There are tons of brands out there, and new ones cropping up every day, with many of them competing for the attention of your audience.
All the hard work you put into creating a website is a big step in setting your brand apart. But your site can’t do all the work alone. You’ll also need to advertise across the channels that your audience is paying attention to, and position your brand front-and-center there.
If you’re not sure where to start, don’t worry. We’ve put together a curated selection of 20 of the most creative, unique, and memorable advertisement examples to inspire your next marketing strategy and campaign.
Get to know the different types of advertisements
Advertising is a paid form of marketing. While it’s natural to associate advertising with the digital banner ads we see everywhere online nowadays, there are so many other types of ads you can follow to get the word out about your brand.
Let’s take a look at the four most popular ones and a few advertisement format examples for each of them:
Today, print ads appear in the form of:
Flyers and brochures
Vehicle wraps and bus signage
Newspaper and magazine ads
Print advertising is the oldest form of advertising we have, as there’s proof of advertising on wall paintings, papyrus, and amongst ruins from ancient civilizations in Egypt, China, Greece, and Rome. But in terms of modern print advertising that we’re familiar with, it began with the advent of print media in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Unlike other types of advertising that can quickly pass consumers by, print ads have the ability to stick around—especially the forms that people can hold and carry around with them.
There are three different types of ads that appear on the radio, audio streaming services, and podcasts:
Short commercial breaks
Sponsored content and promotions
Interstitial and banner ads
Traditional radio commercials began to appear over the airwaves in the earlier part of the 20th century. While nowadays it might not be as popular a medium as it once was, it can still be an effective and cost-effective way to introduce a national brand to an audience and keep it top-of-mind with existing customers.
Podcasts, of course, provide a new opportunity to reach listeners. With sponsored content, in particular, brands can reach a highly relevant and engaged audience if they partner with the right show.
The first TV commercial aired in 1941 in the United States and took place in the middle of a baseball game. The main selling point about this type of advertising is that it combines the visual attractiveness of print ads with the captivating sound from radio. So, it’s really the best of both worlds.
Like radio, TV now has a digital counterpart, so there are more ways to advertise on TV than just the traditional mid-show commercial break. Thanks to digital streaming platforms like Hulu, video ads can appear before, during, or after some of the hottest movie and TV releases.
Online advertising is the youngest form of advertising, yet it’s older than you may think. It has origins before the internet was launched—in the form of email back in the 1970s. The first banner ads, however, appeared after the internet went global in the ‘90s.
There are many different ways to advertise online:
Display ads (e.g. text, image, animated, video), SEM (search engine marketing)
Interstitial video ads
Search ads (see our guide on how to advertise on Google)
Social media ads
Mobile app ads
In fact, online advertising is not too far from the different types of content marketing. The only difference between the two is that the latter is commonly done in self-owned platforms or free advertising sites.
Because of this versatile range of ad types and placements, online advertising has become the most powerful tool in a brand’s arsenal today. However, that doesn’t mean that other kinds of advertising should be forgotten. When all four are combined, it can be a truly potent combination for a brand trying to reach their audience wherever they go.
20 of the best advertisement examples of all time
If you’re looking for creative advertising examples to spark some inspiration as you design your next ad campaign, look no further.
Below, we’re going to look at 20 of the most popular ads across print, radio, TV, and the internet. Even if you don’t see billboard ads or radio spots in your future, there are some really neat lessons about creativity to take away from each of these advertisement examples:
Apple iPod silhouettes
In 2003, Apple launched an ad campaign for the iPod. Each ad featured a silhouette figure frozen mid-dance atop a brightly colored background. The white Apple logo, iPod trademark and iPod device stood out in stark contrast to all the color.
These ads first appeared as billboards, public signage, and in print. Soon followed the TV commercials where the silhouettes danced to pop hits.
The most interesting part of this famous advertising example is that Steve Jobs didn’t originally like the ads because “It doesn’t show the product.” He was proven wrong as the campaign, designed by TBWA\Chiat\Day, earned the agency a number of awards and helped skyrocket the iPod and Apple to new levels of success.
KFC “FCK” apology
The KFC “FCK” ad wasn’t really an ad at all. It was an apology in ad’s clothing that ran in 2018 after a provider switch that caused a week-long KFC chicken shortage in the UK.
Why would KFC go to the lengths of having ad agency Mother London put this campaign together? I mean, it’s just chicken, right?
Well, considering some customers called the police when they discovered the chicken shortage, it wasn’t a laughing matter to many of KFC’s customers. At least, not until the ad went out and the cheeky apology gave customers a reason to fall back in love with KFC.
IKEA “pee on this”
You read that correctly. IKEA put agency Åkestam Holst and Mercene Labs to work in creating the first pee-stick ad in 2018.
Women were invited to pee on the ad instead of the pregnancy test pee-stick to find out if they were expecting. If the test revealed they were indeed positive (and, yes, it actually worked), they’d see the special discounted price of the advertised crib in the photo.
It’s a unique concept that not only gave mothers-to-be a free way to confirm their pregnancy, but also got people talking about the ad, the company and, naturally, the heavily discounted crib.
Spotify embarrassing listening habits
In 2016, Spotify took its advertising to the streets with this listening habits ad campaign. Spotify’s own in-house advertising team handled the creative for this one.
Each billboard revealed some of the more quirky (but totally relatable) listening habits of its users and it displayed them in a meme-like format.
What’s particularly interesting about this advertising example is that Spotify chose a platform completely unlike its own to run the campaign. It just goes to show you that digital advertising isn’t an all-in-one solution, even for giants like Spotify that dominate that space.
Copenhagen Zoo snake bus
This award-winning ad design was created by Bates Y&R. Peder Schack, who came up with the concept, told The Star it came from a desire to “make the most possible impact for a very small budget.”
The illusion proved pretty powerful, with some commuters refusing to ride the bus because of it.
This isn’t the only snake-inspired design created on behalf of the Copenhagen Zoo. The agency then went on to transform the inside of subway cars into full-on zoos with snakes writing around on the ground and monkeys hanging out of the windows.
Audible “There’s another way to get away”
It only makes sense that a company that brings audiobooks to the masses would run an audio (and companion video) campaign to promote its solution. This isn’t your ordinary ad for audiobooks though.
Fold7’s chief creative officer Ryan Newey told Marketing Dive how the fictional airline story could’ve only come about because of what happened in 2020:
“It fitted a moment that would otherwise never have existed. No other time can we play on the context of people wanting to be free to travel again. The message of traveling in the mind's eye would have technically worked before, but not really resonate in the way it does now.”
This is a great example of how a brand can deviate from its typical advertising strategy to capitalize on a moment in time.
Nike “Just Do It.”
The Nike trademark “Just Do It.” was created in 1988 by the Wieden+Kennedy agency. Unlike the softer fitness-related campaigns of the ‘80s, Nike wanted a stronger, more inspirational approach and this proved to be the right one.
The slogan is attributed to the brand’s massive market share growth from 18% to 43% between ‘88 and ‘98. It also significantly increased its reach thanks to how many languages it’s been translated into, including Braille.
To this day, “Just Do It.” is still part of Nike’s advertising efforts. However, Nike’s VP of Global Brand Marketing, Davide Grasso, doesn’t see it as just a slogan:
“Instead, what we’ve found to be most effective is inviting people to join us in what we believe in and what we stand for. And what we stand for is to serve and honour athletes. I think that’s why ‘Just Do It’ has had such an impact over the last 20 years and continues to. It’s genuine and speaks to our core mission.”
Old Spice “The man your man could smell like”
Wieden+Kenney is the agency also responsible for the Old Spice “smell like a man” ads. But why would they promote men’s body wash with an ad clearly targeted at women who would lust after spokesperson Isaiah Amir Mustafa?
According to the agency, data revealed that 60% of men’s body wash buyers were actually women. So, they launched this hilariously memorable ad during the Super Bowl when they knew men and women would be watching it together.
The ultimate goal of the campaign was to increase sales by 15%. Their targets were way off though. Just four months after the Super Bowl, sales were up by 60%. By July, sales had doubled. In addition to raking in the dough, Advertising Age also named this campaign one of the best of the 21st century.
VW & Stephen Hawking
What better way to get radio listeners’ attention than by using an instantly recognizable voice in your ad?
For about 20 seconds, Stephen Hawking talks about physics and the universe before musing about how the VW up was so cheap. As you can imagine, the ad got a lot of attention and not all of it was positive.
Designer Paul Randall called it “wrong”. Commenters seemed to be split on the matter. Some thought it was a really clever way of getting their attention. There were others though who thought it exploited Hawking’s voice or was an insult to disabled people.
However, the agency behind the ad let Randall and all those concerned know that Hawking did indeed give his consent to be part of the ad and was a good sport about it.
McDonald’s ad outro
This advertisement example isn’t for just one McDonald’s ad. It’s specifically for the ba da ba ba ba “I’m lovin’ it” outro it’s now synonymous with and that helped reignite McDonald’s fledgling reputation in the early ‘00s.
Now, it’s not like McDonald’s is the first brand to use a catchy jingle in its ad campaigns. However, this one caused a lot of talk because of where it came from - or, rather, who it came from.
Justin Timberlake, Pharrell Williams, and Pusha T have all claimed credit for creating the jingle. Although Timberlake and Williams collaborated on a song called “I’m Lovin’ It” for the ad campaign, the original creators of the jingle are ad agency Heye & Partner and Mona Davis Music.
Snickers’s “Hungry Betty White”
Everyone loves Betty White, so it’s no surprise that this 2010 Super Bowl commercial, created by BBDO for Snickers, caught the attention of everyone.
Not only did this ad cement Betty White’s position as “a national treasure”, but it also immortalized the slogan “you’re not you when you’re hungry”.
It was the first in a long series of hilarious commercials that aired in 80 countries around the world and featured celebrities like Steve Buscemi, Liza Manelli, and Willem Dafoe.
Herbal Essences “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
Beauty historian Lisa Mulvany explains how Clairol was floundering in the ‘90s. In response, it added an “s” to the end of its Herbal Essence(s) line, switched up the formula for natural ingredients, and gave each shampoo an intoxicating smell. The resulting ad campaign is what got people to pay close attention to the new product line.
Essentially, Herbal Essences compared its shampooing experience to climaxing. The commercials were polarizing (for obvious reasons), but they were effective.
To this day, people still equate the hair care line with women screaming “Yes!” in the shower. Considering how strong of a connection there is between memory and the senses, this was a brilliant choice for the brand’s success and longevity.
Dunkin’ Donuts “American runs on Dunkin’”
In 2006, Dunkin’ Donuts—with the help of Hill Holliday—launched this ad campaign in an attempt to reposition and revitalize its 50-year-old brand.
From radio to TV, and outdoor billboards to internet ads, Americans heard all about how Dunkin’ Donuts coffee was powering their lives. It also came with a special interactive component on the website.
What’s interesting about this long-running ad campaign is that it’s been repurposed in recent years due to a change in brand goals. The “America runs on” is still around, but it’s definitely more product-focused than brand-focused now.
ASPCA “In the Arms of An Angel”
At the time, this ASPCA ad was referred to simply as “The Ad”. It had a potent combination of Sarah McLachlan’s “In the Arms of An Angel”, homeless animals shaking and crying in shelters, and the singer herself calling for you to help support these animals.
Within two years, the ASPCA raised over $30 million from this fundraising effort. Why was it so effective? According to the spokesperson: “It was brutal doing those ads. It was like, ‘Can you just be a little sadder and a little more this and little more that.’ [And now] I can’t watch them, it kills me.”
Oreo’s “Dunk in the dark”
Oreo’s 2013 Super Bowl tweet is one of the greatest examples of social media marketing.
The post wasn’t promoted. It was simply a tweet that happened in real time and Oreo instantly went viral for its quick-witted response to the power outage.
The tweet wasn’t some off-the-cuff response by Oreo execs though. The 15-person team from 360i, Kraft, and MediaVest had been doing war room strategies for two years leading up to the event. They tell the story about how that tweet came to be here.
Taco Bell’s “Routine republic”
Considered by some to be an ad “fail”, Taco Bell’s 3-minute, Hunger Games-like ad got people talking.
This mini-film depicted a breakfast routine republic where everyone is encouraged to eat the same breakfast every day, which looks eerily similar to McDonald’s breakfast menu. If the comparison wasn’t clear enough, the clown dictator and lookalike minions, yellow slide and ball pit made sure that consumers draw the comparison.
Why would Taco Bell take such a clear dig at McDonald’s? Because it had recently launched a new breakfast menu and this was its way of trying to chip away at the golden arches’ dominance in that arena.
Motel 6 & Tom Bodette
Motel 6 might not be a glamorous hotel chain, but that’s exactly what made this ad campaign so perfect for the brand.
The agency behind the campaign—The Richards Group—did extensive user testing and discovered that the reason people stay at Motel 6 properties is because of how cheap they are. And so they decided to lean into this promise.
The ads featuring spokesperson Tom Bodette talking about mundane things (like lost keys) were a huge hit and won the brand and its agency “Best of Show” at the 26th Annual Radio Mercury Awards.
Wendy’s “Where’s the beef?”
In Wendy’s 1984 jab at fast food giants like McDonald’s, three old ladies complain about the giant bun and teeny-tiny beef patty.
The now-famous tagline was created by Creative Director Ben Colarossi in an attempt to set Wendy’s fresh meat patties apart from the competition. The TV ad gave it a whole new meaning and became a household phrase.
Although it was originally made popular in the ‘80s, Wendy’s has revived it twice since—in 2011 and in 2020.
“Dumb Ways to Die” PSA
The McCann Erickson-created “Dumb Ways to Die” song and accompanying video aren’t technically an advertisement. They were a public service announcement created for Metro Trains Melbourne in 2012.
The original intention of the ad was to draw attention to rail safety in a fun and funny way. However, the catchy tune and reckless bean characters quickly took on a life of their own.
The song ended up on the iTunes Top 10 and the YouTube video has been watched by hundreds of millions of people. Its game and its sequel performed just as well as the song. It also won two Grand Prix awards at the Cannes Lions Festival.
The Dollar Shave Club intro ty
Dollar Shave Club’s YouTube video is one of the best examples of how to translate a viral video into a successful brand.
Originally shot for $4,500 and starring founder Michael Dubin (who came up with the concept, too), the YouTube video sent shockwaves through the startup. The ad crashed the company’s website the day after it went live and they had 12,000 orders to process 48 hours later.
Today, Dollar Shave Club is a billion-dollar company and has expanded far beyond selling razors. But this viral ad is one that consumers will never forget for being “f**king great."