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Eleven of the Best Ad Campaigns

Of course we can’t officially say that these are the absolute best campaigns of all-time because 1. “All-time” hasn’t happened, yet, and 2. This is just one opinion. What we can say is that these are the types of campaigns that inspired us the most after racking our brains and scouring the internet for research.

To us, a successful campaign doesn’t just bump up sales, but it changes the way people see your product. Each one of these campaigns made an enormous social impact and here’s why:

11. De Beers: Diamonds Are Forever (N.W. Ayer)

De Beers’ “A Diamond is Forever” campaign deeply affected the demand for diamonds by convincing people that diamonds are rare and an invaluable symbol of love. It also sent the message that size matters: the size of the diamond directly proportionate to the size of your love. Additionally, by stating that diamonds are forever, N.W. Ayer and De Beers deterred people from reselling their diamonds, an act that would reveal the true value of a diamond. Over 60 years have passed since the campaign, and De Beers still remains a major player in the Diamond industry and the idea that diamonds represent love prevails.

10. Old Spice: The Man Your Man Could Smell Like (Wieden+Kennedy Portland)

In 2010 Old Spice launched a campaign that immediately went viral, and most importantly, it captured the attention of women. In their research, the team at Wieden+Kennedy found that women were responsible for most of the body wash purchases, so they needed to get women to start buying Old Spice for their husbands, boyfriends, brothers, and in some cases, for themselves. This campaign was extremely successful because they kept the idea simple, added humour to it, and released it at a time when viral videos had started gaining traction. Instead of changing the conversation, this campaign encouraged people to do what they were already doing: comment and share.

9. Mailchimp (Droga5)

Capitalizing on a mispronunciation of “Mailchimp” as “MailKimp” on the podcast Serial, Droga5 created three eccentric videos for MailChimp’s first major ad campaign. You might wonder why three short films that don’t make any logical sense gained so much attention. The goal was simple: to introduce MailChimp to the world. This campaign was light-hearted, charming, and showcased the company’s character and creativity in a unique way. These short films later became part of a bigger campaign run by Droga5 called “Did you mean MailChimp?”, completely based on random words that rhymed with MailChimp.

8. Red Bull: Stratos

Red Bull’s Stratos project was not called an advertising campaign, rather it was an example of Red Bull exhibiting typical brand behaviour. The company is well known for their sports endorsements and thinking up crazy stunts, as well as following through with them. This event was broadcast live with 52 million views, making it the most viewed live-stream in history (at that time). The jump itself broke world records and resulted in an increase of 7% in sales within six months in the US.

7. Apple: Mac vs. PC (TBWA\Worldwide)

This was a campaign that could have gone wrong in every way, had the timing and tone of voice not been right. Apple took the opportunity of PC users’ Windows Vista woes and aired a series of commercials featuring John Hodgman (PC) and Justin Long (Mac) who were competitive, but remained kind to each other. Apple got away with this campaign because they captured the exact tone that allowed the ads to point out PC’s flaws without bullying them. It captured the attention of consumers and contributed to the shift in comparative ad culture, by doing it in a way that was entertaining. It also helped that Apple only ran the commercials for a short period of time, pulling them from the air before they overstayed their welcome.

6. Volvo Live Test (Forsman & Bodenfors - Sweden)

This campaign definitely deserves a place on this list because it made B2B marketing fun. The video features an adorable 4-year-old girl, Sophie, driving the truck via remote control and plowing it through buildings, water obstacles, making donuts, and even flipping it. The ad is not only captivating, but it shows off the product’s new features under, shall we say, rather difficult driving conditions. By using accessible language, this campaign was successful in reaching a very broad audience while staying relevant to the targeted market.

5. Under Armour - I Will What I Want (Droga5)

Just after Lululemon’s see-through pants recall and their CEO’s female body shaming comments, Under Armour rebranded themselves as a company that empowered female athletes everywhere. This campaign was about shattering body image stereotypes and giving women a voice.

4. Poo-Pouri / Squatty Potty (Harmon Brothers)

Maybe it’s just us, but no matter how old we get, poo will always be funny, which is exactly why the Harmon Brothers nailed these ads. By combining brand advertising with infomercial-style videos (that were funny), Squatty Potty and Poo-Pourri quickly went viral, leading to a massive increase in brand awareness and sales for both companies.

3. Airbnb #LIVETHERE (TBWA\Chiat\Day - American division of TBWA\Worldwide)

This ad, aimed at young travellers, focused on those who wanted to have authentic local experiences and avoid tourist traps. Airbnb wanted their brand to push against traditional tourism and demonstrate the idea of living in a place rather than just going there. In addition to the short video, Airbnb also released updates to their app featuring guidebooks that are filled by locals to help travellers adapt to local culture.

2. Dove: Real Beauty Sketches (Ogilvy & Mather Toronto)

In a short film of a trained FBI sketch artist drew portraits based on women’s own perceptions of themselves and then based on a stranger’s perception, Dove drove the point home that women are often too critical of themselves. The video was uploaded in 25 languages and seen in 110 countries. The day of the campaign launch saw the highest amount of shares in history. Dove was giving people a reason to share the video and to become a part of a female empowerment movement that has been building for a long time, by attempting to change the way the world judges “beauty”.

1. Dumb Ways to Die (McCann Melbourne)

Years after this video was released, we can still say this is our favourite. McCann took this project pitch and created a video that is the definition of going above and beyond an assignment. It wasn’t just a PSA about train safety, but it was pure, enjoyable content with funny animation and a catchy song that created a story. One of the hardest tasks in advertising is, “How do we get this message across while making it enjoyable?” McCann took a depressing message and turned it into something joyful and shareable, reminding us every day not to do something stupid.

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