Who knew 2016’s canniest advertising campaign would consist of just three simple words, pinned to the price of a one-way ticket to LA?
Digital marketing experts estimate that the average American is exposed to around 4,000 to 10,000 advertisements every day. So what was it about Norwegian Airline’s simple campaign that made it spread like wildfire on social media?
Cashing in on a news story that was making headlines?
The playful nature of the copy?
Or was it that they created, designed, and released the campaign within 72 hours of the news breaking?
Brangelina aside, the ad got us thinking. With so many adverts floating past unnoticed, what does it take to create a campaign that really sticks in our minds?
We asked some of our friends. The brains behind the marketing departments at companies like Buffer and Zapier. And it turns out that everyone has that one disruptive campaign etched in their memory.
Whether it’s down to a heartfelt message, a funny script, or plain old clever branding, here are the 15 campaigns that made marketing history.
1. The “Real Beauty” campaign, Dove
“My favorite campaign was when Dove had an FBI sketch artist draw a woman from how she described herself, and then from how a complete stranger described that same woman. The drawings were completely different, and Dove shared a compelling statistic that only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful.”
Kim Kadiyala , Marketer at Zapier “I love the dialogs in Skittles’ ads. It’s a little awkward, sometimes even aggressive, but it’s the perfect balance of strangeness and sarcasm. When you watch their ads, you feel many different emotions at once. It really grabs your attention.” Aiste Lenartaviciute , Marketer at MailerLite 3. The “ Wassup” campaign, Budweiser “I was in fifth grade when this campaign came out, so it was peak timing in terms of my immature sense of humor. I remember the commercial became really popular among my friends. We’d all answer the phone with a ridiculous ‘wassssup.” Alex Birkett , Growth Marketer and Content Strategist at ConversionXL 4. “The Future’s Bright, The Future’s Orange” campaign, Orange
“Orange is a European cell provider that was expanding into Thailand. They blanketed Bangkok in billboards with black and white photos, with just a touch of orange. Next to the photos was the phrase ‘The future’s bright, the future’s orange.’ They didn’t say what the ads were for, so you were left wondering. A few weeks later, they replaced the photos with adverts for the Orange cell network.”
Matthew Guay , Content Marketer at Zapier
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5. The “Colour Like No Other” campaign, Sony Bravia “They took something as ubiquitous as ‘color’ and made it their own. It was disruptive and beautiful. Even years later it gives me goosebumps!” Romina Viola , Community Champion at Piktochart “This campaign from McDonalds really stuck with me. They answered all sorts of questions about their food. It was very bold and honest.” Hailley Griffis , PR Specialist at Buffer
“At the heart of any great advertising campaign is a message that runs with the moment, challenges the norm, ignites change, and ultimately speaks to your soul. The #LikeAGirl campaign encompasses everything that it takes to achieve such a feat—all the while sending chills down your spine in that “I’m going to kick butt today” kind of way.”
Nicole Constantine , PR & Events Executive at Outbrain
“I’ve come back to watch this video dozens of times. It doesn’t share a groundbreaking new message, and it doesn’t prompt any certain action, like adopting a pet or donating to a shelter. But I love this campaign because it gives us so much delight without asking for anything in return. Its only message is that pets need companionship too.”
Nandini Jammi , Head of Growth at ProdPad 9. The “Christmas Miracle” campaign, WestJet
“Santa asked passengers what they wanted for Christmas while they were boarding their flight. While the passengers were in the air, a team of volunteers purchased all the gifts. When the travelers arrived at their destination, they found their presents from Santa on the luggage carousel. Showing that the company shares the Christmas spirit and cares about its clients made the campaign a huge viral success.”
Olga Andrienko , Head of Digital Marketing at SEMrush “Who could forget this 90’s commercial? I still remember my family laughing out loud. At the time it was incredibly original, and it still holds up today.” Alison Massie , Social Media Manager at Zendesk “I’m not a fan of commercial advertising, but one campaign I still remember is a public service ad made by a school and local police in the UK. With stark realism, the four-minute video shows the cause and consequence of a texting accident.” Karol Pokojowczyk , Founder and CEO at Colibri IO 12. The “Dancing Man” commercial, Six Flags “The older gentleman dancing around made me laugh out loud. Oh, and the music was seriously catchy!” Mary Green , SaaS Marketer 13. The annual “National Day” campaign, Petronas
“Every year in celebration of the Malaysian National Day, Petronas produces an advertising campaign revolving around unity and peace. All of their campaigns are designed to help Malaysians connect back to their childhood days. They communicate strong values about togetherness since it’s such a multiracial country.”
Wilson Moy , Social Media Marketer at Piktochart 14. The “Eight Sensible Gifts for Hanukah” campaign, Cards Against Humanity
“If you signed up and paid $15, they promised to send you eight mystery gifts for each of the eight nights of Hanukah. They only offered a limited number of gifts, so they wrote: ‘Give us your money quickly or you’ll probably regret it for the rest of your life.’ The campaign itself was super simple: just a single email with a powerful message. Perfectly timed, with elements of scarcity, exclusivity, and mystery.”
Melissa Suzuno , Content Marketing Manager at Greenhouse.io
“It was so simple. Just two sentences at the beginning of the trailer grabbed the attention of just about everyone who read it. They even updated their IMDb page to say that the people in the film were missing and presumed dead. I was a high school freshman at the time, and I remember that nobody could figure out if it was real. And nobody could stop talking about it.”
Kristin Hillery , Contributions Editor at InVision