Marketing and risk are two words you wouldn’t necessarily associate with one another, especially when limited budgets are involved. But is playing it safe the biggest risk of all?

The online world is a noisy one, so getting people to sit up and pay attention can require a different message. The attention gained from an unexpected message, good or bad, gets people talking, both on- and offline. In short, a campaign that dares to stop us in our tracks is a campaign that people will want to share.

More often than not, there is the fear of public backlash (especially on social media) that stops campaigns receiving the final sign-off but as cliché as it sounds, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Whatever the narrative, good or bad, your campaign is still turning heads and raising eyebrows.

When you think back to some of the most memorable campaigns, they’re often the ones that took the most risk. London based advertising agency Fallon, the creative genius behind Cadbury’s Gorilla advert took a huge risk when they decided to place a gorilla drumming to Phil Collins’ In The Air Tonight as the face of a chocolate bar.

Nobody expected it. In fact, on viewing for the first time (if you miss the start) it takes a full 1 minute 25 seconds to discover who the ad is for. Risky, but people loved it. The bizarre ads captivated the attention of TV fans across the UK, and arguably the world.

On the other hand, does playing it safe allude to a lack of creativity? Diet Coke recently brought back its ‘hunk’ for their 30-year anniversary, to which I’m sure the marketing department said “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Personally, I don’t think that’s strictly true. To move away from what we knew Diet coke best for would have been a risk, instead they played it safe (but still a little too safe for my liking).

I asked some of the team here at Browser Media HQ for their favourite ‘risky but rewarding’ campaigns, here’s what they had to say:

Sophie’s pick – the Scottish Police Federation

One that always sticks in my mind is for the Scottish Police Federation, I remember watching their ads a few months ago. Brutally real and attention grabbing, probably a little too hard hitting for your standard TV audience but the impact and message is an incredibly important one.

Alex’s pick – 3 Mobile Network

I would like to nominate the 3 mobile network adverts, because they’ve broken the trend for boring ‘tech’ adverts. They tap into a myriad of generational references which are aimed directly at their target audience, which could have gone horribly wrong. And they’re sufficiently whimsical to appeal to everyone else. Mostly I just love how weird they are – you have to watch the whole thing to ‘get it’.

Matt’s pick – Gay Mountain

The ‘anti-gay’ controversy surrounding the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi made for plenty of news in the lead up to, and during the games.

The inherently risky Channel 4 hit this subject head on with Gay Mountain – a 90 second TV ad which aired across all Channel 4’s main channels, smack bang in the middle of their coverage of the opening ceremony.

The ad is intentionally risky and designed to cause a stir, but Gay Mountain surpassed anything I could have imagined from a brand as big as Channel 4.

They likely lost a few fans as a result, but they would have gained a whole lot more.

Are there any campaigns you thought had a different message or were particularly memorable? We’d love to hear from you, comment in the box below.