advertising examples


The AMBITIOUS team attended a Bristol Media called Permission Denied. Hosted by Patrick Collister, it was an insightful and brutally honest review of adverts that worked well, and those that didn’t.

With over 30 years in the industry, Patrick has been executive creative director and Vice Chairman of Ogilvy & Mather, as well as creative lead for Google’s The Zoo. During this time, he’s built up a brilliant back-catalogue of ads to refer to, many of which he used to emphasise his approach to advertising.

With both advertising and public relations becoming increasingly harder to separate, it’s important that public relations practitioners have a strong understanding of the main differences between a good campaign and a bad one. Here’s what we took from the talk…

Be purposeful

Good examples

Not all advertising campaigns have to just be about increasing sales promotion. Sometimes advertising and PR can work hand in hand when organisations want to increase their credibility.

Patrick gave some brilliant examples of advertising campaigns that reflected a brand’s values and engage their existing consumers and the general public with important topics. The Body Shop’s ‘fat Barbie’ ad did this brilliantly with an image of a doll with a realistic figure and the tagline ‘there are 3 billion women who don’t look like supermodels and only 8 who do’. This  is a great case study of innovative ways to demonstrate a brand’s values and develop a good reputation.

Patagonia turned the concept of advertising on its head with its ad that stated ‘Don’t buy this jacket’. Patagonia turned the concept of advertising on its head with its ad that stated ‘Don’t buy this jacket’. Patagonia ran this ad throughout Black Friday as a way of rebelling against what the week of sales stood for. This picked up huge media coverage and was a good learning experience for advertising agencies, showing that taking a bold step can often lead to more credibility than following the crowd if it’s what you believe in.

But Patrick also showed that you don’t have to be a mission brand to be purposeful in your advertising. Even when promoting products, there is still an opportunity for a business to make a difference for its customers. For example, Miracle Whip is an American product similar to mayonnaise. Its marketing department found a small town called Mayo and asked to pay the town to change its name to Miracle Whip. Not the strongest of advertising messages, but the end result had a hugely positive impact on the town. After gaining publicity for the brand’s ‘stunt’ it revitalised the town’s own businesses and was a way to enhance the town sense of community. Whilst it wasn’t the ultimate goal for Miracle Whip, they also found a purpose of building communities. And stumbling across some good PR.

Bad examples

Sometimes even the best planned marketing activities don’t go how companies would hope. In fact, they can even alienate target audiences.

Cadbury launched a ‘four-tone chocolate bar’ for Independence Day to promote and ‘celebrate India’s unity in diversity’. The bar featured dark, ‘blended’, milk and white chocolate in one bar but was heavily criticised for its clumsy attempt to ‘solve racism’.

Skittles went for the ironic approach and put on a lavish Broadway show as a marketing stunt during the Super Bowl, featuring songs along the lines of ‘advertising ruins everything’.

“The trouble is that this ruins advertising because too many people agree with the sentiment,” explains Patrick. “We need to remember that selling stuff is what we’re about and that it can be honourable.”

Be social

Good examples

Being social is all about finding creative ways to get your audience to engage with your brand across different channels– Burger King is a master at this. One great example is when Burger King used prom season to ask Wendy’s to the prom. It simply posted ‘@Wendy’s – Prom?’ on a billboard of a branch that neighbours Wendy’s. Soon after, people started sharing it on social media, and Wendy’s responded “yes.” The publicity stunt got a lot of news coverage in the media and produced a buzz on social media. It was another reminder that great advertisements don’t always need to come from paid media channels.

Honda is another example of a business that uses social media to publicly promote its brand. Patrick showed us a great campaign that got their own staff involved whenever someone posted Honda logo online . If someone posted the Honda logo mowed into a lawn or painted on their toenails, staff would reply by recreating the same image with the poster’s name mowed into a lawn or painted on their toenails! A fun way for potential customers to explore the Honda brand, without just reading press releases.

Be agile

Good examples

A marketing team will, understandably, like to plan their advertising ahead of time. They might have the goal to increase sales, reach a new potential consumer group or make a certain amount of ads each year. Forward planning is great, but being too strict with your media planning may stop an advertising agency from getting creative for its clients. Some of the best examples of advertising are found in spontaneous decisions.

Oreo is a brilliant example – it jumped on the moment when the lights went out during the Superbowl and told people they could still ‘dunk in the dark’. Not a planned advertisement, but an effective one.

Ikea also found a great opportunity to seize the moment when Balenciaga made a $2,145 bag that looked very similar to Ikea’s 50p blue bag. Ikea quickly put out an ad with a simple side-by-side shot of the two bags, with a tongue-in-cheek guide on how to tell if your bag is a ‘real’ Ikea. Not only was it responsive, but it also used humour to make its point in a lighthearted way.

To read more about the event, including Patrick’s 7 ‘be’s’ of brand behaviour, head to our other blog from this event – The new rules of brand advertising.