Modern History's 6 Most Effective Ad Campaigns

Advertising is a powerful thing. The fact that an image, a slogan or a catchphrase, dreamed up in a room by a couple of people, can have an impact on millions of others may have once seemed mindblowing. But today, in the age of viral social media advertising campaigns, we're better understanding more and more the power of the 'catchphrase', aptly named because it so accurately catches the public imagination.

There's no denying the fact that advertising is an art, and some people out there are true artists. One ingenious idea can make millions for companies, or can skilfully win the hearts of many, guaranteeing brand recognition and even brand loyalty in the process.

Advertising can be truly groundbreaking and can even, at its most influential, change the fabric of society. A great example is Always' recent campaign. 'Always', producers of feminine hygiene products, recently dealt with the place of women in society by drawing attention to the stigma attached to the phrase 'like a girl'. They filmed a number of people's responses - males and females of different ages - when asked to run, throw and fight 'like a girl'. By demonstrating the intuitive negative stereotyping attached to the phrase, 'Always' had people all over the Western world reconsidering what equality between the sexes really means. The advertisement has clearly struck a chord with many people all over the world, with over 33 million Youtube hits since it was posted a few weeks ago. It's advertisements like these that are worth their weight in gold, bringing ingenuity and creativity to new heights.

With this in mind, let's take a look at some of the best advertising campaigns of all time, from how they were dreamed up to the incredible reception they received.

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6 Coca Cola's "Share a Coke with...."

via thisisnotadvertising.files.wordpress.com

One of the most recent and most impressive global advertising campaigns took advantage of our narcissistic and selfie-obsessed culture by allowing the public to inadvertently do most of the brand's promotion themselves via photo sharing on social media.

That's Coca-Cola's 'Share a Coke with...' initiative. The brand, which is now over 100 years old, has had a history marked with incredible advertising - but it's never had an advertising campaign as rigorous as this one. The campaign sees all personal-sized Coke bottles labeled with someone's name. On 2l bottles and cans, the name changes to more generic terms like "Family" and "BFF". When people found familiar names they eagerly bought up the bottles for themselves and their friends and family. The campaign also featured an app which allowed people to connect with one another online. Jennifer Healan perfectly summarised the success of the campaign: "For teens and Millennials, personalization is not a fad, it’s a way of life. It’s about self-expression, individual storytelling and staying connected with friends. ‘Share a Coke’ taps into all of those passions.”

5 Oreo's "You can still dunk in the dark"

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This is a rather different one, as this advertisement by Oreo isn't exactly traditional (in the sense that it was posted on Twitter rather than airing on television or appearing in a magazine). However, it deserves to be included in this list because it is perhaps the greatest example of real-time marketing, a craze that is set to become much more widely employed in the future.

In the 21st century, social media rules peoples lives, and in this digital age, people expect constant, relevant information. What advertisers are now thinking is  - "Why can't advertising be real time?" Oreo executed this brilliantly at the 2013 Super Bowl. During a half-hour electricity cut, Oreo designed and released the ad pictured above. The slogan "you can still dunk in the dark" was retweeted by thousands of people on Twitter, and Oreo reported that their number of followers increased by hundreds in a few minutes. This clever ad has now been cited as one of the best examples of real-time marketing, with Oreo proving itself to be way ahead of the pack.

4 "Got Milk?"

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The Got Milk campaign is certainly one of the most original and recognisable campaigns in history. According to the official website, over 90% of Americans instantly recognise this campaign. It began in 1993, when the first advert was directed by Michael Bay (who would go on to direct Transformers). The ad proved so successful that it was licensed to the National Milk Processor Board within a few years. The ad was funny and unique, and often included celebrities. The 'Got Milk?' campaign also extends to the "Where's your moustache?" campaign.

3 Volkswagen's "Think Small"

via adliterate.com

Volkswagen's "Think Small" campaign is regularly cited as the greatest advertising campaign of all time. The planning and execution of this campaign was incredibly clever and careful - something which can only be appreciated fully when you look at the economic environment in which this ad found success. It was the 1950's, and America had become a commercial hub thanks to the economic upturn. However, many people were still harbouring uncomfortable feelings about the war, which had only just begun to become a memory. Imagine then, being given the task of promoting a car designed by Adolf Hitler and other Nazis in North America. That's a tough one...

However, it proved to be an undaunting task for Julian Koenig. At the time, ad campaigns for automobiles were colourful and over the top. Koenig decided to break the mould. He used a black and white advertisement, minimal imagery, and focused on cost-saving and functionality benefits. He summarised this campaign with a sort of anti-slogan. "Think Small", a compelling juxtaposition with the familiar phrase "Think Big". The ad was an instant success, and today the Volkswagen is one of the world's most popular cars.

2 "Take This Lollipop"

via theinspirationroom.com

"Take This Lollipop" is a film-based application for Facebook. However, the application as a whole is really an advertisement for personal security on social media platforms. It was created by Jason Zada in 2011. This high-tech app asks for access to your information (which it deletes straight afterwards). The user then gets to view a film of a dirty, disturbed man on a computer. The information from your Facebook profile is weaved into the video in real-time: the stalker begins to look at your actual profile, your actual status updates and even begins to gently touch pictures of you on the screen. The stalker then uses Google Maps to find your location, based on the geographical data you have stored on Facebook. The last shot is of the maniac speeding through the streets in his car, presumably towards your location, with your profile photograph taped to his dashboard. Within a short space of time, the video had gone viral on Facebook, and people all over the world began to update the privacy settings on their pages to adhere to stricter guidelines. Although it wasn't a product, this video advertised the importance of digital security in a truly revolutionary manner, which couldn't be more relevant these days.

1 "5-A-Day"

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5-A-Day is a term used when giving dietary advice. Many people believe that 5-A-Day is a reference to nutritionists telling people to eat five portions of fruits and vegetables a day. However, it may shock you to learn that 5-A-Day is actually an advertising campaign, not a nutritionalist's warning. The phrase was born from the "National five-a-day for better health" campaign which began in California in 1991. The campaign was run by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to try and convince people to eat more fruits and vegetables. Although advising people to eat healthier make sense, five portions of fruit and vegetables a day isn't defined by nutritional science as the 'perfect' amount of healthy foods to be eating. The number was just used for the slogan. In fact, many nutritionalists now recommend 7-8 servings of fruit and vegetables a day. Despite this, many people believe that '5-a-day' is some sort of nutritional fact, when in reality, it's just the magic of advertising. To say the campaign spread like wildfire is an understatement: it's now used in over 25 countries.

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