Australian mattress brand turns beds into billboards 

10:PM printed advertising messages on abandoned mattresses across Sydney as part of a low-budget guerilla campaign

According to Australian mattress startup 10:PM, more than 1.8 million mattresses are illegally dumped across the country each year.

To promote its line of microbe-neutralising mattresses, the brand teamed up with agency Howatson+Company, Sydney, to create a guerilla campaign using old mattresses as billboards.

To call attention to the fact that such mattresses are laden with bacteria, dead skin, and, often, suspicious stains, the brand crafted backstories for discarded mattresses found in Sydney suburbs, which were printed onto the mattresses in the locations in which they were found.

One mattress, found near Sydney’s Parliament House, was printed with copy that describes it as ‘perfectly designed for creatures devoid of backbone, like jellyfish or MPs’. The copy goes on, ‘We haven’t seen something so limp and lacking in support since our last Prime Minister.’ 

Another, located in Bondi, reads: ‘Here’s a fun dead skin stat to make your alive skin crawl. 30% of the weight of this mattress is made of dried epidermis particles shed by everyone who’s ever caught a quick siesta on it. And since it’s been dumped in Bondi Backpacker-ville, it probably contains not-so-trace amounts of every Irish, Brazilian, German and hideously sunburnt Pom.’

Each mattress ends with copy encouraging the reader to ‘buy a new, ultra-comfortable, microbe-neutralising, eco-friendly, Aussi-made mattress from 10:PM’.

The Bed-verts campaign was supported by short videos of each execution shared across social channels and PR.

Harrison Reid, founder of 10:PM, said in a press release, ‘As a startup we don’t have the media budget to reach millions of people like our competitors, so we used dumped mattresses to our advantage to create buzz and engagement, as well as reach people.’

Doug Hamilton, creative director at Howatson+Company, added: ‘This campaign takes advantage of an amazing free media that thousands of us walk past every day. With some loving craft and cheeky copy, our competitors’ old, soiled, dumped mattresses became the perfect vehicle to help 10:PM disrupt the category, and make anyone who sleeps reconsider the state of their current mattress.’

Contagious Insight 

On the bounce / The global mattress industry is highly competitive and saturated with newer, mattress-in-a-box entrants such as Caspar, Eve, Purple, and Simba, as well as comparative stalwarts like Silentnight and Ikea. In 2021, we heard from Ikea and its London agency Mother about how the retailer has repositioned itself as a sleep expert to differentiate itself against the bed-in-a-box startups that have stormed the category. ‘The sleep market has grown exponentially in terms of specialist mattresses, sleep tracking tech and I even read an article this morning about pyjamas that are designed to reset your circadian rhythm,’ said Scarlett Spence, strategy director at Mother. ‘The category has truly taken on a life of its own. But because of all these new innovations in sleep, it’s been a greater challenge for Ikea to standout among all this noise.’

Here, 10:PM takes a different approach to differentiation: the creative is at odds with the sleepy, calming, lavender hues of typical mattress advertising, and the copy doesn’t focus on the benefits of a good night’s rest. Instead, this campaign earns attention and encourages people to consider purchasing a new mattress by evoking disgust. And by calling attention to the unknowable amount of filth hiding in mattresses and positioning its microbe-neutralising product as the hygienic alternative, the brand sets up a problem and offers up an instant solution.

Waste not... / With a small budget and a startup mentality, 10:PM opted for a cost-effective, unconventional media channel: illegally dumped mattresses. Discarded mattresses are a common sight in city suburbs (there are even Instagram accounts dedicated to spotting them), and go largely unnoticed by passersby. It might seem ill-advised to align your brand with rubbish, or literally stamp your brand across battered, mysteriously stained mattresses, but by breaking with advertising convention, 10:PM lands its message loud and clear. As outlined in this research published in the Journal of Advertising on the power of media placements on physical objects, creative media advertising can be better at strengthening brand associations than traditional media, outperfoming traditional media when it comes to persuasion. Interestingly, creative media advertising was also found to be especially effective when the physical object chosen to convey the message was a metaphor for the product or brand itself.

Trash talk / Another brand that made the risky call to put waste at the heart of its campaign is Ikea with Trash Collection. Created by Oslo-based creative agency Try, the campaign features a series of Ikea items found on street corners and in junkyards across Norway, to highlight the retailer’s role in creating furniture waste and raise awareness of its in-store furniture repair services. ‘We literally had a picture of heaping piles of garbage and put an Ikea product name and a price in the middle of that stinking trash pile,’ Caroline Riis, senior creative at Try, said of presenting the idea to Ikea. ‘We knew that if we were doing this, we’d have to do it properly. We’d have to do it real and honest. We had to start grimy in order to say, either you buy this [idea], or you don’t. Luckily – and surprisingly – Ikea jumped on it.’ The honesty paid off, with the campaign winning a Gold for Print & Publishing at the 2022 Cannes Lions Festival for Creativity, and becoming Ikea’s most profitable campaign measured in the Norwegian market at the time. 

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