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17 best ad campaigns that made marketing history

Ad campaigns aim to promote a particular product, service, or brand message. Check out the best ad campaigns that made headlines here.

The set of one of the best ad campaigns that made marketing history.

Ever skipped an ad only to find yourself humming the jingle two hours later? Yeah, us, too. 

The truth is, some ads are just plain magic. They tickle our funny bone, tug at our heartstrings, and leave us wanting more. But beyond the laughs and tears, these campaigns are actually marketing masterpieces, persuading us to grab that product or consider a new idea.

Ad campaigns are strategic efforts to promote a product, service, brand, or social cause. They can have different goals, from building brand awareness to driving sales to sparking conversations about important social issues. They use creative concepts, humor, emotional storytelling, or visuals to capture your attention, leave a lasting impression, and ultimately influence the target audience's behavior or brand perception.

Get ready as we explore 17 of the funniest, most heartwarming, and downright creative ad campaigns ever. We'll dissect the genius behind the giggles, the secret sauce of sentimentality, and the sheer brilliance that makes these ads stick in our brains.

Brand awareness campaigns

Brand awareness campaigns are the key to success in the competitive marketing world. These ad campaigns aim to introduce new audiences to a brand or reinforce an existing image, prioritizing positive associations and lasting memories over immediate sales.

Catchy slogans, memorable visuals, and creative storytelling are their weapons of choice, building brand loyalty and recognition through impactful experiences. Here are a few examples of brand awareness campaigns that have left their mark on the world.

1. The “Real Beauty” campaign, Dove (2004-present)

““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

Concept: This ad campaign aimed to challenge beauty standards and promote self-esteem for women of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, and ages.

Execution: The campaign showcased real, everyday women instead of models to show diversity and celebrate unique features. Dove wanted to show how common and normal it is for people to have insecurities but emphasize that it doesn’t make them any less beautiful.

Impact: The campaign ignited conversations about the unrealistic portrayal of beauty in media and advertising. Dove's campaign influenced the beauty industry to embrace greater diversity in their advertising and portray women as they are in real life.

2. The “Taste the Rainbow” campaign, Skittles (1994-present)

““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

Concept: The "Taste the Rainbow" campaign for Skittles aimed to capture the unique and diverse flavors of the candy through a sensory experience. It elevated the traditional "taste" association with candy by linking the vibrant colors of Skittles to a spectrum of flavors.

Execution: Skittles used vibrant colors, catchy music, and the now-iconic slogan "Taste the Rainbow" to create a memorable and fun brand experience. Many video ads for Skittles feature humorous skits or characters for a fun, lighthearted message.

Impact: This ad campaign successfully created a strong brand identity for Skittles. The colorful visuals and catchy slogan are easily recognizable and have become synonymous with the candy. 

““Orange is a European cell provider that is 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

Concept: This marketing ad was created to raise brand awareness for the Thailand expansion of the European cell provider Orange.

Execution: Orange showcased black, white, and orange billboards all over Bangkok to spark curiosity and local connection. After a few weeks, the photos were replaced with new billboards showcasing the cell phone service.

Impact: By building suspense, Orange was able to increase brand awareness through the reveal. They were also able to capture the attention of locals and foster a sense of community.

4. The “Colour Like No Other” campaign, Sony Bravia (2005-present)

““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

Concept: This ad campaign for Sony's Bravia televisions focused on a single, powerful message: superior color reproduction. It was designed to differentiate Bravia from competitors by highlighting its ability to display vibrant and realistic colors.

Execution: The campaign relied on simple yet visually stunning elements to grab attention. The tagline "Colour Like No Other" was central to the campaign, emphasizing the superiority of Bravia's color technology.

Impact: This campaign positioned Sony Bravia as a leader in television technology. It emphasized the visual experience their TVs offered, setting them apart from competitors.

5. The annual “National Day” campaign, Petronas (2017-present)

““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

Concept: Petronas, a Malaysian oil and gas company, uses annual National Day campaigns to celebrate Malaysia's national identity and strengthen its brand association with patriotism and national pride.

Execution: The ad campaign uses narratives that resonate with Malaysians to evoke emotions and connect with their audience on a deeper level. Through the use of music and traditions, they’re able to create a sense of belonging.

Impact: This annual campaign reinforces Petronas' position as a leader and fosters a sense of unity among Malaysians. It connects the brand with a sense of patriotism and pride.

““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

Concept: Promote WestJet airlines and spread holiday cheer by surprising travelers with gifts and reunions with loved ones.

Execution: WestJet surprised passengers at the airport with personalized gifts, upgrades, and reunions with loved ones. They documented these heartwarming moments and released a video online.

Impact: This campaign generated positive publicity for WestJet and showcased their commitment to customer service. The emotional storytelling in the video resonated with viewers and created a positive association with the airline.

Sales and promotion ad campaigns

The world of marketing thrives on creativity and persuasion. But beyond catchy jingles and funny commercials lie strategic campaigns designed to influence our behavior. Here’s a closer look at sales and promotion ad campaigns and how they use humor, emotion, and innovation to not only sell products but shape our perceptions.

““This campaign from McDonald's 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

Concept: Increase transparency and address customer feedback about McDonald's food ingredients and preparation practices.

Execution: McDonald's launched a website and social media campaign that answered frequently asked questions about their food. They also invited customers behind the scenes to see their kitchens and ingredients.

Impact: This campaign aimed to rebuild trust by openly addressing customer concerns. It showed a willingness to be transparent about their food practices.

8. The “Sun Fizz” campaign, Sprite (1990s)

““Who could forget this '90s 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

Concept: To position Sprite as the more down-to-earth, refreshing option, they used parody advertising tactics like a cartoon mascot to poke fun and make them stand out against other drink competitors.

Execution: Instead of portraying a happy family enjoying a refreshing drink, the ad campaign flipped the script and used dark humor to make it more memorable. They used a catchy tagline to reinforce that Sprite is a safe and enjoyable option.

Impact: This campaign generated buzz and positive word of mouth. The campaign also helped solidify Sprite’s image as a cool, refreshing brand that resonated with younger consumers.

Concept: This ad campaign promotes Samsung's foldable phones, particularly the Galaxy Z Fold series. 

Execution: The campaign utilizes captivating visuals that showcase the phone's innovative foldable design and its use in various scenarios. It highlights its unique capabilities and how it can "unfold your world" by offering new ways to interact with technology and experience daily activities while harping on nostalgia. 

Impact: The campaign increased brand awareness for Samsung's foldable phones and drove more sales for these foldable devices.

10. The “Eight Sensible Gifts for Hanukkah” campaign, Cards Against Humanity (2016)

““If you signed up and paid $15, they promised to send you eight mystery gifts for each of the eight nights of Hanukkah. 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

Concept: Promote Cards Against Humanity, a party game known for its dark humor, by offering unconventional gift ideas for Hanukkah.

Execution: Cards Against Humanity released a humorous online ad featuring a list of inappropriate and somewhat offensive gift ideas for Hanukkah, alluding to the game's edgy humor.

Impact: This campaign used humor and targeted messaging to reach their specific audience and boost sales during the holiday season. It played on the brand's reputation for dark humor and resonated with their existing customer base.

Concept: This long-running ad campaign by Snickers plays on the idea that hunger can negatively affect our behavior and personality. The core message is that a Snickers bar can satisfy your hunger and restore you to your normal, pleasant self.

Execution: This campaign uses humor to depict the negative consequences of hunger, including crankiness, irrational behavior, and saying or doing things you wouldn't normally say or do.

Impact: The "You're Not You When You're Hungry" campaign has become synonymous with the Snickers brand. It's highly recognizable and has helped solidify Snickers' position as a go-to snack for satisfying hunger pangs. This campaign has been successful in driving sales while becoming a pop culture phenomenon.

Social awareness ad campaigns

It’s not uncommon for ad campaigns to leverage the power of marketing to raise awareness about important issues. These campaigns go beyond entertainment––instead, they use powerful visuals and captivating storytelling to spark conversations. Let’s jump into some examples of social awareness campaigns.

““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

Concept: This campaign was designed to challenge gender stereotypes and empower young girls.

Execution: Always released a video ad that showed young girls performing actions typically associated with weakness if done by a girl (e.g., running "like a girl"). The ad then switched to these same girls performing the actions with confidence and strength.

Impact: This social purpose campaign went viral and sparked important conversations about female empowerment and confidence. It challenged the limiting stereotypes associated with the phrase "like a girl."

““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

Concept: This ad campaign was designed to bring awareness about the dangers of texting and driving to reduce traffic accidents.

Execution: This public service announcement (PSA) used a powerful and emotional story to depict the consequences of distracted driving.

Impact: The campaign aimed to shock and educate viewers about the dangers of texting and driving, encouraging them to be more responsible behind the wheel.

14. The “Talking Animals” YouTube campaign, Pets Add Life (2007-present)

““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

Concept: This ad campaign discusses pet adoption and pet ownership through humorous videos featuring talking animals.

Execution: Pets Add Life created a series of YouTube videos featuring adorable animals with funny voices discussing the joys of pet ownership.

Impact: This campaign uses a lighthearted approach to raise awareness about animal shelters and encourage pet adoption. The humor and cuteness of the animals resonate with viewers and make the message more engaging.

Concept: Flo Health, a leading women's health app, prioritizes providing accessible and engaging information to its millions of users. They use a data-driven approach to tailor content specifically for women's needs.

Execution: Flo ditches traditional, text-heavy articles and embraces an Instagram Stories format. This approach uses bite-sized snippets of information, visuals, and a more conversational tone, appealing to the way many women already consume content online.

Impact: Flo's engaging format makes learning about health topics easier and more approachable for a wider audience of women. Flo fills a gap in women's access to clear and engaging health information. 

Concept: This is one of the best ad campaigns that tackles drunk driving by tugging at viewers' heartstrings. It highlights the idea that someone, often a loved one like a pet or family member, is waiting for you to return home safely.

Execution: This campaign uses heartwarming visuals without excessive dialogue, featuring the bond between dogs and their owners while emphasizing the importance of drinking responsibly.

Impact: By advocating for safety, Budweiser positioned itself as a responsible brand that cares about its consumers and their communities. The campaign significantly raised public awareness of the dangers of drunk driving and the importance of responsible drinking. 

Concept: This campaign aimed to challenge the prejudice that women's football is less skilled or exciting than the men's game.

Execution: Using visual effects (VFX), they meticulously replaced the men’s bodies with the women’s bodies while adjusting details. 

Impact: This viral social campaign resonated with viewers by showcasing the skills of women’s football and challenged the misconceptions of the quality of women’s football. 

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