'Inside Jobs' wins big with trojan horse campaign targeting mechanics...plus 5 more campaigns that creatively use hidden messages.

Inside Jobs, a trojan horse campaign for Volkswagen that printed job ads on car parts requiring maintenance has deservedly won big at several major award shows in 2023.

'Inside Jobs' wins big with trojan horse campaign targeting mechanics...plus 5 more campaigns that creatively use hidden messages.

Inside Jobs, a trojan horse campaign for Volkwagen that printed job ads on car parts requiring maintenance has deservedly won big at several major award shows in 2023. While ad campaigns that use hidden messages are often Trojan Horse campaigns that disguise their message within or as something else to access a world their target audience enjoys or works in - they don't have to be. As the examples below demonstrate, they can also be used to entertain your fanbase or even as a way to ingeniously overcome pesky sponsorship bans.

Inside Jobs | Volkswagen | DDB | 2022

Most after-sales mechanics are recruited from the competition because candidates need to already be qualified to keep up with demand. Instead of choosing the usual routes like online job descriptions, Volkswagen printed its job ads on car parts that often required maintenance. This meant only people who successfully solved a vehicle’s issues would actually see them. It worked too. The target was to fill 1,000 roles with more than 350 being hired during the initial campaign period.

Trojan Threads | Ministerio de Trabajo y empleo | VMLY&R | 2022

In Argentina, 75% of textile workers are trapped in forced labor, but they don't know who to contact for help. An initiative aimed to help these workers was launched by infiltrating sweatshops through a fake brand of threads. The threads would display a message, visible only to workers, with a number they can call to receive assistance. Within a week of launching the initiative, 12 lawsuits were filed, 23 lives were saved, and two police raids were conducted. The success of the project has led Argentina's Congress to work on a new law that will help enslaved workers know where to turn for help.

Stray Sheep Code | Sony Music | SIX Tokyo | 2020

With the pandemic making it difficult for musicians to interact with their fans, Sony came up with a baa-rilliant way to keep Kenshi Yonezu’s fans excited about the release of his new album ‘STRAY SHEEP.’ Knowing that his fanbase interacted mostly on YouTube, this was the obvious place to cause disruption. By ‘hacking’ his YouTube channel and replacing 55 of his music videos with 404 error messages and sheep emojis, his fans were soon flocking to understand the hidden messages, claiming it quickly as ‘meh-rse’ code. (sheep ‘meh’ in Japan) His fans deciphered the code and a new song was released. The stunt saw the new release gain over a million views in two hours, 10 million views in four days – a record for Yonezu.

Broken Crayons | Amigo for Kids | República | 2018

Republica, an independent advertising and communications agency, collaborated with non-profit organization Amigos For Kids to create a powerful public service announcement (PSA) campaign shedding light on the often unnoticed subtle signs of child abuse. Recognizing that abused children often express their distress through hidden cues in their classroom drawings, Amigos For Kids unveiled a thought-provoking exhibit during Miami Art Week. The installation showcased authentic drawings from real children, revealing distressing indicators of abuse that went unnoticed by unsuspecting visitors. This haunting four-day exhibit served as the backdrop for a comprehensive multimedia campaign, featuring an interactive website called BrokenCrayons.us and a PSA video. The video, featuring the expertise of child protection specialist Dr. Elspeth McInnes, captured the genuine and stunned reactions of art-goers as they discovered the hidden truths within the artwork. In doing so, the campaign raised awareness of all forms of child abuse by highlighting the significance of recognizing silent warning signs, particularly since many abusers are the parents or caregivers of the victim.

Hidden Messages | Instituto Maria da Penha | Africa | 2015

When a woman experiences harassment, the initial inquiry posed by many is, "What was she wearing?" as if her choice of clothing could somehow justify the incident. To bring attention to the undeniable truth that women should never be subjected to unwanted touch, irrespective of their attire, we devised a digital campaign. This campaign transformed Instagram usernames into empowering messages, aiming to raise awareness and foster a sense of empowerment.

And finally, something a bit cheeky...

Hidden Fridges | Amstel | Wunderman Thompson | 2020

To bypass strict sponsorship rules, Wunderman Thompson devised a clever campaign in São Paulo to promote Amstel alongside its competitor during the street carnival. They placed hidden fridges disguised as ordinary objects like a vase, public telephone, and park bench throughout the parade routes. Through geolocated Instagram posts, revelers were invited to search for these fridges dressed up in costumes, and those who discovered them were rewarded with refreshing, ice-cold Amstel. By circumventing the beer monopoly present at the carnival, the campaign aimed to inject diversity and playfulness into the event. Alongside 30 digital films, costume panels, sCan, and after parties, the Hidden Fridges activation generated over R$150k in free advertising value for the brand.

Want more like this?

At the time of writing, BITW has over 50 Trojan Horse Seduction campaigns, 38 Trojan Horse Provocation campaigns and 15 campaigns that explicitly hide their ad campaign messages as something else.