Complaints welcome

Turning the tables on negativity

Sep 05, 2019
We live in an age where people have more opportunities to be heard than ever before – most commonly, online. Whether on forums, personal blogs, or across social media, the internet is filled with individuals expressing themselves, and unfortunately for businesses, these opinions aren’t always positive. Yet, instead of letting the negativity put their reputations at stake, some brands are finding increasingly creative ways to face these kinds of comments head on – and gain valuable exposure in the process.

Turning the tables on negativity

Channel 4’s new campaign, ‘Complaints Welcome’, sees some of the broadcaster’s most notable presenters and stars read a selection of shocking complaints viewers have made about them. Some of the comments are lighter in tone – like The Great British Bake Off’s Prue Leith being told “not to talk with her mouth full”, and Jamie Oliver’s fingers being compared to “sausages” – but several have a much darker, more worrying tone to them. Big Narstie reads out that he’s “too black”, while Paralympic swimmer Ellie Simmonds shares the comment that she’s “not a real athlete”. 


Channel 4 has long positioned itself as a broadcaster that embraces diversity, and this latest spot is no exception. Not only does it showcase and celebrate the range of voices that viewers can find on the channel, the ad calls people out for their comments – all while reaffirming the broadcaster’s position as one that lives to spark discussion. Channel 4’s Director of Programming, Ian Katz, says the ad “celebrates one of the things at the heart of Channel 4’s identity: challenging the way our viewers think about the world”. And adds that “when there isn’t someone complaining about one of our shows, we should be worried”.

fries are coming

Part of the effectiveness of this campaign is how reactive it is. The comments have been made about people in the public eye right now – including the stars of Channel 4’s most popular shows – which is why it’s so successfully got people talking. Similarly, there are many examples of other brands who’ve responded quickly to online hate to create highly effective campaigns. In 2018, KFC built a whole series of advertisements off the back of some strongly worded consumer feedback. Twitter users in their droves began to attack the fast-food chain’s fries, making comments like “Dear KFC, no-one likes your fries. Yours sincerely, the entire world.” But instead of defending the long-established recipe or simply ignoring the comments, KFC used the tweet to launch its new “chunkier, tastier and better” fries in a campaign titled ‘Ain’t No Small Fry’. By advertising the fact that some customers didn’t like its product, KFC became instantly more trustworthy. 

No brand can cater to everyone, but the ones that recognise and celebrate the things that make them unique continue to earn the respect of their customers. These companies ask people to accept them – faults and all – and instantly appear more relatable in the process. And in today’s technology dominated and increasingly distant world, maintaining a little authenticity has never been more important.