I'm not sure how well the phrase "taking the piss" translates in countries other than Australia, but basically it means to make a joke at someones expense. What I want to talk about today is companies that are prepared to "take the piss" out of themselves.
Carlton United Breweries (the makers of such highbrow beers as Carlton Draught and Victoria Bitter) had an ad campaign recently that was a parody of the famous scene from the movie Flashdance. Rather than having a beautiful girl dancing to the song "its raining men" they went with an overweight goofy looking middle aged male dancing around in a leotard... it was pretty funny as far as ads go (you can watch it on metacafe here).
Now I'm sure that there would have been more than a couple of Marketing Exec's who would have passed on such a concept based on the idea that people would equate Carlton Draught with being overweight/ugly/etc, but here's the thing, the ad was a smashing success! Why?
Because Carlton Draught didn't make an ad that tried to trick their consumers into thinking they would be smarter or better looking if they drank their product. Instead they made fun of themselves, gave the consumer a bit of a laugh in return for their 30sec of attention and both parties walked away happy. Carlton Draught got their impression and the consumer got entertained.
As an advertiser, I think there is a valuable lesson in this and other campaigns of this nature. You can show attractive people standing on a beach enjoying your product till the cows come home but chances are your just going to blend in with 98% of the other ads trying to do the same thing. So why not be bold, try something that's makes fun of your company in a light hearted way and maybe you wont end up with people changing channels as soon as the ad break starts.