Top 13 Creative Agency Ad Campaigns: Masterpieces of Advertising

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Do you want to know the secret to what makes a great ad campaign? Here goes: there isn’t one secret. There are no hard rules to follow, but numerous best practices that you can use as guidance.

You’ll often hear that ads need to be short. Though, brands like Fiat and Dove have delivered great results with much longer ads.

You also don’t necessarily need to blow your entire budget on getting a celebrity to become the face of your campaign. Sure, Steve Carrell is arguably what makes Pepsi’s ad so effective, but Fiat featured their very own CEO and it worked. Leveraging user-generated content (UGC) has also become one of the best marketing strategies as you’ll see.

Whether you’re trying to crack the code or will simply settle for feeling more inspired, here are 13 of the best creative ad campaigns brought to you by some of the leading creative agencies over the past three decades.

Top 13 Creative Agency Ad Campaigns From 30 Years:

13 Ad Campaigns to Inspire:

creative agencies ad campaigns

1. Apple: “1984”


Creative agency: Chiat\Day

Launched: 1984

Directed by Sir Ridley Scott, one of modern cinema’s creative filmmakers, Apple’s “1984” campaign is still rated as one of the greatest TV ads. The one-minute ad helped Apple to sell 72,000 computers in just 100 days. To put this achievement into perspective, its sales productions aimed to sell just over 50,000.

Interestingly though, the initial reaction wasn’t all that positive. A number of Apple’s directors didn’t want to run the campaign as revealed in the Steve Jobs biography written by Walter Isaacson. In fact, according to John Sculley, the CEO at the time, most thought it was the worst commercial.

If you’re working with one of the reputable creative agencies in your niche, let this example serve as a reminder to trust them. They have enough experience to see what the future holds in store.

2. Nike: “Just Do It”


Creative agency: Wieden + Kennedy

Launched: 1988

Nike’s iconic campaign that put its tagline on the map serves as an example of how creative production agencies have used storytelling long before the explosion of UGC. It was the footwear brand’s first major TV campaign and features 80-year-old Walt Stack, a legend in the California running community, sharing his achievement, encouraging audience members to follow in his footsteps.

All in all, this campaign shows how brands can connect with their target markets on an emotional level. To this day, it remains one of the best examples of the importance of creating emotional connections.

3. California Milk Processor Board: “Got Milk?”


Creative agency: Goodby, Silverstein & Partners

Launched: 1993

All the other ads on this list were created for global brands, except for this one. However, it became one of the most iconic taglines ever.

According to Fast Company, it’s estimated that on any given day 80% of all US consumers came into contact with the simple, yet iconic, question. Even if you didn’t grow up in the 90s, the chances are good that you’ve heard the two-word catch phrase before.

As Fast Company explains, the agency took an innovative approach by using deprivation marketing. Rather than focus on selling the actual product – milk – to potential customers, it sold the idea of not having milk and that basically everything else tasted better with milk. The product they were selling was also only revealed till the last few seconds of the ads.

It won numerous awards. It was parodied. All signs that you’ve created a memorable ad.

Who knew that black comedy would go down so well with milk?

What’s more, the slogan, which was later licensed, got used in the equally famous “milk mustache” campaign run by the Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP). This separate campaign featured a long list of celebs including the likes of Britney Spears, Kate Moss, and Jennifer Aniston (all icons in their own right during the 90s). Not only did they manage to get A-listers to pose for them, but they also attracted a star behind the lens — Annie Leibovitz.

4. Budweiser: “Whassup?”


Creative agency: DDB Worldwide (Chicago office)

Launched: 1999

Considered as one of the best beer ads ever, Budweiser’s “Whassup” campaign is a great example of how the simplest ideas are the most memorable. The ad is based on True, a short film written and directed by Charles Stone III. Stone was also asked to direct the TV ad.

Hate it or love it, but the “Whassup” phrase stuck. Follow-up ads with a new angle emerged, making this campaign one of the best examples of how it’s possible to launch ad sequels successfully.

Aside from the phrase gaining widespread popularity, it also did loads for sales. According to The New York Times, the campaign helped Anheuser-Bush to increase sales by over 2 million barrels.

While Anheuser-Busch was rewarded with sales, the creative team of DDB Worldwide raked in the rewards and made it into the Clio Hall of Fame. It walked away with virtually every award, including the international Cannes Grand Prix.

5. Apple: “Get a Mac”


Creative agency: TBWA

Launched: 2006

Apple is known for its solid branding and it has run a number of successful advertising campaigns over the years to solidify its brand. The “Get a Mac” campaign is another example for some inspo.

All in all, it’s a great example of how you can use an advertising campaign to take on your main competitors. In an interview with Campaign US, Mike Refuerzo, the campaign’s executive producer, looks back at the history of “Get a Mac” and reveals that Jobs wanted to expose PCs.

The challenge was to create a campaign that clearly shows how Macs are superior to PCs. It took seven months, proof that successful advertising campaigns take time.

While Apple had great campaigns like “1984” behind its name, there were also ones like “Lemmings” that fell far short. So, the stakes were high, even more so that they were planning to take on Microsoft.

It’s also a great example of how quality over quantity matters. Campaign US further reveals that more than 320 spots were shot of which only about 20% were ever aired. In fact, Phil Morrison the director working on the campaign at the time reveals that the spots featuring a celebrity rarely made it to air. As Mike explains, “The laughter had to be centered around the message we wanted to communicate.”

6. Old Spice: “The Man Your Man Can Smell Like”


Creative agency: Wieden + Kennedy

Launched: 2010

What do you do when you’re trying to appeal to younger consumers but the very name of your brand uses the word “old”? You turn to a creative agency and not just anyone. You hire Nike’s creative agency of record — Wieden + Kennedy.

Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Can Smell Like” campaign is a classic example of the importance of market research. Data showed that women made 60% of body wash purchases. So, instead of targeting mainly men, the agency used this ad to spark conversation between couples. Clever thought was given to media buying and environments where couples would be watching together were targeted.

They also launched a “Response” campaign. This follow-up took a more interactive approach and the agency’s team filmed nearly 200 video responses to fans which were posted on YouTube. In fact, this second campaign became the fastest growing interactive campaign in history, according to the agency’s website.

As for the impact on sales, it surpassed the initial goal of improving sales by 15%. Three months after it was launched, sales were up by 60% from the previous year. Two months later and it had doubled.

7. Always: “#LikeaGirl”

Creative agency: Leo Burnett Worldwide 

Launched: 2014

For proof that effective ads can be longer than 30 seconds, you can check out the “#LikeaGirl” campaign. Campaign Magazine explains that to succeed in this product category, you need to foster brand loyalty. Once a woman has found a brand that she likes, she tends to stay loyal to that brand. This meant that Always had to find a way to reconnect with younger audiences, a segment that viewed them as less relevant.

Promoting confidence was always at the core of the Always brand. Though, as Campaign Magazine highlights, women started to reject the logic that if they’re confident in the product self-confidence will follow.

The team delved deeper into the concept. They discovered that gender stereotypes are one of the main reasons why girls’ self-confidence drops when they enter puberty. They set out to tackle this in a three-minute ad by challenging how society uses the phrase “like a girl”.

All in all, it’s a great example of how you can leverage hashtags and social media not only to reach younger audiences but also get celebrities’ attention. Even Gloria Steinem, an author and feminist activist, tweeted the hashtag along with a link to the ad. George Takei, an American actor known for his role in Star Trek, also took to Facebook to applaud the ad and gather his followers’ thoughts. His post alone generated 40,000 likes, over 6,000 shares, and 2,000 comments.

8. Pepsi: “More Than OK”


Creative agency: Goodby, Silverstein & Partners

Launched: 2019

Sometimes you need to face an issue head on. That’s what Pepsi did in their “More Than OK” Super Bowl commercial.

Not only did they take on their biggest competitor, but they also brought in the help of some big guns. The ad features Steve Carrell, Lil Jon, and Cardi B.

Pepsi’s VP of Marketing, Todd Kaplan, explained in a press release that the brand’s millions of customers need to be asked continuously when ordering a coke if Pepsi is OK. This served as the idea behind the campaign.

The secret behind the campaign is the light-hearted tone throughout. Rolling Stone has rated it as one of Pepsi’s most memorable commercials and commends the ad for mixing reality with comedy.

9. Fiat: “Operation No Grey”


Creative agency: Leo Burnett Worldwide (Turin office)

Launched: 2023

For an example of how you can keep your target audience engaged for longer, you can check out Fiat’s recent ad. The 90-second ad was in the top 5% of UK car ads according to Marketing Week.

It takes a bold approach to communicate that Fiat is all about bold colors. In the advertisement, the automotive manufacturer’s CEO announces that from July Fiat will no longer be producing grey cars.

It doesn’t stop at this bold statement, though. The CEO also gets into one of the brand’s cars which gets immersed in a huge bucket of bright orange paint.

All in all, it’s a great example of how you can set yourself apart from your competitors. According to Leo Burnett, the digital advertising agency behind this ad, 27% of cars sold across the globe are grey.

The gamble paid off. According to System1, a global marketing research and effectiveness company, they received a 3.6-star audience rating. The average score for automotive ads is only 2.4. In fact, according to System1’s CCO, Jon Evans, the ad has the potential to be one of the top 30 car ads in the United Kingdom. In any case, he thinks it’s Fiat’s best ad to date.

10. Dove: “#TurnYourBack”

@dove No filter should tell you how to look. 80% of girls are already using filters by the age of 13. It’s no wonder their perception of beauty and their self-esteem are distorted. Help reverse the damage. #TurnYourBack on the Bold Glamour filter and digital distortion. Real beauty is bold. #RealBeautyIsBold #Dove #LetsChangeBeauty #NoDigitalDistortion #BeautyCommunity #SelfEsteem ♬ original sound – dove

Creative agency: Ogilvy and DAVID

Launched: 2023

For another example of the power of hashtag campaigns, you can turn your attention to Dove’s “#TurnYourBack” campaign. Dove is known for broadening the definition of beauty and TikTok’s Bold Glamour filter was the latest threat to Dove’s fight against unrealistic beauty standards. Partnering with Ogilvy and DAVID, they created a two-minute video that won a Cannes Lion Gold.

The ad caught the attention of the likes of The Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, and Cosmopolitan. Women’s Health described it as a social movement which went on to reach the Oscars with Emmy-winning host Nischelle Turner and American actress Gabrielle Union turning their backs too.

Over 1 billion impressions were created and on TikTok alone it generated more than 110 million views. It initially started on social media, but turned into a 360-degree global campaign.

What makes this ad even more effective is that it uses influencers to speak out against one of the very features that they will probably be using for content creation. Overall, it also serves as a great example of how brands can leverage user-generated content to create a more authentic advertising campaign.

11. Burger King: “We Give Up”


Creative agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty (London)

Launched: 2023

While Burger King might be synonymous with its Whopper, it’s not all customers’ burger of choice. The brand has promoted its signature meal consistently over the past six decades and splurged millions on ad campaigns focused on the Whopper only for many still to choose chicken over beef.

In this ad, Burger King UK cleverly admits “defeat”. Like some of the other ads, they also reference their biggest rival, albeit not as prominently as some of the other ads on this list.

What makes this ad so great is its “zag” (BBH’s way that they change brands). As the digital marketing agency explains on their website, they heroed one product (the Whopper) only to sell the Chicken Royale.

The ad was named The Drum Ad of the Day, while David Reviews, one of the leading online resources for filmed advertising content, gave it five stars. Aside from the reviews, the ad generated global coverage. In addition to the UK, it also reached markets in Spain, Germany, the US, and Brazil.

12. Stella Artois: “Artois Probability”


Creative agency: GUT Buenos Aires

Launched: 2023

Awarded the Creative Data Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, this ad shows how you can incorporate data into your campaign and yet deliver a highly engaging ad. Basically, it uses an algorithm to analyze some of the most famous and influential artworks to show that there’s a chance that the beer pictured, in fact, was an Artois.

The agency also partnered with The Buenos Aires Museo de Bellas to host an exhibition. Here, beer/art lovers could use an augmented reality (AR) app to scan artwork which then generated “the Artois Probability score” in real time.

The results — tens of thousands of people interacted with the app and over seven million impressions were created. On YouTube alone, the ad was viewed nearly 40,000 times in just seven months.

13. Heinz: “It Has to be Heinz”


Creative agency: Wieden + Kennedy

Launched: 2023

In 2023, Heinz launched its first-ever global campaign in the 150-year history of the company. It was also the parent company Kraft Heinz’s biggest media investment. So, there was a lot on stake.

The premise is simple, but it works. From getting a tattoo of the logo to dunking sushi into Heinz ketchup, it celebrates its customers’ love (sometimes ridiculous) for its products.

In total there are five ads that were distributed via more traditional routes like TV and cinema as well as digital platforms like social and online video. To date, one of the ads generated more than 5 million views in the span of only seven months.

Key Takeaways

In this carefully curated list, we tried to cover creative ad campaigns from each decade, starting in the 1980s. From footwear to food to beverages to body care products, we also tried to cover various industries.

We offered slightly more page space to the past year so that you can take away current trends. It’s becoming increasingly more important for brands to show that they care about social issues and sustainability. Dove’s ad perfectly shows how it’s possible to merge marketing with social causes.

Effective marketing is less about your product and more about your customers (and their pain points). This is what brands like Heinz and Burger King managed to do in their ads too. Burger King gives up on what they think should be the best burger, while Heinz applauds their customers’ loyalty.

If all else fails, there’s always humor to fall back on. Even though social responsibility and sustainability are starting to matter a lot more to consumers, they still make time for a quick chuckle.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a creative agency do?

A creative agency offers marketing services that typically include strategy, branding, advertising, and graphic design. They combine innovative strategies with creativity to help businesses with their marketing goals. Examples of services offered by creative agencies include market research, product development, brand development, and video production.

What makes a great ad campaign?

The most effective ad campaigns:

  • Keep it simple
  • Use a strong opening hook
  • Resonate with their target audience 
  • Show how the offering will improve the lives of consumers
  • Have a strong brand recall and are memorable

What’s social responsibility marketing?

Social responsibility marketing is a strategy where you target consumers wanting to use their purchasing choices to support a cause close to their heart. Using this approach, brands will focus on their corporate social responsibility efforts and initiatives like donating or volunteering. For this to be effective, you need to be authentic about the causes that you support and try to balance it with the values of your target market.

What should you ask a creative agency before hiring them?

Here’s a breakdown of the most important questions you should ask potential creative agencies:

  • What are your main focus areas and skills?
  • Which types of businesses do you typically work with?
  • How big is your in-house team and do they do all the work?
  • How do your fees work?
  • How often will I receive communication, updates, and reports?
  • Will I have a dedicated account manager?
  • Can you share case studies, client references, and examples of recent successful campaigns?

Which are some of the best agencies for social media ads?

If you specifically want to launch your ad campaign on social media, you can check out the following agencies according to sources across the web:

  • LYFE Marketing
  • Ignite Social Media
  • Disruptive Advertising
  • NinjaPromo
  • Sociallyin
About the Author and Expert Reviewer
Koba Molenaar brings nearly a decade of rich experience in content writing, specializing in digital marketing, branding, SaaS, and eCommerce. Her passion for helping brands, from solopreneurs to established companies, connect with their audiences shines through her work. As a member of the Golden Key International Honor Society, Koba’s commitment to excellence is evident in her work, showcasing her as a relatable and knowledgeable voice in the industry.
Djanan Kasumovic
Expert Reviewer
Trusting our digital marketing content is easy; Djanan Kasumovic rigorously tests and analyzes various solutions to ensure we recommend only the best options. Whether we're reviewing hands-on or compiling insights for educational articles, our goal is to provide you with informed choices based on our extensive experience and testing