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The Best Ad Campaigns

The Best Ad Campaigns

Planning your next ad campaign? 

Find inspiration with our list of the best ad campaigns. 

It never hurts to get some influence from the success stories of big players – they’ve been there, and done it to the MAX. 

Creating an ad campaign is challenging enough: it’s tricky to figure out what will not only resonate with your audience and potential new customers, but also meet specific business goals. 

That’s why we’ve created this list of the best advertising campaigns. We’ve analyzed each campaign to give you an insight into what makes them great, and what the end results were for the brand. 

Now, you must be thinking: what makes these particular campaigns so good?

We’re talking impact. 

These campaigns all managed to create a massive impact on consumers, as well as their own business. 

They did all this by:

  • Changing brand perception
  • Reinventing marketing approaches
  • Going viral
  • Increasing brand growth 

You may even know some of these campaigns even if you weren’t born when they were released. 

That’s how much impact they had on people!  

Even though approaches to advertising campaigns have changed over the years – from single message mass marketing to personalized experiences – the essential elements are still relevant today. 

These are our top favorite recent ad campaigns

Going back to the 1980s, here’s the list (in no particular order.) 

[Add a Table of Contents]

1. Old Spice – The Man Your Man Could Smell Like 

Source: Miro

  • Year: 2010
  • Media: Television and Internet

Another ad campaign extravaganza!

This advertising campaign took social media by storm. 

Prior to the 2010 Super Bowl Commercial, Old Spice was a brand selling deodorant and body wash to your granddad. As market share was dwindling, the brand needed a pick-me-up. They decided to target a younger generation.

The ad campaign launched in 2010 and showed a young attractive man telling the female audience that their man could smell like him if he used Old Spice. 

Why was he addressing women? 

Well, the creatives did their research and found that women purchase almost 70% of all male toiletry products.

That’s not all. 

The brand created a two-way communication with online users that lead to 186 personalized videos on social media. People would write questions to Old Spice and The Old Spice man himself would answer.

That’s one hell of an engagement strategy.

What makes it good?

The ads attracted younger generations with content they respond to, humor and sex. Together with a male sex icon, the ads appealed to both young men and women, targeting two sides of the same coin. 

The ease of social sharing created online advocates for the brand that took the campaign viral. Besides that, the brand started a conversation with their audience.

Naturally, this created engagement that was off the charts!

The results

A massive jump in Social Media Engagement.

Within 30 days of the campaign launch, Old Spice saw over 40 million views on YouTube and a 107% increase in body wash sales. The brand continued to become the leading brand of male body washes and deodorants in the United States.

Procter & Gamble later reported nearly a 105 million YouTube views of the campaign, 2700% increase in Twitter followers, 800% increase in Facebook fan interaction, and 300% increase in traffic to the Old Spice Website.

2. Nike – Just Do It

The very first “Just do it” commercial. 

  • Year: 1987
  • Media: Print, Television, Internet

To appeal to a larger audience, Nike launched its first major television campaign in 1987, which included commercials for running, walking, cross-training, basketball, and women’s fitness.

The night before presenting the new Nike campaign, the slogan “Just Do It” was surprisingly thrown in by the creative agency. Questioned by creatives, as well as Nike, the tagline was tested.

The slogan was not the legacy Nike was looking for. No one thought the slogan was necessary or believed it would even make an impact.

Now, 34 years later it’s still part of Nike’s core mission. 

 

Source: Brandchannel

What makes it good?

The empowering slogan resonated deeply with both athletes and people with little or no connection to sports. It represented the brand’s step towards inclusivity – and was what the campaign had set out to reflect. The slogan was a magical combination: it was universally empowering, short and relatable.

For some, it even became a mantra to live by.

The results

It was Nike’s first major television campaign, which included commercials for running, walking, cross-training, basketball, and women’s fitness. Up until that moment, the brand’s target audience was a narrow range of male athletes in competitive sports arenas.

Before they launched Just Do It, Nike was a struggling national niche brand. Afterwards, Nike became one of the world’s premiere iconic brands, and increased sales by 1000% over the next ten years.

3. Dove – Real Beauty

  • Year: 2004
  • Media: Television, print, experiments

Unilever, the consumer goods company, was one of the first to introduce sustainability in their business model. No wonder the company set out to improve the self-esteem of women everywhere with a global campaign.

Dove’s Real Beauty campaign was the company’s answer to a study reporting only 2% of women consider themselves beautiful. 

The campaign was not restricted to print ads and TV commercials. Instead, multiple experiments were conducted. Dove’s ‘Tik-Box’ billboards brought 1.5 million visitors to the campaign’s website and the Real Beauty Sketches video was viewed by more than 50 million people in the first 12 days. 

Source: WPP

These experiments successfully sparked conversation and promoted the same controversial, yet empowering message to women. 

What makes it good?

The Real Beauty ad campaign was admiral in its ability to start a conversation with the target audience. 

This educational initiative went against mainstream beauty standards. It advertised the average woman in commercials with provocative messages, which established the brand’s thought leadership for beauty equality.

The results

Sales for Dove jumped from $2.5 to $4 billion in the campaign’s first ten years, and the brand made a positive social impact.

4. Absolut Vodka – The Absolut Bottle

Source: Referralcandy

  • Year: 1980
  • Media: Print

The bottle that became the star. 

This campaign is the longest uninterrupted ad campaign EVER, spanning 25 years, and comprising over 1500 separate ads

In 1979, Absolut, the Swedish vodka manufacturer, went international. The company was up against giants like Smirnoff, and Russian brands that ruled the US market. 

At this time, Absolut had no branding and a bottle that was understated. They needed to stand out, and be different from competing brands.

While most brands were taking Russian sounding names to earn a place in the market Absolut went in a totally different direction. They sought to position themselves as a more stylish contemporary brand of superior quality. 

All 1500 of the advertisements featured Absolut’s distinctive bottle in various creative ways, including an illustration from Andy Warhol in 1986. 

Source: Smartinsights

What makes it good?

Absolut went out of its way to avoid any comparison with rival brands. The positioning strategy focused on creating a product that felt unique and like one-of-a-kind. 

A whole new experience was promised to consumers.

The ad campaign successfully combined visual and verbal puns around simple eye-catching imagery

The results

Absolut had merely 2.5% of the US vodka market when the campaign began. By the time the campaign ended in the mid-2000s, this had jumped up to 50%. Sales had drastically increased from 10000 cases in 1980, to 4.5 million in 2000

Its advertising budget grew too: from $750,000 in 1980 to $33 million in 2000. 

Cheers to that! What a great way to grow your sales, reach AND subsequent budget.  

5. Levi’s – Casual Business Wear 

  • Year: 1992
  • Media: Print

In 1992, Levi’s sent a pamphlet to 25000 HR departments in the US. This pamphlet turned out to be key to solving their sales slump. More competition from other brands and cheaper overseas products meant they hadn’t performed as well the previous year. 

Levi’s had recently identified a unique business opportunity: there was a new trend of people wearing casual clothes to work. Of course, some employees did take it too far, misinterpreting “casual” as a green light to front inappropriate imagery and phrases. 

Still, Levi’s figured there were something in casual wear. Levi’s marketing team decided to create the guide to Casual Businesswear. The pamphlet included guidelines on the meaning of “casual business wear,” making Levi’s clothing the center of the ad campaign. 

What makes it good?

The campaign aimed at solving consumer’s problems by answering the question “What is business casual?”

By creating guidelines where there were none, the brand presented themselves to consumers as the solution to a growing trend. They turned an entire country of professionals into customers. 

The foundation of the campaign’s success was education. Levi’s built its campaign on instructional material, and made a great example of how a brand can position itself as a thought leader.

The results

When Levi’s began its campaign, 66% of companies had a full or part-time casual dress code. Only three years later, that figure rose to 90%. In 1995, Levis reported a 10% sales increase from the year before, amounting to $6.2 billion.

6. California Milk Processor Board – Got Milk?

The ad that changed people’s perception of milk

  • Year: 1993
  • Media: Television and Print

Imagine pouring your cereal into a bowl, slicing some fresh fruit on top, and then… there is no milk!

This common annoyance was discovered during a focus group session in 1993. An agency had gotten the unenviable task to advertise milk for the California Milk Processing Board. 

Due to the public’s lack of interest in milk the team behind the catchphrase employed deprivation marketing. The impossible task to sell the need for an uninteresting product became an opportunity to advertise the lack of the product.

An idea was born: “Got milk?” 

In the years to follow the CMPB produced humorous television ads reminding people of worst-case scenarios if they ran out of milk.

Later, with the help of few friends in the 90s MilkPEP’s milk mustache ad campaign was born and licensed CMPB’s catchphrase “Got Milk?”.

Source: HuffingtonPost

What makes it good?

Relatable, short, funny, and your favorite celebrity supports it. 

Starting with the television commercials. The ads were relatable speaking directly to the simple annoyance in people’s lives. What’s more, the California Milk Processor Board focused on their current customers instead of trying to acquire new ones.

Explaining why the ads consistently sold the lack of milk as a negative, although funny, experience to further encourage customers to stock up. 

Got Milk?

The results

The campaign resulted in a 7% sales increase in California, in just one year. It continued to run for 21 years, generating over 70 TV commercials in California alone and about 350 milk mustache print ads appeared all over the US.

During the campaign’s lifetime, an estimated 80% of all US consumers came into contact with the campaign at any given day.

7. Anheuser-Busch (Budweiser) – Whassup

Anheuser-Busch Commercial

 

  • Year: 1999
  • Media: Television

If you don’t know the catchphrase from the commercial you must have noticed it in Scary Movie, Friends, or on talk shows. 

This catchphrase is engraved in the early 2000’s pop culture. 

The Anheuser-Busch marketing team’s approach to advertising was to predict the next big thing by staying on top of new art forms and the underground film scene. Use of language and attitude in emerging art forms were then used to target their audiencemostly men in their 20’s and 30’s.

They approached the creative process by asking the question “would this make it on late-night talk shows?”

Source: Netimperative 

What makes it good?

The buzz!

The key element in this type of campaign is content that creates buzz. Anheuser-Busch demonstrates a brilliant creative approach to produce authentic new content for their audience. 

Content that people will talk about and make their own.

The results

The campaign helped Anheuser-Busch sell more Budweiser, as well as its light companion, Bud Light. The company’s worldwide sales grew by 3% in one year, to 99.2 million barrels sold in 2000. 

8. McDonald’s – i’m lovin it

  • Year: 2003
  • Media: Print and Television

2002 was a challenging year for McDonald’s with issues varying from employee satisfaction to stock price decline from the $40s to under $15

Customer perception was not what it had been and McDonald’s was considered irrelevant. The company had lost connection to its audience as well as franchisees. 

The brand’s advertising department recognized the need for a change. The outdated mass marketing tactics had to be put aside for something fresh. McDonald’s could no longer tell people to “take a break” or feel a certain way. 

The “I” voice was invented, allowing individuals to tell McDonald’s how they felt about the brand. 

“i’m loving it” revitalized the brand and made it relevant again. 

Source: Vice

What makes it good?

The ad campaign marked a change from mass marketing to more personalized marketing, making the brand more fitting for current times. The catchphrase represented the simple pleasures of an individual’s life and how McDonald’s was one of them. 

By adopting a more personalized advertising strategy the brand reestablished a connection with consumers, and regained employees and franchisee’s trust in the company’s leadership.

The results

Three years after the campaign launch sales had gone up and share price went from a low of $13 to $45. The slogan “i’m lovin it” reenergizing the brand that became cool and relevant. 

It became the longest living slogan for McDonald’s and is still running 18 years later. 

9. Dos Equis – The most interesting man

  • Year: 2006
  • Media: Television and pre-roll

“I don’t always drink beer, but when I do I prefer Dos Equis”.

This phrase was used by the Most interesting man in the world in every commercial. Not an option many marketers would go with as the phrase suggests the person selling the beer doesn’t always choose it. 

However, it resonated with occasional beer drinkers, an audience no one was targeting.

On the other hand, the brand managed to keep an effortless cool. The commercials were funny without trying too hard and the Man, well he was the living breathing definition of cool.

Source: MemeGenerator

What makes it good?

It’s just plain entertaining and funny, and a bit ridiculous. 

Because of its entertaining value, the people responded to it. The campaign went viral and became one of the most recognized memes in online communities. 

What is noticeably well done by the marketers is the use of the brand name in the ad. Unlike other successful ads, the brand name is actually mentioned.

The results

The campaign went viral and during a downturn for imported beer in the US, largely due to competition from craft beer, sales on Dos Equis shot up 22%! 

Total growth from 2007-2016 was 34.8%. A significant result as mass-market beer continued to feel the heat from craft breweries.

10. Coca Cola – Share a Coke 

Source: Bandt

  • Year: 2011
  • Media: Print

From mass marketing to a personalized experience!

In a world full of white noise and constant commercials, brands are increasingly aiming to connect with their audience on a more personal level. 

The Coca-Cola Company combined the old mass marketing with a more modern approach and a personal twist. This combo turned out to be a winning approach to reach teens. 

For a bigger part of the decade leading up to this campaign, the carbonated soft drink category had been facing a volume decline. This became a major concern, not to mention the lack of connection with younger generations. 

In their minds Coca Cola was their parents’ drink. 

That’s when The Coca-Cola Company created the globally successful Share a Coke campaign to increase sales and make a more personal connection with US teenagers.

Source: Coca-Cola India

What makes it good?

Two elements differentiated this campaign from the brand’s previous campaigns.

For starters, packaging became the main event and an important piece of owned media. Secondly, the company engaged teens by including social media with the hashtag #ShareaCoke. 

One of the smarter things about the campaign was the “Share a Coke” slogan that is inherently a call-to-action to buy more products. 

The results

As a result, the campaign influenced 1.25 million more teens to try Coke than the previous summer. Sales rose by 11% in the US. Making it the most successful market compared to other countries where the campaign was launched.

11. Red Bull – Red Bull Stratos

World Record Freefall

  • Year: 2012
  • Media: Internet, Live Event, Experiment

Red Bull is known for creating events that are the commercial itself. With strong ties to extreme sports, the brand has established thought leadership when it comes to extreme sports events. 

But there is always room for improvement.

The brand set out to create a global online event that would combine the interest of science, engineering, extreme sports, and even fantasy. The total budget to fund the projects was 1/10th of the annual global marketing budget ($330m).

Felix Baumgartner, an expert skydiver, was the main character of the event. He would become the first man to break the sound barrier by free-falling from the stratosphere over New Mexico – approximately 39km height. Setting one world record, and breaking two existing ones.

Bringing us the most impressive experimental brand marketing campaign of our time. 

What makes it good?

First of all, Red Bull had a captivating story that they shared with the audience during the development phase for 2 years prior the event. Building it up with social media engagement.

Secondly, the brand was working with extreme and authentic content that would change history. Not everyone has a budget to move mountains but everyone can create authentic and original content

The commercial didn’t interrupt the event, it was the event. Moreover, it did not interrupt the brand’s ideals that their drink offers to consumers – Red Bull “gives you wings”

The results

During the event, Red Bull took over the internet with 8 million people watching live and blowing up social media. 

The end result was a sales increase of 7% in the 6 months following the event amounting to $1.6bn. Not to mention the 13% increase the year after when the brand sold 5.2bn cans, and many regions doubled their figures. 

12. Sprite – Obey your thirst

Obey your thirst!

  • Year: 1994
  • Media: Television and Print

The best commercials are not always about selling things fresh from the oven. More often than not, it’s about taking a step back and rethinking the perception your product or service conveys. 

In 1992 the Coca-Cola Company found out that people didn’t want an alternative to colas that was lemon-lime. Being an alternative was the whole foundation of Sprite and the way it was advertised.

Sprite ended up being removed from the shelves until it was relaunched in 1994 and repositioned as a mainstream brand. The product was reintroduced with a strong connection to hip-hop culture and quickly resonated with urban teens and African Americans.

Source:Yummy

What makes it good?

Sprite’s ad campaign is a success story of repositioning. 

The Coca-Cola Company appealed to the younger generation by establishing a strong connection to the popular rap and hip-hop culture. The culture was known for saying things as they were which the catchphrase played into. ‘Obey your thirst’ reflected that culture of self-expression and encouraged teens to stay true to themselves.

The results

Only by changing the product’s perception did Sprite become the carbonated-beverage category’s fastest-growing brand for five years. In 2000 the drink had tripled in sales and earned its spot as the 6th most popular soft drink. 

13. Always – #likeagirl

Always #likeagirl commercial

  • Year: 2014
  • Media: Television and Internet

Always took to the drawing board when their annual Confidence and Puberty survey reported that only 19% of women in the ages 16-24 had a positive association with the expression ‘like a girl’. 

The Always #LikeAGirl ad campaign launched in June 2014 with the objective to shed a light on the power of words and how the negatively viewed phrase “like a girl” can have an impact on girls’ self-confidence. 

Up until 2014,g the focus had been on product performance, but the brand needed to change strategies to reinforce relevancy to younger generations and connect with them on an emotional level. 

The brand set out to support girls in their puberty and appeal to women of all ages by breaking a damaging stereotype and reinventing the meaning of “likeagirl”.

The ad became a Superbowl hit!

Source: PRweek

What makes it good?

The ad was a social experiment demonstrating people’s reactions when asked to “Do something like a girl”. By creating content that sparks conversation and is easily shareable the ad became not only a campaign but a social movement. With the Always logo displayed throughout, positively associating the brand with female empowerment. 

The final touch, the hashtag #likeagirl, rallied people together to change the meaning of the phrase and gave a voice to the audience that amplified the message.

The results

The brand achieved more than 85m global views on YouTube from 150+ countries with the video and was shared by more than 1.5 million people around the world. While experiencing brand equity increase by double-digit percentage

On the sustainability side of things, the ad campaign generated a positive social awareness. A study of 16-24 year old girls reported a shift from 19% of participants viewing the phrase positively to 76% saying they no longer saw the phrase in a negative light after watching the video. 

14. KFC – FCK

Source: Campaignlive

  • Year: 2018
  • Media: Print

In 2018 KFC UK ran an ad campaign after running out of chicken.

The incident was due to the decision to switch food delivery specialists. The switch didn’t go as planned and the new supplier struggled to deliver. 

The situation escalated. Some locations had to close down due to a lack of resources, including chicken, and KFC employees were taking abuse from customers because of the situation.

After things had settled down the company released a print campaign in the form of an apology. 

What makes it good?

The ad campaign stated that KFC took full responsibility for the screw-up, apologising not only to customers but also their employees. Owning their mistakes and making fun of it helped humanize the brand and the people behind it. 

The results

By acknowledging their mistake, and sprinkling it with some humor, the ad helped KFC to emerge from its ordeal without any lasting brand damage whatsoever.

15. Wendy’s – Where’s the beef?

Wendy’s campaign: Where’s the beef?

  • Year: 1984
  • Media: Television

You might know Wendy’s because of their often hilarious Tweets and social media burns. 

Source: BoredPanda

Even before social media Wendy’s sassy attitude was part of the brand’s personality

In 1984 the company ran a television campaign to bring consumers awareness to the fact that their burgers contained more meat than their better-known competitors, McDonald’s and Burger King. 

The company brought in Joe Sedelmaier, an art director known to cast everyday people in his ads and creating humorous content. 

What came out of the collaboration was an iconic television commercial featuring three older women. Two admiring the big bun in front of them, the other asking the important question “Where’s the beef?”, a catchphrase that would later have a tremendous impact on pop culture.

What makes it good?

The company took a stab at its competitors’ burgers with an entertaining approach. People remembered the catchphrase and associated it with Wendy’s because the phrase was short and simple, funny, and exaggerated the truth. 

The topical phrase went on to spark conversation and made it on late-night talk shows.

The results

The campaign paid off big time for Wendy’s as their restaurants generated 10% more sales in 1984 than they did the year before. With worldwide sales shooting up to $945 million, a whopping 31% jump, helping Wendy’s earn its place as the third-largest burger chain in the world. 

16. Greggs – The wait is over

The wait is over! 

  • Year: 2019
  • Media: Internet

The vegan sausage that became an internet sensation. 

Greggs, a down to earth bakery chain, responded to their consumers’ demands after getting a signed petition, requesting a vegan roll. 

The bakery released it after one year of testing. The launch of the vegan roll would not have been anything special if not for the company’s killer social media campaign. 

On January 3rd, 2019 the bakery shared the ‘iphone launch-like’ video ad on social media with the caption “The wait is over”. 

This pompous, self-absorbed campaign by the low key bakery paid off and even captured Piers Morgan’s attention. 

That tweet that helped the brand gain more media attention

What makes it good?

The ad was obviously supposed to be funny and exceeded in that role. 

By adopting a style from the tech industry, the brand differentiated itself apart from the average warm and homey baked goods ads. The tone of voice also complemented the “we’re awesome” attitude, creating a complete new image of the brand. 

The decision to take to social media was a great one as people could get involved and boost what turned out to become an online fanfare. 

The results

The publicity surrounding the vegan roll boosted the number of shoppers in the bakeries, making it hard for the bakery to keep up with demand. Sales grew by 10% and Greggs reported three times in the following three months that annual profits would be higher than expected.

Old but Gold: De Beers – A diamond is forever

Source: BBC

  • Year: 1940s
  • Media: Print, Television

We couldn’t leave this gem (pun intended) out of the list.

Ever wondered why you needed a diamond ring for marriage? Because an ad campaign said so!

The jewellery cartel De Beers successfully presented the idea that a diamond ring was a necessary luxury. Not all companies thrived in the Great Depression, and De Beers was one of those unlucky ones. Until they came up with the idea to connect their product, a diamond ring, with a common life event, engagement. 

The idea became embedded in Western Culture and continues to live on today. 

What makes it good?

The company used traditional marketing to create an idea that a diamond ring was an investment for life, just like marriage. By connecting the two, De Beers created what later became a cultural norm. A proposal with a diamond ring. 

The results

At the beginning of World War II, only 10% of engagement rings contained diamonds. By the end of the 20th century, this proportion had reached 80%.

Not only did the advertising campaign increase the amount of diamond rings sold, but also the amount spent on a ring. The latter was established by suggesting that two months salary should be spent on an engagement ring. One print ad showed a woman with a diamond ring with the caption “Two months’ salary showed the future Mrs Smith what the future would be like.” 

Genius right?

What can you learn from these ads?

What these ad campaigns have in common is their ability to spark emotion amongst people. Whether you aim to bring entertainment and laughter, start a conversation, empowering individuals, or educating them, create authentic ads that resonate with your audience. 

In cases where the situation is more bleak you may need to acknowledge that your “brand” may not be a brand at all. Looking at Sprite and Milk, two very uninteresting products that were revamped. Not by changing the look or content of the bottle but by rethinking consumers’ perceptions, and establishing a new image in people’s minds. 

If your company in fact lacks a brand, learn from Greggs. If your brand doesn’t have a strong brand image don’t be afraid to play around with it and include humor. Your audience may just take care of the rest.

The key element that has changed through the years is the move to more personalized experiences. Coke put a personal twist on its owned media and Old Spice became a social media sensation, both connecting with their audience on a more personal note.

Finally, it doesn’t hurt to have loads of cash in your pockets and resources to span 7 year research like Red Bull – but we can’t have it all.

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