Ten of the Greatest Advertising Campaigns

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), October 31, 2010 | Go to article overview

Ten of the Greatest Advertising Campaigns


Byline: Trevor Beattie Partner of the BMB agency

Coca-Cola

For an ad campaign to feature in this top ten it has to fit three criteria: it must be noticeable, effective and enduring. Coca-Cola has been all three for more than a century. In fact, Coca-Cola is a living ad. From the logo to the shape of the glass bottle, everything combines to make it an all-powerful brand. Yet the advertising never tells you anything about the product, and hardly ever anything about the taste or the benefits. Slogans such 'Coke is it' and 'Always Coca-Cola' are a case study in vacuity. They wouldn't work for anything else. But then there's Coke and there's the rest.

2 Obama - 'Yes we can'

This was a campaign in every sense of the word, a perfect fusion of advertising campaign management and political campaign management, all geared to selling Brand Obama. I handled the advertising for Labour for two general elections and it works best when both sides are in harmony. The Obama campaign took elements from civil-rights history and liberal politics and coalesced it all in a way that promoted change. The silk screen of Obama has become as iconic as Che Guevara's image. As a how-to-do-it lesson, it will surely endure, but was the promise just too great?

3 W WII propaganda

Produced by the Ministry of Information, the 'homefront' campaign won a war which we had almost no chance of winning. Posters were a very popular medium then and there was a hugely successful series of them using brilliant three- or four-word slogans. As an ad man you ask, 'Can you say it in a few words?' They could: 'Dig on for victory', 'Careless talk costs lives', 'The walls have ears', 'Be like Dad - keep Mum'... And these messages still resonate; they promoted care and thrift and these values have meaning today.

4 Guinness - 'Girder' poster

Whatever the era, Guinness's ad campaigns have used the medium of the day - billboard, print or TV - and exploited it brilliantly. The posters of the Thirties were hugely effective: 'Guinness for strength' was particularly striking. A toucan added the first hint of surrealism, taken to its apotheosis in the TV ads of the past few decades. In 1996, Guinness took on the lager market in 'Good things come...' by turning a negative (the time taken to pour a pint of Guinness) into a positive. Meanwhile the 1998 'Surfer' TV ad, directed by Jonathan Glazer, was voted the nation's favourite.

5 Marmite

A peculiar, old-fashioned product that should, by rights, no longer exist. The brand goes from strength to strength thanks to one of the best ideas in years - 'Love it or hate it', coined by ad agency BMP DDB. I used to work there years ago and Marmite was by no means its flagship account, but it has nurtured and grown it astutely. It's never been bigbudget yet it's had a huge impact, an example of a product and an idea working in tandem. The brand name has even entered our language. You hear people using it in everyday context, politicians saying, 'I'm the Marmite candidate - you either love me or hate me. …

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