“Ashamed and wrestling back his tears in a corner, Brad reminds himself that the money is good and takes a moment to compose himself on the set of Chanel’s latest ad campaign.” Poor Brad. But how can your business profit from these big ad failures?

If you’re someone who invests in your business with your own money, you probably won’t want to do much brand or image advertising.

Because as Raymond Rubicam put it: “The only purpose of advertising is to sell. It has no other justification worth mentioning.”

Instead, one of your most effective weapons is direct response marketing — a precise, systematic, accountable and repeatable way to put the right message in front of the right people and elicit a direct response from them. And because you look for a direct response, you can track exactly how well your marketing works and exactly how much return every invested dollar produces.

But that doesn’t mean you should ignore other opportunities that come your way. There’s a sneaky way to create your own million-dollar publicity campaigns at virtually zero cost… by vulturing off ad campaign failures of big dumb companies.

You just have to know what to look for. I’m going to show you one example today. Hopefully this will open your eyes and get your gears turning.

In October 2012, Chanel released what could be their dumbest ad campaign ever. So dumb, that most people were left wondering if it was supposed to funny, or a Saturday Night Live parody.

The cost? Brad Pitt was paid $7 million for his endorsement as the first male face of Chanel. Much more was spent to produce the whole shebang.

The whole world scratched their head, pointed and laughed. Enjoy your entertainment at their expense, but when you’re done, look closer. Whenever there’s any buzz, look closer for the smart ones who exploit the media attention. Look for the savvy marketers who redirect that attention to their own business. And pay attention to how they do it.

For example, did you see what Ellen did?

For the (virtually non-existent) cost of taking a few pictures, recording herself talking over the pictures, and putting the simple slideshow together into a video… Ellen’s team took advantage of Chanel’s multi-million dollar publicity farce and turned it into a free ad for Cover Girl…

But there is one critical point I want to make here: What Ellen’s team did well was not that they parasited off a hot topic. Anyone can do that… there are many amateurs who will create parodies, responses, covers, etc. But attention alone is not profitable.

Attention is only profitable if you have a system for converting that attention to equity. The most important thing the Ellen team did when they stole the spotlight… was turn it into an ad for Cover Girl.

So don’t just make a funny or outrageous response video. Attention alone is nothing. You must figure out how to turn that attention into the kind of attention that benefits you and the people you serve. Because— in today’s connected economy —there is such a thing as bad publicity[1] [2] [3], and no — not all attention is good attention.

You want attention that converts to interest, desire and ultimately action to enter into a long-term business relationship with you.

The best part? Anyone can do what Ellen did, with nothing more than a camera, an internet connection and YouTube — including you.

4 steps to correctly hijack attention for profit:

  1. Lead with what people are already gawking at
  2. Say what everyone is thinking and wants to say
  3. Deliver a punchline that enhances your image
  4. Finish with a call-to-action to continue the conversation

So always be on the lookout for your free million-dollar gifts… courtesy of big dumb companies.