Video: How to give someone a mental breakdown, by NIVEA

What do you think of when someone says the word ‘Nivea’? Coming from the Latin word niveus/nivea/niveum, it literally means ‘snow-white’ and, doubtless, you would think of their calm and sensitively marketed skin-care products. Or you would have until now…

Nivea has just launched a new Stress Protect deodorant, and to market this new product, Felix and Lamberti advertising agency decided to employ the age-old technique of Schadenfreude – when pleasure is derived from the misfortune of others.

The appropriate way, Nivea decided, would be to literally stress out their target market to make a point. In a German airport, they targeted particular passengers in ‘the Stress Test’ by taking a sneaky photo and producing fake newspapers which labelled the passenger as a wanted suspect. They then place someone, with said newspaper, in plain view of the ‘suspect’ and wait for a reaction. Once they have this initial reaction, Nivea push it further by broadcasting an announcement describing the ‘suspect’s’ appearance and follow it up with a television broadcast on the airport screens.

So the ‘suspect’ is now being pointed at, people are moving away from them and muttering under their breath and they themselves are clearly on the edge of panicking, if they aren’t already. At this point, two security guards appear with a metal suitcase and walk up to the ‘suspect’ asking them whether they are stressed.
I’m not even joking when I say that watching the campaign video, I was stressed on behalf of this poor person, so I can’t even imagine how I would feel in their situation. I am pretty sure I would be having a full on breakdown at the point where everyone is looking at me as if I’ve killed someone and the embarrassment of being singled out, even once the metal suitcase is opened and the ‘suspect’ is presented with a Nivea Stress Protect deodorant, would be pretty intense.

There is a ‘happy ending’ to each person’s ordeal but the prank is played so well by all those around that, if I was in that position, I would not suspect it was a joke. In terms of marketing, this campaign is memorable and amusing… to an extent, once the tension has been relieved and the ‘suspect’ realises they haven’t actually done anything wrong.
Nivea’s prime aim is to drive the concept of their new product into the target market and allegedly checked with the friends of the ‘suspects’ to see whether “a brief moment of stress would be a problem’ for him/her. But, at the end of the day, not many of my friends have seen me under intense stress and I definitely wouldn’t be impressed if they’d put me in this situation. Although I can think of some friends who would react in a pretty funny way to something like this, I can almost guarantee that they wouldn’t thank me for putting them in that moment of shock and tension where you are being accused of god-knows-what in front of god knows how many people.

What do you think of Nivea’s ‘big prank’/ brand new marketing campaign? How would you react if you were put in this situation? I’m happy enough having a nervous laugh hundreds of miles away from the airport but, as a target of such a campaign…? I’m not so sure.

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