chicken shortage. The issue was met with with public outcry, and the brand received some very negative press as a result.

Now many companies may have buried their heads in sand and anxiously waited for the whole thing to blow over. But KFC, to their credit, approached the issue head-on, acknowledging their blunder with humour and honesty.

“It’s been a hell of a week…”

Volkswagen — Think Small

You’re given a car. It’s small. Odd-looking. Slow. It was manufactured in a factory built by the Nazis. And it has a somewhat unappealing name. Now you have to go away and sell it.

This is the challenge that Doyle Dane and Bernbach took on when they were brought in to advertise the Beetle.

What did they do? They highlighted the car’s major ‘flaws’: that it was small and slow. In fact one of the campaign headlines read, “Presenting America’s Slowest Fastback.”

The result? Well, it turned the Beetle into an icon.

Domino’s — Pizza Turnaround

Everyone knows Domino’s Pizza. But not everyone likes them. Or, at least, not everyone has always been satisfied with them.

After receiving an abundance of negative customer feedback regarding the taste and quality of their pizzas, Domino’s decided to do something different: listen.

Instead of swiftly ignoring the complaints and pretending they don’t exist, Domino’s created a documentary style ad called ‘The Pizza Turnaround,’ and vowed to make their pizzas better.

The message of the campaign was that Domino’s not only listens to its customers, but is deeply passionate about pizza.