1. The most interesting man in the world – Dos Equis (2006)
If you don’t know this campaign, it’s time to move out of the woods and start using this thing called the internet. Journeyman actor Jonathan Goldman starred as the eponymous character, who was inspired by his close friend and sailing partnerFernando Lamas – the Argentine silver screen star.
The ads not only increased sales of Dos Equis beer, a property of Heineken, but also created one the most ubiquitous memes on all the internet.
Lesson: For a beer that is often consumed with a plate of nachos, the campaign broke the typical bro-beer, tailgate party approach. They took a risk on an ad storytelling style that was relatively novel for their customer segment. Remember that making your brand unique means you might be the only one in your product category charting new creative territory. Confidence can pay off.
(Fun fact: Dos Equis’ ads are reminiscent of David Ogilvy’s “The Man in the Hathaway Shirt” print series. These ads also featured a refined and adventurous older gentleman, except he wore an eye-patch and, of course, a Hathaway Shirt.)
2. The Hire – BMW (2001)
This video series, hailing from 2001 when branded content was nascent, is still thought of as the best of its kind.
In the series, a professional driver, portrayed by Clive Owen, escorts high-value people through high-risk situations with his getaway skills. The series demonstrates the high performance abilities of BMWs, and it was directed by top international talent like Guy Ritchie, Ang Lee, Tony Scott and John Woo.
Lesson: The best branded content intersects with your audience’s interests and habits while showcasing your product’s strengths. Your 1-800 number or year-end-pricing offer don’t always have to be front and centre.
3. Get a Mac – Apple (2006)
Apple launched their Get a Mac ad campaign way back in 2006. Anthropomorphized versions of Apple and Mac squabbled over their selling points — with Mac always gaining the upper hand.
Mac is personified as fun-loving and informal, while Windows is portrayed as stuffy and professional — but endearing. The ads used these personifications to show why Mac is a superior product, without being too mean-spirited toward Windows.
Lesson: Comparative advertising works best when you use a playful tone with your competitors. Give them credit for their strengths while still showing why your product is superior for your target audience. Sometimes it’s okay to get a bit dirty.
4. Real Beauty campaign – Dove (2004)
Dove’s Real Beauty campaign is practically synonymous with challenging industry-defined beauty standards. Its many viral videos have showed millions how the beauty industry affects women.
The campaign hasn’t been without fumbles, but it is still one of the most highly praised of the 21st century, one that has helped Unilever, Dove’s parent company, almost double its revenue in personal care products over the last 10 years.
Lesson: An altruistic or helpful message that’s consistent with your brand identity can bring a fresh direction that also builds goodwill with your audience.
5. Obama 2008
Not an ad campaign, but a campaign nonetheless. Can you believe it’s been almost ten years since Barack Obama was elected?
Campaigns, especially election campaigns, are usually planned meticulously. But a number of serendipitous turns gave Obama ’08 its distinctive tone.
Shepard Fairey’s iconic stencil “Hope” portrait of Obama became the unofficial symbol of the campaign. Fairey, a prolific street artist and founder of Obey Clothing, created the poster in one day.
The Democrats had already used the “Yes We Can” slogan in 2004, but writers decided to throw it into one of Obama’s speeches — it ended up becoming a defining message in the campaign.
Lesson: Don’t be afraid to role with the punches, especially in today’s social media environment. A tweet that’s clever and on-brand can give you credibility.
6. Subservient chicken – Burger King
This bizarre idea to promote Burger King’s chicken sandwiches was the first interactive campaign to truly go viral. The site looked like a choppy and pixelated live-feed from inside a dingy living room. There, a man dressed in a chicken costume would carry out commands strangers sent from their computers. Many thought the man in the chicken suit was actually there reading each command, but it was actually a database of thousands of pre-recorded video reactions.
Lesson: Don’t be afraid do go with a strange idea. Sometimes they’re the ones that can truly get attention. Imagine what the storyboards for this campaign would have looked like.
Is your campaign going to be one people talk about in ten years? We hope so. If you need help coming up with a memorable idea, one of our cross-business brainstorming sessions can help your organization think something up that will break through the noise.