Paradigm Productions, Inc. | Use Reverse to Move Your Marketing Forward
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use reverse to move your marketing forward

Use Reverse to Move Your Marketing Forward

use reverse to move your marketing forward

Our brains become alert whenever contrast is detected. Role reversal is a creative technique used to capitalize on this cognitive phenomenon and can be applied to improve the impact of websites, direct mail pieces, and prints ads.

The above ads each use the role reversal method a little differently, but all represent the antithesis of what is anticipated.


Subjects in the SNICKERS campaign behave out of character creating a sharp contrast between what is expected and what is experienced in each scenario. In this particular SNICKERS ad, a lion’s prey plays a predatory role. It is assumed that the “king of the jungle” would chase down a zebra, not the other way around. Zebras are considered social animals often seen in herds. Seeing a single zebra is uncommon unto itself much less hunting a species recognized for attacking game as large as an elephant.


Headquartered in Sweden, Stena Line is one of the largest ferry operators in the world. Their headline tells the ad’s story in words “Grown ups free of charge when traveling with children” and is reinforced visually. The difference in size between the parent-child role is the most striking, and the little subtleties, such as the inclusion of a stroller add a punctuation to the ad’s message. The elements within the print ad work together synergistically to create a lasting impression which aligns with the ads offer.


Absolut Vodka takes contrast to the extreme using a pregnant male as the focal point of its ad. Within this setting the notion of combining an unborn and alcohol is provocative unto itself, but seeing a martini in the hands of a woman, by sheer association, makes an over-the-top impression. The headline “IN AN ABSOLUT WORLD” pre-establishes the ad’s premise to convey a light-hearted tone.


The contrast between what we expect and what we experience alerts our mind to the incongruities within all three ads. The effectiveness of the role reversal technique is predicated on a consumer’s familiarity with the subject matter and its t between the ad’s creative twist and the point it was attempting to convey.

If the role reversal is not perceived as overtly obvious and understood, or appears disjointed and confusing, the ad may be viewed as distasteful or a deceptive attempt at bait-and-switch.

To increase the impact of your next “role reversal” ad and mitigate the risk of backfiring ask for people’s reactions to it internally prior to its public release. If even a small number of people in or out of your industry don’t get it, learn why by asking open ended question without appearing offended or defensive by their answers. Patterns will likely emerge when evaluating the feedback from five or six people that had neutral, negative or indifferent reactions.

Like all ads, start by identifying your point in terms the lowest common denominator could grasp. After you have crafted a clear, compelling, and concise message, think of how it could be conveyed visually (a la Pictionary). Then devise all the ways of communicating the concept to the outer edges of reason by making the point sarcastically, humorously, etc.

Attention is a prerequisite to persuasion, and using role reversal is one creative approach to sell your idea in seconds.

Joseph Sneor