A good advertisement is one of the best ways to promote your product or service. What makes a great ad campaign is hard to judge – some are memorable for a catchy jingle, or a funny premise, or (on some occasions) for simply being totally bizarre.
In this list, we’ll count down 18 of the best ads and ad campaigns of all time, looking at the greatest examples of marketing teams that really deserve a raise!
So let’s jump right in!
18 Of The Best Ads Of All Time
1. “The Cog” – Honda
One of the most famous and creative ads ever made, Honda created this 2-minute masterpiece to promote their new Accord model line.
Filmed as one extended shot, a single rolling cog sets off a massive chain reaction of the car’s parts, eventually building to the completed car.
Despite its length and near-complete lack of music or speech, The Cog still managed to come out as one of the most successful and effective ads of the entire 2000s, and has received more awards than any other ad campaign ever created.
Not bad for one cog, right?
2. “Just Do It” – Nike
Sometimes picking the right slogan is half the battle for an advertising campaign. When Nike introduced their “Just Do It” tagline in 1988, it kicked off one of the most prominent and successful ad campaigns of all time.
“Just Do It” isn’t just Nike’s slogan, however – it’s a core tenet of the Nike brand. Meant to inspire anyone of all ages and genders to get into fitness, as well as to promote Nike as footwear both in and outside the context of fitness.
3. “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” – Old Spice
One of the most iconic ad campaigns ever made, this series of ads from Old Spice are famous for their randomness and smooth editing.
The rapid-fire script, enigmatic delivery from Isiah Mustafah, and absurd nature of the original ad made it an overnight sensation, and subsequent ads in the campaign just doubled down on the original’s premise.
Not only that, but following the first ad, Old Spice released almost 200 short and personalized videos in response to comments and posts on various social media platforms.
This interactive style of advertising was incredibly successful, and more than a decade after the original ad’s release you can still find plenty of parodies and spoofs that capitalize on the ad’s success!
4. “Gorilla” – Cadbury
A drum kit. Phil Collins. A gorilla. Not the first three things you’d associate with a chocolate brand, but definitely a recipe for an unforgettable ad.
With the full version lasting almost 4 and a half minutes, this bizarre but brilliant ad is the perfect example of how the product doesn’t necessarily need to be the focus of an ad – in fact, there isn’t so much as a crumb of chocolate in the entire ad!
Starting with close-ups of a gorilla as Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight plays, the camera pans out to reveal a drum kit just in time for the gorilla to launch into the song’s iconic drum riff.
Almost beautiful in its simplicity, “Gorilla” is definitely one of the most memorable ads out there.
5. “1984” – Apple
The Apple Macintosh changed the world of computing forever upon its release in 1984, and helped kick-start the rise of the personal computer as a household staple.
Set in the oppressive world of George Orwell’s dystopian novel of the same name, this ad was intended to promote the Macintosh as a way for anyone to have access to computer technology (which was previously reserved primarily for the tech sector).
The ad’s final line – “On January 24th, Apple will introduce the Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984” – was an effective finish to a brilliant ad. And judging by Apple’s position today, it definitely worked!
6. “The Bottle” – Absolut
By far one of the most prolific ad campaigns ever made, “The Bottle” was a series of ads made by vodka brand Absolut from 1980 to 2015. Based on the brand’s iconic bottle shape, these ads feature everyday scenes where the bottle is a part of the natural surroundings.
Comprising a whopping 1500 separate ads, “The Bottle” is the single longest-running ad campaign of all time. From New York cabs to an ancient Greek temple, and even a set of prints by Andy Warhol, the Absolut bottle has been absolutely everywhere!
7. “Got Milk?” – California Milk Processor Board
When the California Milk Processor Board was looking for a way to promote milk and dairy consumption, they came up with “got milk?”. Little did they know that they would spark one of the most famous taglines ever, with dozens of TV and print ads along with countless parodies.
In addition to its explosion in popularity, “got milk?” was also successful at its intended goal – following on from the campaign’s introduction in 1993, milk sales in California increased by 7% in just a year!
8. “FCK” – KFC
Ads aren’t always used to promote a product – sometimes, they’re the best way for a company to respond to a failure on their part. Take, for example, this shining example of a PR team working overtime to shine a humorous light on a less-than-laughable situation!
In early 2018, KFC branches in the UK ran out of chicken; considering KFC’s position as a fried chicken restaurant, this wasn’t a great spot for them to be in!
So considering this embarrassing slip, KFC would really have to deliver with their response – so that’s exactly what they did. This full-page newspaper ad featured one of the chain’s iconic buckets with the letters rearranged to ‘FCK’.
We’ll let you figure out the meaning for yourself, but given KFC’s continued success it’s safe to say that this simple apology worked for the best!
9. “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” – Snickers
The successor to Snickers’ similarly famous “Get Some Nuts” campaign, this ad campaign is a case study in how humor and celebrity endorsements are a great combination when it comes to advertising.
Starring celebrities such as Betty White, Mr. Bean, and Joe Pesci, these ads center Snickers as a substantial snack to give you a boost of energy and get you back on track.
Their simplicity and often absurd humor paid off, and the “You’re not you when you’re hungry” tagline is now one of the most recognizable slogans out there.
10. “Go Compare” – GoCompare
Ads can be memorable for all sorts of reasons, good and bad. This series of ads from the insurance comparison site GoCompare is a mix of the two.
Featuring real-life opera singer Wynne Evans playing a character known as Gio Compario (or ‘The GoCompare Guy’, these ads are most well-known for their earworm jingle.
Not everyone was a fan of these ads – or more specifically, the song. This didn’t stop GoCompare from featuring the singer in their ads, however; in fact, it was quite the opposite!
Following the backlash against the character, GoCompare shifted their strategy and ran another series of ads where the GoCompare Guy was killed off in various ways – from being blown up by tennis player Sue Barker to being sucked into a wormhole made by Stephen Hawking.
Despite the jingle’s unpopularity, GoCompare has grown to one of the biggest price comparison sites out there!
Sometimes a personal touch works best in advertising. Coca-Cola took this concept to the next level with their “Share A Coke” campaign.
Here, bottles of Coca-Cola were labeled “Share a Coke with…” followed by one of the 150 most popular baby names in the US.
On top of that, you could also order a custom bottle from Coca-Cola’s website, or you could visit a pop-up stall in some supermarkets where you could get a custom label printed!
12. “A Diamond Is Forever” – The De Beers Group
Few ad slogans reach the level of ubiquity that their origins in an ad are almost forgotten.
But when jewelers The De Beers Group declared that “A Diamond Is Forever” in a 1948 ad campaign, it didn’t just create one of the most memorable slogans of all time – it almost single-handedly established diamond rings as a staple of the wedding industry.
That’s right – it’s thanks to a 70+ year-old ad campaign that diamond rings are the standard jewelry for proposals!
This ad is also what created the ‘two-month salary’ rule for an engagement ring, suggesting that this is fairly inexpensive compared to the longevity of diamonds and the sentimental value of the ring.
13. “Wassup?” – Budweiser
The Super Bowl is one of the most lucrative advertisement opportunities out there, and Budweiser put their slot in the 2000 Super Bowl to good use with this iconic commercial!
Featuring a group of friends greeting each other on a group phone call with “WASSUP?”, this hilarious ad just keeps getting funnier as more people join the call.
Spawning countless parodies and becoming a pop culture staple overnight, “Wassup?” showcased the best of drinking culture – friendship, laughter, and absurdity!
14. “#LikeAGirl” – Always
A good ad doesn’t just have to promote a product or service – sometimes they can also be used to champion a larger cause. This ad, which originally ran during the 2015 Super Bowl, did just that.
#LikeAGirl is meant to challenge the way women and girls are seen in sports, particularly the negative connotations of playing ‘like a girl’ that treat girls as less than their male counterparts.
Always didn’t just create this ad campaign to show girls that their way is just as good as boy’s, but to show everyone that doing something #LikeAGirl is something to be proud of.
15. “Frying Pan” – PDFA
While more of a PSA than an ad, this iconic anti-drug PSA from Partnership for a Drug-Free America nonetheless still holds its status as one of the most memorable PSAs of all time.
“Frying Pan” is short and simple, with a clear message that stuck in the mind of practically every child of the 70s and 80s. It opens with a man holding an egg, saying “This is your brain”, before gesturing to the eponymous frying pan and saying “This is drugs.
He then cracks the egg into the frying pan and fries it.
While there were several remakes of this PSA, the first version with its iconic line “This is your brain on drugs. Any question?” is the one that would stick with most people for decades to come.
16. The Christmas Ad Campaign – John Lewis & Partners
Every year in the run-up to Christmas, British retailer John Lewis releases a heartwarming, sentimental advert. Starting in 2009, these ads have become almost a Christmas tradition in the UK and a sign that the festive season has started.
Famous for their emotional stories and slowed-down song covers, these ads have become a big part of Christmas in the UK and are eagerly awaited every year.
17. “Where’s The Beef?” – Wendy’s
This 1984 ad from Wendy’s kick started a cultural phenomenon with one simple question – where’s the beef?
Wendy’s have always been known for taking shots at other restaurants as part of their marketing strategy, and “Where’s The Beef?” is no different.
Starring a trio of elderly women ordering a burger from a fast food restaurant, they are dismayed when the massive bun is hiding a tiny patty – hence the question: where’s the beef?
Showing Wendy’s superiority when it comes to their burger size, this ad (and the question it asked) became a massive hit and became a classic pop culture catchphrase overnight.
18. “Dumb Ways To Die” – Metro Trains
Another PSA, this time regarding safety around trains, Australian Metro Trains hit it out of the park with this catchy musical number.
Featuring a series of ‘dumb ways to die’, including poking a bear with a stick and eating a tube of superglue, the ad then brings the focus to train safety.
The original ad has racked up almost 250 million views on Youtube, along with multiple parodies and even a series of mobile games!
Whether they’re funny, catchy, or downright bizarre, a great ad campaign can be memorable for all sorts of reasons.
These 18 ads are all perfect examples of the ways that ads can be successful, and just go to show that something as simple as a billboard or commercial can have a massive impact when it comes to promoting a product.
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