10 Top Advertising Campaigns & Why They Work


Keeping up to date with advertising trends keeps you informed of the current ‘mood’ and feeds ideas for your own advertising and marketing.

Just like memes on social media, it’s common to see threads and trends develop and it’s important to keep track to influence your own marketing and digital marketing efforts.

Here, you’ll find some of the top advertising campaigns from the last 12 months and reviewing how and why they worked.

First, what makes an ad effective?

Brand Messaging In 2022

Post pandemic, there has been a real shift in marketing messages, and most brands are embracing sustainability and authenticity.

Real stories, strong moral stance, and contribution are all essential values for brands to project.

However, be wary of jumping on tropes and trends just to be part of a movement.

Unless you are genuinely authentic, this can backfire and social media does not hold back to call out anyone who seeks to profiteer from a movement.

Retailer John Lewis in the U.K. faced considerable backlash for their 2021 Christmas campaign of “Let Life Happen,” featuring a young boy in a dress and makeup rampaging through the house.

It failed to hit the message of being inclusive about gender fluidity, and instead was derided for their off-brand middle-class efforts.

In contrast, a brand that managed to positively confront the perception of sexism in its historic advertisements was Budweiser.

By recreating their 60s ads from a current gender equality perspective, Budweiser sent a clear message that they were tackling cultural changes in attitude head-on by embracing their past – a more authentic way for a brand to suddenly change lanes.

How To Create An Effective Ad In 2022

Connecting with an audience in 2022 is all about being credible, unique, and memorable. And, brands need to position themselves carefully, with consideration to nuanced shifts in culture.

To create effective adverts that will resonate with an audience in a post-pandemic world, follow these rules:

A Simple Message

Basic rules of advertising dictate that your message should be understood quickly and easily.

In the ’80s, we had a trend of cinematically beautiful adverts that bordered on the surreal and often left you wondering what it was all about.

Today, make sure your advert has a strong central message.

Emotive

As Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said but not how you made them feel.”

Emotion creates stronger brand recall and will make someone feel connected to a brand.

Aligned With Your Audience

Put your audiences’ needs front and center of your messaging. Address what they want and what they need. Not what you need.

Aligned With Brand Values

In today’s culture, having strong values is essential for brands that want to build long-term connections with an audience.

Making a stand for your values shows that you care, and this is essential to connect with younger audiences who are the future.

Aligned With Your Brand Positioning

More than anything, be clear and consistent with who your brand is.

If you do want to tackle current trends and any societal issues, then make sure that you do it aligned with who you are and not trying to suddenly pivot in a forced and obvious manner.

Authentic

Switched-on audiences can detect a brand trying to take advantage of a cultural issue. It’s a brutal takedown on social media for a brand that gets it wrong and is considered inauthentic.

Memorable

The fundamental law of all advertising. Brands use shock, comedy, twists and sometimes distaste to stand out and be remembered. The Burger King Moldy Whopper is a visual you will not forget.

Check Out These 10 Effective Ads From 2021

1. Draw Ketchup, Heinz

Heinz Ketchup in Canada ran a campaign that perfectly illustrates the power of brand recall.

In an inspired meta approach, they used brand recall to show their brand dominance to affirm more brand recall.

Heinz achieved this by conducting a social experiment. Without revealing who the experiment was for, they asked random people around the world to illustrate the word ‘ketchup’.

Of course, all the results show Heinz ketchup bottles (except one guy who drew mustard!).

The naivety of the illustrations connects to a sentiment of nostalgia and encourages the viewer of the advert to mentally picture what ketchup means to them.

A brilliant example of user-generated content, offline. This is a memorable campaign that taps emotion.

2. The Return, Jif® Peanut Butter

“The Return” hits several metrics of what makes a good advert.

First of all, the team at Publicis who conducted the campaign defined the Jif audience as Millennials, and that rap music is a top music genre for this generation.

Partnering with a rapper like Ludacris creates a brand association with an influencer that resonates with rap-loving Millennials.

The Publicis team conducted social listening research and found that the new styles of rap sounded like the rappers had a mouthful of peanut butter. This led to the perfect connection of how to develop a narrative for their ad.

The advert was also promoted with a TikTok campaign challenge using the hashtag #JifRapChallenge.

“The Return” uses a nuanced blend of humor with an audience-relevant influencer in a memorable way.

3. Introducing The Icelandverse, Visit Iceland

“Icelandverse” by the tourism board for Iceland is the perfect example of how to jack a current trend.

Following Facebook’s “Introducing Meta” infomercial, “Icelandverse” was a fast-response spoof video that perfectly captured the incredulous sentiment to the ‘Meta’ brand announcement.

Within just five days of the Facebook ad, “Icelandverse” was launched and has achieved over 1.8million views on YouTube.

The narrative for the video is “a revolutionary approach on how to connect with our world without being super weird.”

It trades a comparison between the features of Iceland and the Metaverse. You can connect with humans (you are human, right?); skies you can see with your eyeballs; caress volcanic rocks.

The slightly “odd” main character and the awkwardness of the film offer a brilliant satirization of Zuckerberg to hit the overall sentiment online in response to the Facebook leader. The subtle humor is perfectly timed and is an example of just what can be achieved in only five days.

“Icelandverse” is certainly memorable and offers an example of how jacking current trends is a strategy that even small brands can use to get significant viral exposure.

4. End Plastic Waste, Stan Smith For Adidas Original

“It’s not easy being green,” famously said Kermit the Frog, who narrates the voiceover to this Adidas commercial.

As climate change and a theme of sustainability are now essential brand values for fashion brands that want to reach the younger demographics, Adidas has responded with an update on their iconic Stan Smith trainers.

The advert featuring Kermit and Stan Smith taps into the current focus on environmental issues combined with the history of the brand. Combining the nostalgic with the modern is always a strong hook for advertising.

It might not be easy being green, but it is even harder to produce an advert that can trade on serious issues without appearing condescending or inauthentic.

Adidas has tapped authenticity perfectly whilst at the same time managing to get on a level with Gen Z. They have ticked alignment with brand values and their audience, combined with an emotive and inspiring short film.

5. ScissorHandsFree, Cadillac

Who is the target audience for Cadillac? The grown-up Gen Xs who fondly remember the surreal beauty of 1991 “Edward Scissorhands.”

In advertising, the nostalgia for things from your teens and early years is always a hook for connection, especially for the middle-aged and older.

In “ScissorHandsFree,” the main character can enjoy the thrill of driving on the open road, even though he has scissors for hands. What a way to sell the benefits of hands-free driving!

The advert which is a follow-on from the original film also manages to interweave current themes of diversity and inclusivity.

Cadillac has managed to align itself with current social themes, tap into nostalgia, align with their demographic, and create a stunning memorable experience all in one advert.

Take note, those with budgets that can hire Winona Ryder and Timothée Chalamet, this is how it’s done.

6. Fumble, iPhone 12

Yet another advert from Apple that has great timing, great editing, and leaves you a little breathless.

Apple is the master of minimalism which they extend to all their campaigns with simple messaging.

Trading on the phone’s selling feature of the ceramic shield, the ad puts the durability of the phone at the center of the message in a clear and memorable way.

The music by Nitin Sawhney contributes to the panic and urgency of trying not to drop a phone.

So simple and perfectly aligned with Apple brand values.

7. Last Year’s Lemons, Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade

When the pandemic happened, at first, brands were paralyzed and unsure of how to proceed.

We then had a burst of ads with a homemade feel that drew on the total shock and emotion of what the world was experiencing.

Two years down the line, the pandemic is now so seamlessly part of life, we are so over it.

Just when we thought we couldn’t take any more pandemic-related advertising, Bud Light steps in with the perfect cultural reference of “when you get lemons, you make lemonade.”

In a brilliant narrative of an apocalyptic event where it starts raining lemons, Bud Light manages to tap into the total chaos of the last two years in a wonderfully bittersweet sentiment.

The last throwaway line also perfectly echoes how we are now so burnt out with the pandemic.

Perfectly aligned with social sentiment, audience, and brand positioning.

8. Meet The King, Jimmy John’s

Aligning with celebrities and fictional classics translates to trading off the success forged by these real and fictional characters.

You could call it success-jacking or value-jacking. It’s why celebrities charge so much for endorsements.

Of course, not everyone can afford to make a Goodfellas-style short film. But, it is possible to leverage this technique by understanding your audience and using cultural references they respect.

In this case, Jimmy John’s did have the budget for a short film aired in the coveted Super Bowl slot.

With a hint of humor and a lot of Goodfellas-style direction, this ad provides a brand positioning and alignment with a certain audience.

Creating the narrative around the product makes sure the brand and product are at the forefront.

9. The Ad Where Nothing Happens, Progressive Insurance

In another post-pandemic reference, Progressive Insurance chooses not to make a flashy advert to give people a break from the events of the last few years. “People have been through a lot.”

Well-written and perfectly hits the current sentiment of burnout.

Progressive Insurance clearly knows their demographic as they also throw in the brilliant cultural reference to an aged NSYNC that only someone who grew up in the 90s would get.

A simple message delivered dressed up as a basic advert that is nuanced with subtle humor.

10. Jessica Long’s Story, Toyota

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Saving the tear-jerker for last. The power of the inspiring story.

This advert taps into current themes of diversity and inclusivity combined with the hero’s journey.

Toyota shows the real-life story of an athlete that represents how anyone can overcome, even if their “life is not always easy.” The perfect antidote to shake us out of any lingering post-pandemic self-pity. It hits social sentiment perfectly.

The advert does feel like something Nike would make, but Toyota is a sponsor for the Olympic team.

Rather than selling a product, Toyota is using the alignment of positioning with those who work hard to overcome difficulties to succeed in life.

A memorable advert that defies anyone to not cry and affirms the Toyota brand values.

Takeaway For 10 Best Advertising Campaigns

What these 10 examples of top advertising campaigns show is that there are several ways to approach a memorable ad:

  • Use humor or strong emotion.
  • Use cultural references.
  • Use current social sentiment.
  • Trend-jack other brands and adverts.

And sometimes, it’s just reaffirming the established dominance of the brand in a way that respects its audience and shows authenticity.

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Featured Image: LuckyN/Shutterstock





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10 Top Advertising Campaigns & Why They Work
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