What does it take to create an advertising campaign that resonates with its audience, goes viral or even changes opinion permanently?
This question got me thinking there must be something to learn here, so I went out and researched the best advertising campaigns of all time to answer this question.
Whether the magic formula is clever branding, a message that connects emotionally, Catchy slogans or just good timing lets take a look at some of the best advertising campaigns of all time.
1. Just do it
Wieden+Kennedy – Nike
It was in an advertising agency meeting in 1988 that Dan Wieden of Wieden+Kennedy introduced the “Just do it” slogan to Nike which was inspired by the famous last words of Gary Gilmore before being executed by a firing squad in 1977: “Let’s do it.”
The same year the slogan was created Nike ran an extremely successful advertising campaign that recruited a variety of individuals from all walks of life and in addition many prominent athletes.
The purpose was to endorse the Nike brand as being dependable not only to the average Joe but also to athletes on a professional level.
Nike not only outperformed its rival Reebok with the campaign but also increased its sales substantially.
The new slogan and advertising campaign marked Nike’s image as a revolutionary brand connected with success via the amalgamation of professional athletes and motivational mottos that promoted sportsmanship, health, wellbeing and the pursuit of greatness.
2. Share a Coke
With the ‘Share a Coke’ campaign Coca-Cola’s goal was to appeal to the individual. The advertising campaign began in Australia in 2011 with personalized bottles and cans of Coke that had the country’s most popular names printed on them.
The initial campaign in Australia enabled Coca-Cola to sell more than 250 million named bottles and cans that summer alone in a nation of only 23 million residents these are impressive figures.
Later on, the advertising campaign was run in multiple other countries with different variations across the globe. #ShareaCoke online has also been a global success with hundreds of thousands of images being shared across platforms from the company’s customer base.
3. Marlboro Man
Leo Burnett Worldwide – Marlboro
The Marlboro Man campaign was created in 1954 with a goal of masculinizing filtered cigarettes which at the time were thought of as being feminine. Before The Marlboro Man campaign, Marlboro had been promoting their filtered cigarette products with the slogan “Mild as May” to a female audience. Within a few months, the campaign had transformed the perception of the brand from feminine to masculine.
Marlboro achieved this by using an array of masculine models such as a Navy Lieutenant, cowboys and the Andy Armstrong character.
The campaign was a huge success for Marlboro, initially before the campaign started Marlboro’s sales were at $5 billion, 3 years later the company had increased sales by over 300% to over $20 billion.
4. A Diamond is Forever
Mary Frances Gerety – De Beers
It could be said that the De beers “A diamond is forever” campaign invented the modern-day engagement ring as the majority of today’s rings include a diamond. The slogan was originally coined by Frances Gerety from NW Ayer in 1947 to increase falling sales in diamonds bought on by the great depression.
The slogan since its introduction has become a globally recognizable term and has been used in every De Beers ad since 1948 with Advertising Age naming it as the slogan of the 20th century in 1999.
5. Get a Mac
TBWA\Media Arts Lab – Apple
The “Get a Mac” campaign created by TBWA\Media Arts La was a television campaign that ran from 2006 to 2009 in multiple different countries including the UK and USA. The goal of the campaign was to promote the Apple Mac as being a superior product when compared to its weak counterparts with its main adversary being Microsoft Windows-based machines.
The campaign was a huge success for Apple that sold an additional 200,000 units in the first month alone with an increase in sales over the first year of 39%.
6. Think Small
Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB) – Volkswagen
Volkswagen’s “Think Small” advertising campaign was developed by Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB) in 1959 to promote the sales of Volkswagen Beetles to the American public.
This was no easy feat as at the time the vehicles the American public were buying were big bold and stylish. On the other hand, the VW Beatle was a small cheap car from Germany with ties to Hitler, not exactly a good start.
The campaign gained its success by focusing on the usability, longevity and build quality of the vehicle in complete contradiction to the fantasy that was being used to sell current cars at that time.
The small imagery used in its print campaigns signified the simplicity of the cars and drew attention to the print. This honesty in the campaigns about what the car was led to VW becoming an iconic American success story and ultimately changed the way cars were advertised going forward.
7. Thank You, Mom!
Procter & Gamble
For their 2010 Olympic advertising campaign P&G took an emotional approach by portraying the relationship of world-class athletes and their mothers as a key factor in the success of their children in adulthood.
The purpose of the campaign was to unite P&G’s many brands under one voice as an authentic global presence.
The slogan, “P&G, Proud sponsor of Moms” was used throughout the campaign that also coincided with an extensive support package for Mum’s of athletes including flying USA mothers to the Olympics and creating the P&G family home.
The result was a campaign that surpassed any previous campaigns in terms of success with 76 billion global impressions in media and a $500 million increase in P&G sales.
8. Smell Like a Man
Wieden+Kennedy – Old Spice
“Smell like a man” or “The man your man could smell like” as it is commonly known was created by Wieden+Kennedy in 2010. The “Old Spice Man” featured in the advert was played by actor Isaiah Mustafa.
The initial campaign was to promote their body wash range namely the Old Spice Red Zone Body Wash but was later extended to other products.
The target audience for the campaign was females even though the product was a male based product as it was recognized that 60% of body wash buying was done by females. The idea was simple to create conversion amongst couples.
The video was later followed up with a response campaign that involved filming a multitude of video responses based on social media questions they had curated form the internet. These videos were then uploaded to YouTube which led to the campaign topping the charts as the biggest interactive advertising campaign in history.
Ultimately the campaign was a huge success for Old Spice who doubled sales of its Old Spice Red Zone Body Wash, gained global brand awareness and the campaign would later be named as one of the top campaigns of the 21st century.
9. Like a Girl
Procter & Gamble / Leo Burnett – Always
Advertising campaigns in the Always product line and getting people to engage and share was always going to be a difficult task which would take a certain level of ingenuity to succeed.
The campaign’s success was based on the idea of empowering women and removing the stigma commonly associated with women being weaker at sports than men. The campaigns target audience was 16 to 24-year old’s and they were initially targeted using social media with the hashtag #LikeAGirl and later in a TV advert.
The campaign was a huge success with over 90 million video views, and over 4000% increase in YouTube subscribers and a lift in brand preference by over 50%.
10. Campaign for Real Beauty
Unilever – Dove
The Campaign for Real Beauty by Dove was launched by Unilever in 2004 and was a multifaceted campaign that included videos, events, a book and various workshops.
The focus of the campaign was the consumer as appose to the product. The goal was simple: to increase self-esteem and body confidence in women by highlighting that many images in the public domain are not real and have had a large amount of airbrushing and various other editing techniques done to them before publication.
The campaign received mixed responses from different audiences but ultimately led to an over 700% increase in sales, and aligned the brand closer to their target audience.
So, What Makes a Great Advertising Campaign?
When looking through the list there are certain consistencies with the different advertising campaigns that have allowed them to become successful, here are a few that stick out:
The campaign needs to research its audience and have a clear understanding of their wants and needs to engage on an emotional level with them.
Many of the campaigns in the list were shown during big events to gain maximum exposure, however correct timing of the campaign is an important factor with some campaign’s being wholly dependent on reacting to events or timing of competitors product releases.
Solve a Problem or Highlight an Injustice
A great way to get your target audience involved is to create a campaign that solves a problem and brings attention to it. Many of the campaigns in the list have used this tactic with great success. When people feel empathy with a subject matter, they are much more likely to engage with the campaign.
Self Image Association
Associating your brand or product to a certain image of oneself is an age-old standard in advertising. If you can make people feel that by using your product or brand that are improving their wellbeing you are on to a winning formula.