Digital marketing experts estimate that most Americans are exposed to around 4,000 to 10,000 ads each day. With many of those ads being screened on whether a customer engages or not, to be impactful, just like art, there needs to be a personal connection.
So the question is, what does it take to create a campaign that really sticks into our human experience?
Whether it’s a sense of nostalgia, a heartfelt message, or a funny script let’s look at 20 advertising campaigns that did marketing right and why they nailed it!
Grab your tissues, a comfy pillow or be in a quiet place because the emotions are coming!
20 Stellar Advertising Campaigns You Should Experience
One of the great challenges today is that we, meaning consumers, are often unaffected by advertisements. For a long time, advertisers and businesses alike gave people data and tried to “wow” them with their product “resume” rather than creating an experience. These often left people feeling overwhelmed and disconnected, not empowered and setup for action.
This is where crafted advertising campaigns can shine! Artistic and expressive advertising campaigns do not show people what to do, they educate, build and connect potential customers to your business. A good campaign makes the world feel felt and this felt feeling may spur thinking, engagement, and even purchasing action.
If you want to see how powerful advertising can work for your businesses, let the art of visual expression and storytelling do all the talking. Art matters in your advertising campaigns!
1. “Child of the 90s”, Microsoft
Microsoft connected with a whole generation of people, the children of the 90s, generation Y, with a campaign that reintroduced themselves to the people who grew up with the internet. From slap bracelets, ying yang signs, to showing outdated technology most kids haven’t even heard of, nostalgia is a powerful marketing tool!
We, children of the 90s, can connect with the toys, dial up internet, fashion and many of the features they chose to display in this ad which kept the viewer captivated going down memory lane until they had their slogan bring it home!
Microsoft beautifully crafted the slogan: “You grew up. So did we. Reconnect with the new Internet Explorer” as a way to connect with the feeling of trust, remembrance and loyalty. Like them, using personal connection and nostalgia is a powerful way to recommit brand loyalty!
2. “Real Beauty”, Dove
Say what you want about Dove and their commercials, they are great at evoking emotion. My favorite Dove 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.
Dove creates a sense of personability, understanding, inspiration and comfort in having women feel understood. In a world when beauty standards are at unrealistic levels, it’s nice to have a business that understands who we “really” are: real women.
Businesses seldom make customers feel heard in a world that shouts they are not enough. The Dove campaigns powerfully address the pressures women feel in today’s society while creating products that help them feel beautifully, themselves.
3. “Wassup”, Budweiser
Beer brands have been doing bro humor forever, but few have done it better than Budweiser’s “WAAAASUPP,” whose single-word catchphrase set the standard for silliness that works.
In 1999-2002, I was an awkward middle schooler who had problems with over accessorizing, baby weight, acne and immature humor. For months, my dad, brother and I would just look for ways to say, “WAAAASUPPP?!”
Budweiser created an advertising campaign gem that ran worldwide and became a pop culture catchphrase!
Something a simple and silly as the phrase WASSSUP can easily become viral when people are trying to find the next big internet sensation. Like Budweiser, who commonly has humor in their campaigns, you can easily create content that can penetrate common conversation. These ads connect with the simple humors of humanity.
4. “#Like A Girl”, Always
Always’ Like a Girl campaign, which won an Emmy, a Cannes Grand Prix award, and the Grand Clio award, uses a famous insult to grab your attention.
As a woman myself, the phrase “like a girl”was something I commonly heard growing up that implied that women were weaker, ditzy and unable to be powerfully independent.
Always beautifully connects with the growing feminist movement of today that challenges norms, ignites change and ultimately speaks to the heart. The #LikeAGirl campaign empowers women, challenges them to do more than expectations set out for a gender and creates a “kick butt” attitude we all need to be reminded of.
5. “Dancing Man”, Six Flags
Simply put, this advertising campaign combines two powerful marketing tactics: humor and catchy music.
We all know the “Six Flags Guy.” I think we all laughed out loud the first time we saw the commercial for how silly it was, but let me ask you this, did it stick with you? Yes! Simple humor, the feelings of movement and music can leave a lasting memory!
6. “Christmas Miracle”, WestJet
As the holiday season is coming up, I had to share the heartwarming advertising campaign of West Jet! In this campaign, 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.
As this airline proves that there are still some good airline companies out there (yes, I am looking at you, American Airlines) it leaves a lasting impact to viewers.
In a world where people dread airline experiences, West Jet shares the Christmas Spirit we all love all while showing it cares about its clients. The feelings of care, charity and goodness that come from a commercial like this are a great way to stand out amongst the negativity that fills a lot of media these days.
7. “Unlikey Friends”, Google Android
Google Android launched its new advertising campaign around unlikely animal friendships. Among the adorable display are dogs and dolphins swimming, elephants and sheep playing and even a duck and kitten snuggling. As cute animals are always a hot viral sensation online, this alone is a great advertisement…
but Google does more.
Google at the end of these simply cute pairings reminds us that we need to be together, but we do not need to be the same. This advertising campaign gives us a glimpse into how powerful emotional marketing strategies can be when you add happiness to the mix!
On top of happiness, there is a lot of power behind human connection and promoting togetherness in a world that seems so divided.
8. “Fearless Girl”, State Street Global Advisors of McCann New York
The Fearless Girl statue was placed overnight on March 7th facing the Wall Street Charging Bull statue.
As a tribute to International Women’s Day, this small statue became a sensational advertising campaign that brought attention to the gender pay gap and lack of gender diversity on Financial corporate boards.
Her quiet strength set off a campaign that earned an estimated $7.4 million in advertising dollars, racked up tons of attention and was awarded numerous awards. This simple, yet thoughtful advertising move gave hope, inspiration and a place for women who felt silent. This was a powerful connection to working women who want to be better represented in the higher tiers of business.
As marketers and advertisers, guerilla marketing tactics are an effective way to connect with consumers if done well. The Fearless Girl is an amazing example of this!
9. “My Dad is A Liar”, Hong Kong MetLife
Prepare yourself for a tear jerking advertisement from MetLife Hong Kong that created a powerful video campaign featuring a daughter describing the things she loves about her dad that gradually tells the true story of a father’s struggle to provide for his family.
As a parent, you will always make sacrifices for your children they will never know of. The love you have so they can be happy, successful, healthy and thriving at your expense is always worth it.
MetLife’s message that “A child’s future is worth every sacrifice” truly speaks to the silent struggles of parents that you cannot help but to feel the “feels” over.
As a life insurance company, its beautiful to see they promote the message “Pursue more from life.”
10. “The Truth is Hard”, The New York Times
As the United States feels like it is being torn apart, polarized and deceived like never before, people want and search for truth. This New York Times advertising campaign truthfully validates people’s fears of the world’s reality and yet tries to calm them.
This advertisement demonstrates how difficult it is for people in the modern world to get honesty in their media. In a world of “fake news”, The New York Times used their advertisement to demonstrate their commitment to honesty and transparency. This is a powerful message for people who are tired of lies, negativity and want TRUTH.
This ad creates a wonderful human connection that honestly speaks to a world that wants clarity.
11. “Be Together More”, Amazon Echo
Amazon tugs on your family heartstrings in its first ever TVC for the Echo Spot Device showing how its technology can connect families.
In the advertising campaign, it features a demographic that is easily forgotten amongst our busy lives: the elderly. Amazon features in their heartfelt ad a lonely grandma whose life is changed by the inclusion of the smart device into her home.
Her gift is packed with the instructions “Just ask: ‘Alexa, Call Home.’” The home assistant does just that and the old woman is greeted by her full family on the screen.
This message makes us self-reflect on our own experiences with our grandparents and might even inspire us to give them a call if it has been a while. This is a powerful connection to our need to care, love and connect.
Amazon not only inspires the viewers but this shows their desire to target elderly people and help improve their lives which also inspires us to feel more loyal to a “good-doing” company.
12. “Most Shocking Second a Day”, Save the Children
In America and a lot of developed countries, we are really removed from a lot of the tragedy that is happening around the world. For a charity asking for funds to help children starving, in war torn countries etc, this is a hard hump to get over.
Save the Children created a beautiful advertising campaign that reimagines how Britain would be affected by war, through the eyes of a little girl.
Like Britain, it can be easy for many people to take things for granted so this is a powerful storyboard of how life can drastically change and feel more empty for kids who are already in those tough situation.
It visually expresses how children (especially those caught in the Syrian war) are the biggest victims of conflict.
The ending message: “Just because it isn’t happening here doesn’t mean it isn’t happening” is a powerful motivator that encourages us to act. This connection to personalize an experience is powerful.
13. “Thank You Mom”, P&G
Procter & Gamble’s “Thank You Mom” has had a great run at being in the past few Olympic advertising campaigns shuffle. This video guides the viewer through moms supporting their kids with their dreams and through their circumstances—whether it be bias over color, religion, disability or sexual orientation.
As a strong example of advertising campaigns that inspire, this video promotes the feeling and accomplishments of Olympic athletes and the sacrifices of their support teams, including mothers.
Like many people who have had to sacrifice and push through a lot of accomplish dreams, this story resonates with not only the person accomplishing but the feelings of the support system. Moms, parents, friends and family can all connect with the feeling of being supported and being the supporter.
Human love and sacrifice are two emotions people can always relate to.
14. “Your Donation in Action”, Operation Underground Railroad
There are many people out there that want to give to charity but are skeptical of how their funds are being used. In fact, although Tom’s shoes were a great idea, it actually hurt third world economies by taking away shoemaking jobs in local communities.
So, as a business that wants to do good, how can you connect with your customer’s about what you do? Smart advertising campaigns that make it real!
Operation Underground Railroad takes you inside one of their raids that liberated 26 victims and got 8 traffickers arrested. This emotional connection makes things real, raw and trustworthy as you see results in front of you.
On top of this example, and I apologize for not having it visually represented as I could not find the specific campaign, but there is also power in messaging.
In a marketing conference I went to two years ago, there was a company that did something a lot like the underground railroad that had a blurred out woman figure and asked the question “How much would you pay for a man to go into a Brothel?” The initial thought of everyone is NONE because we do not want sex trafficking and people paying for that lifestyle. The ad then turned the page and asked “Would you pay $35? Because that is the amount that it costs for our team to save a young person in a sex trade ring.”
Messaging is a powerful connection, and this crafted storytelling left me with a lasting impact I remembered.
15. “Gun Violence Warning Signs”, Sandy Hook Promise
Shock and reaction is a powerful marketing method and Sandy Hook Promise did an incredible job pairing the two for an impactful advertising campaign.
In this video ad it tells the story of the high school experience of “Evan,” but in the background, a kid in his school is showing the signs of planning a school shooting.
Watching a pleasant video that people are sucked into but shockingly missing something in the ad completely really leaves a feeling of shock and yet education. I mean, did you feel your eyes open after watching that?
In this video, it educates and inspires people to be more “aware” as this video didn’t make them feel “safe.” It ultimately leaves the viewer wondering if they have missed anything in their own social circles. Fear, shock and education are a great mix of emotions a campaign can use!
16. “Hungry”, Snickers
On a lighter note, Snickers candy created a hunger campaign that speaks to the human condition of “Hangry.” (Hungry + Angry)
Since we have all been a bit crabby when we are hungry, this campaign really connects to people saying, “You’re not you when you are hungry.” No one wants to be mean, complainy and unpleasant to be around, and with Snickers that condition can go away!
This wildly successful campaign has had more than one hit, but if you really want to get your head in the marketing game, take a few lessons from Betty White as the internet’s favorite elderly woman!
17. “Back to The Start”, Chipotle
People care about what is in their food, so Chipotle answered the customer’s call to “go back to the basics” in their new food campaign where they relieve the worry people have with overprocessed food.
The animated video featured Willie Nelson’s cover of Coldplay’s “The Scientist,” and took viewers through one farmer’s change of heart, from running a huge industrialized farming factory to one with more sustainable and humane practices. Chipotle encouraged viewers to download the song at iTunes, with proceeds going to the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation.
Videos like this help customer’s feel listened to and help them trust your brand’s commitment to bettering the world and their worries. Although a longer video, the customer’s do not mind exploring the visual expression of the farming industry and the changes that need to be made for a better world.
Chipotle leaves potential customers feeling inspired, validated and hopeful. Farm to table is a real thing!
18. “Apology”, Facebook
Facebook as of late has been through the school of hard knocks with personal data leaks and privacy protection. Since a lot of the time businesses will have to make apologies for things that happen, why not use an advertising campaign to send a strong message?
Facebook says in their apology campaign that they’re “committed to doing more to keep you safe and protect your privacy so that we can all get back to what made Facebook good in the first place: friends. Because when this place does what it was built for, we all get a little closer.”
People appreciate apologies and business’s commitment to improvement. It is a business’s job to alleviate the stress and concerns users have with using a product or service.
Trust is key and with this video, Facebook shares their commitment and their vision for how and what they want their platform to be. Safe, connected and humane.
19. “This is SportCenter”, SportsCenter
Since 1994, ESPN’s clever “This is SportsCenter” commercials have been the funniest nods to sports culture and viewer’s life. People love seeing themselves in the content they consume so SportsCenter made the connection of putting viewer’s favorite athletes, coaches and mascots into work settings they can relate to.
Water cooler conversations, office drama, using other people’s razors, hating your boss and having to redo work tasks are all something the “everyday person” has experienced.
These videos perfectly connect viewers to individuals that are out of their social connection by personifying professionals into tangible life experiences. The nice thing is, there is something for everyone in the ads.
20. ALL the GEICO Ads
Now, to end the list with the cream of the crop, and not being able to pick my favorite one, GEICO ads are the definition of what it means to create an awesome advertising campaign!
GEICO’s advertising campaigns are known for using surreal humor and satire, often featuring distinctive characters such as the company’s mascot the GEICO gecko, Dracula, Abraham Lincoln, Pinnocio and more!
The humor of the videos, the witty scripting and storytelling with the short sales pitch of “15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance” is so perfect.
In a world where potential customers see tons of pre-roll ads that are blah, people love seeing new! The connection these advertisements make with viewers is not only laughs and the sense of new, but the need to see more advertisements coming.
Connected and Successful: Advertising Campaigns Done Right
Want to stick in people’s minds forever? Make your business stand out with visual expression and storytelling. If you look at the list above, every advertisement campaign had the following elements:
- Quality Creativity
- Quality Storytelling
- Evoked Emotions
- Call to Actions and Branding
If you want to set your campaigns apart from your competitions, see the value in artistic expression, storytelling and the power of emotion. Pull on the heartstrings, tell a story of your product changing lives, make your customer’s laugh and be relatable. All of these emotions are valid and valuable to customers. By utilizing the tactics used in the above campaigns, you will leave a lasting memory in the minds of your viewers which can lead to action.
If you want help with video production, scripting or other advertising campaign elements, let me know here or in the comments. I would be happy to help!
What do you think? Of the brands that you have interacted with, which ones did the best job of marketing to your head, heart or interests? How did they connect with you?
Cydney is a polka dot wearing business owner, photographer, cupcake enthusiast and writer, who through her work, shares her personal passions about visual marketing, branding and business strategy.