Barbenheimer, the official ending of the COVID-19 pandemic, international conflicts, England’s triumph at the Women’s World Cup and sky-high inflation – it’s fair to say that 2023 was a year of ups and downs. It’s been no different in the world of marketing and PR, with low budgets (thanks, cost of living crisis), high expectations and the rapid evolution of artificial intelligence.
But from the iconic ‘Fake Moss’ at Aldi to budget travel hacks that make the cost of living crisis easier to bear, 2023 still brought us some cracking campaigns. While it’s impossible to cover them all, here are five standout PR campaigns that made a lasting impression on us in 2023:
Aldi: The great ‘Fake Moss’ lookalike
We couldn’t talk about the best campaigns of 2023 without shining the spotlight on Aldi’s iconic Kate Moss impersonation. Back in December, Chanel hosted its annual Metiers D’Art show in Manchester. Aldi took advantage of this with an ingenious PR stunt centred around a Kate Moss lookalike holding an Aldi Bag For Life.
The model was papped by a ‘fan’ (or Aldi social media manager), who shared a picture of her inside the store on X (Twitter). From that moment, the media lapped up the story of a high-fashion celebrity shopping at a budget UK supermarket. Yep, Aldi had us all totally fooled.
This campaign didn’t feature a landing page, so we don’t have a precise link count. However, it’s fair to say that the stunt grabbed hundreds of global headlines (both before and after the truth was revealed) and created a social media frenzy to boot.
- Daily Mail (DA 94): Kate Moss proudly totes her 65p Aldi reusable bag after SHOCKING shoppers by visiting Manchester branch of bargain grocery store before glitzy Chanel show… but all is not as it seems
- The Sun (DA 94): Aldi shoppers gobsmacked as they spot huge A-list star shopping in supermarket’s middle aisle
- Evening Standard (DA 93): Kate Moss leaves social media stunned as she’s spotted in an Aldi ahead of Chanel show in Manchester
- Metro (DA 92): Kate Moss was ‘spotted shopping at Aldi’ in Manchester but we may have all been fooled
- Manchester Evening News (DA 89): Fooled us all! Truth revealed after Kate Moss ‘pictured in Manchester after Aldi shop’ as celebs descend on city for Chanel show
- Indy 100 (DA 80): Kate Moss spotted in Manchester Aldi’ ahead of Chanel show
Why it worked
This campaign was perfectly executed. For one, the stunt was believable. With Chanel hosting its iconic show in Manchester, and major celebrities like Kristan Stewart already having been papped, it wasn’t unrealistic for Kate Moss to be in the area that day.
Plus, the lookalike was a seriously realistic lookalike, donning a stylish leather jacket, dark sunglasses and hair that looks exactly like the real Kate’s.
But the real hook here was the stark contrast of a high-fashion model shopping at the UK’s favourite discount shop. This simple idea had mass talkability and resonated with almost everyone, resulting in share after share and instant virality.
After all, who doesn’t wonder what Kate Moss may have picked up from the Aldi middle aisle?
Cats: The Ultimate Pet Rich List
Last year, Cats.com, which provides in-depth cat product reviews and veterinarian-written guides for cat owners, launched the ultimate pet rich list.
They found the top 50 most influential pets on Instagram by analysing the Instagrams of pets with the most followers, likes and engagement rates. The brand also wanted to look at how much these animals are making for their owners. Using Instagram data, they estimated how much each pet makes per Instagram post to find out who was the highest earner.
It was a campaign that not only helped place the brand in front of their target audience – pet owners and animal lovers – but also had widespread appeal to boost brand awareness in general.
The campaign was a resounding success, with 473 links to its landing page built from a mix of national (US), international (UK), news and lifestyle titles.
- Independent (DA 94): Taylor Swift’s cat is reportedly the third-richest pet in the world, worth $97 million
- Rolling Stone (DA 92): Taylor Swift’s Cat Olivia Benson Is Richer Than All of Us
- Cosmopolitan (DA 91): Every Wild Fact About Taylor Swift’s Cats: Olivia Benson, Meredith Grey, and Benjamin Button
- Parade (DA 88): Everything to Know About Taylor Swift’s Cats
- Men’s Health (DA 88): Netflix’s ‘Gunther’s Millions’: How This Man Fooled the World With The Wealthiest Dog
- Country Living (DA 83): Everything You Should Know About Taylor Swift’s Three Cats
Why it worked
We all love our pets – and brands know this. This is why pet-related content, campaigns and surveys always do well. They’re highly newsworthy, relatable and shareable to boot.
But what really made this campaign stand out is the concept of a rich list – but for pets. While traditional rich lists focus on human influencers and celebrities, focusing on pet-influencers’ financial success makes the concept even more entertaining and ultra-shareable. Who would’ve thought a single German Shepherd could be worth $500 Million?
Including the pets of top celebrities like Taylor Swift and Oprah Winfrey gave the campaign even more widespread appeal by attracting their fans’ attention and making news outlets even more likely to pick up the story.
This resulted in an endless list of celebrity-focused headlines like ’Taylor Swift’s Cat Olivia Benson Is Richer Than All of Us’ and ‘Taylor Swift’s cat is reportedly the third-richest pet in the world, worth $97 million’.
Expedia: 2024 Air Travel Hacks for Smoother Travel
Travelling isn’t always plain-sailing, with unpredictable flight prices, delays and cancellations increasingly rocking the boat. Thankfully, Expedia came to the rescue back in October, with its 2024 Air Travel Hacks Report.
Their report shares data-backed tips and strategies to help consumers around the world to save money on flights, avoid delays, and all in all, make travel a smoother, more enjoyable experience.
This campaign generated 196 links to its landing page to date, from a mixture of UK and US national publications, as well as plenty of sites within the travel niche.
- Mirror (DA 94): Expedia reveals the best day to book cheap flights including Spain and Turkey
- Daily Mail (DA 94): Expedia Air Travel Hacks Report: How to save a fortune on your holiday from Australia by booking on a Sunday and taking off on a Friday after 3pm
- CNBC (DA 93): Students can book $25 holiday flights with Amazon Prime — plus 4 other ways to save
- Time Out (DA 91): This is the absolute cheapest day of the week to book a flight
- Thrillist (DA 88): The Cheapest Day to Book Your Next Flight Isn’t Tuesday
- Travel + Leisure (DA 88): The Best Time to Book a Flight for Domestic, International, and Summer Travel
Maybelline: Fake mascara that hoodwinked the public
Global beauty brand, Maybelline, had the whole world fooled with its 2023 mascara stunt.
Back in the summer, the beauty giant released a TikTok video showing London tubes and buses – both London icons – with false eyelashes on. As they pass by a huge tube of Maybelinne ‘Sky High’ Mascara (rumoured to be the size of a pub garden parasol) attached to a billboard, the eyelashes get a swipe of mascara.
As the TikTok gained traction, city go-ers quickly tried to find the billboard around London – and completely failed. Why? Because the whole thing didn’t actually exist – it was just a CGI video.
That didn’t stop the press from picking up on it, though. Before anyone figured out that the entire thing was just a stunt, the video had garnered millions of views alongside hundreds of pieces of press coverage from national and regional press, as well as beauty/cosmetics industry and marketing/PR publications too.
- Evening Standard (DA 93): People are losing their minds over this mascara brand stunt on the London Underground
- Metro (DA 92): Maybelline Tube stunt sends Londoners into meltdown
- My London (DA 80): How viral makeup ad that shows London Underground train and bus using mascara was created
- Creative Bloq (DA 87): Hold on, those clever Maybelline ads weren’t real?
- Glossy (DA 65): What Maybelline’s ‘faux OOH’ ads say about the future of advertising in augmented reality
- Cosmetics Business (DA 59): The story behind Maybelline’s viral London underground advert
Why it worked
Maybelline claimed the campaign’s aim was to shock the consumer and make them question whether something is real or fake – and they certainly achieved this.
The idea of a tube or bus being donned with fake lashes and receiving a swipe of mascara every time they drove past is comical and ultra-unique – no brand has done this before. This meant it went viral almost instantly, even before it was discovered that it was, in fact, a digital stunt.
Tying their digital videos to physical locations (which included both London and New York) also gave the campaign a regional angle, leading to locals swarming to the perceived locations, discovering it didn’t exist and creating even more hysteria.
And once consumers, TikTokers and the press did realise it wasn’t real, coverage came in even thicker and faster, with endless speculation about how Maybelline produced something so realistic and comments like “Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s just the jubilee”.
Even better? The whole scenario echoes the vision behind the actual product, the ‘Sky High’ mascara. The CGI stunt made consumers question if something was real or fake – and Maybelline claims people will be wondering if your lashes are real or fake once you’ve applied their mascara.
IKEA X Shelter: IKEA Transform Showrooms To Reflect UK Housing Crisis
Affordable furniture brand, IKEA, launched a campaign in partnership with Shelter, the UK housing and homeless charity, to highlight the UK housing crisis.
As well as transforming their showrooms to reflect the current conditions some people in the UK are living in, they launched their ‘Duvet That Does Good’, where £1 from every duvet sold between 16th October to 24th December was donated to Shelter and their national charity partners.
The campaign generated 23 links to its landing page to date, most of which came from regional titles across the UK:
- Wales Online (DA 90): IKEA roomsets show reality of homelessness as 11million fear losing their home
- Hull Daily Mail (DA 81): IKEA room sets show reality of homelessness as 11 million fear losing their home
- Devon Live (DA 80): IKEA room sets show reality of homelessness as 11 million fear losing their home
- Fundraising (DA 55): IKEA launches ‘Duvet That Does Good’ initiative, & other fundraising product news
- Insight DIY (DA 39): IKEA’s ‘Duvet That Does Good’ Goes On Sale In Support Of Shelter
Why it didn’t work
This was a surprise to us, as it’s a relatively small amount of coverage for such a well-known brand, especially considering they’re highlighting a cause that people genuinely care about.
It was also highly visual, with their showroom images a far cry from their usual polished rooms packed with brand new furniture, in a bid to help highlight the conditions people across the UK find themselves living in.
Could it have been considered disingenuous as IKEA were promoting their duvet as part of the campaign? Or, perhaps, it simply didn’t come at the right time. The campaign didn’t launch until October, but they sent their press release out in March – so it might have been that journalists didn’t find it particularly newsworthy at the time.
Despite only landing 23 links, this campaign highlighted a very important message and raised money for charity. Plus, regardless of the number of links gained, the initiative undoubtedly generated plenty of offline awareness and conversation due to the sheer volume of people passing by their showrooms daily.