Top 9 Iconic & Influential Ad Campaigns – Part 1

A trip down memory lane to some of the most iconic ads that caught our undivided attention.

#9 Old Spice – The Man Your Man Could Smell Like

Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign launched in February 2010. It went on to take many forms over the years, but it was the original that blew up almost overnight. It features a handsome man, addressing female viewers, basically boasting about just how cool he is, and ending it by saying that the least their man could do would be to smell like him. It’s absurd with its constant changing background, yet hilarious with an actor, Isaiah Mustafa, purposely taking himself too seriously. As of this writing, the video has over 55 million views on YouTube. Mustafa quickly became “Old Spice Guy,” a nickname the company capitalized on with an interactive video campaign in which the actor responded to fans’ comments on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms with short, personalized videos. Old Spice stayed engaged with the public, who regularly look out for their quirky and hilarious commercials.

#8 Melbourne Metro – Dumb Ways to Die

Most public service announcements lead a lot of people to believe that they are being nagged. Most of us pay zero attention to such announcements, as we feel as though it isn’t worth our time. Metro trains in Melbourne, Australia wanted to get across straight-forward message – Don’t mess around near train tracks. Accidents are frequent, and disorderly conduct can lead to severe injuries and quite easily, death. It donned on them that if the subject matter of their announcement was grim, creativity was the solution. They came up with ‘Dumb Ways to Die’, a song that has garnered 170 million views on YouTube since it debuted. The song depicts adorable cartoon characters showing the viewer various dumb ways to die, along with a catchy chorus you won’t be able to stop humming to yourself – ‘Dumb ways to die, so many dumb ways to die.’ By the end of the video, they show how the dumbest possible way to go would be while standing on the edge of a train platform, driving carelessly through a railroad sign or trying to cross over a train track. The campaign is so popular now that there have been follow-up videos and a phone game as well.

#7 Budweiser – WHAZZZZZUUUPPP?!

This was an extremely popular campaign that literally changed the way we talk to each other. The ad starts gently. A guy calls his buddy and asks “What are you doin’?”, to which he replies, “Watching the game, havin’ a Bud”. As more of his buddies pick up the phone and get on a conference call, the comedy ensues: “WHAZZZUP?!” is yelled back and forth, becoming an infamous catchphrase, as well as a symbol of beer-drinking culture. The campaign took pop culture by storm, as Anheuser-Busch showed the people just how informal and mindless a commercial can be, instead of taking shots at competitors, making ridiculous claims and so on. Taking the risk of celebrating an audience’s absurdities paid off greatly, as the more genuine and real a campaign is, the product becomes more valuable.

#6 Volkswagen – Think Small

Even 15 years after the Second World War ended, most Americans were still not buying small German cars. Conceptualized and executed in 1960 by the legendary advertising group at DDB, the campaign set out to solve a few problems: How does one change the public’s perceptions not only about a product, but also about an entire nation? The campaign played right into the public’s expectations. ‘You think I’m small? Yes, I am’. They never tried to sell their company, product, or service as something it wasn’t. By many in the advertising industry, this was considered the gold standard of marketing. Consumers recognized and appreciated the honesty, while Volkswagen reaped the rewards.

#5 Red Bull – Stratos

We live in a world where it is quite a complex task to be able to truly capture the public’s attention. Red Bull managed to captivate the world’s imagination with the Stratos project. In October 2012, the energy drink company helped Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner freefall jump from 39 kilometres above the ground, rewriting five world records, according to the folks at Guinness. He became the first human to break the sound barrier without any engine power. Red Bull’s sales rose 7% to $1.6 billion in the U.S. They sold more than 5.39 billion cans in 2013, an increase of 3% over 2012. Since then, at the time of this writing, the official video on Red Bull’s YouTube channel has garnered 44 million views, while the video showing the fall from Mr. Baumgartner’s perspective, released on GoPro’s official YouTube channel with just the sound of wind and the flapping fabric of his protective suit, has 20 million views.

Be sure to check out Part 2 of our list of the Top 9 Most Iconic and Influential Ad Campaigns, taking you from #4 to our top pick at #1, covering companies like Apple, Coca-Cola and well, check it out for yourself.