Great advertisements do more than sell products — they make strong statements and provoke an emotional response. Humor, bold graphics and memorable taglines are all potential hallmarks of great branding. However, in the age of viral media, some ads now take the form of short films. Others aren’t even created by corporate agencies, but by small businesses and individuals with a creative streak. Check out some of the most memorable examples of great advertisements below.

Humor and a Personal Touch

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When a recent college graduate sought housing in a new city, he took to Craigslist to express the qualities he offered a potential roommate, as well as what he was looking for in a good match. But instead of composing a short, text-based ad, he took a series of photos of himself next to a whiteboard, describing his interests and background — sometimes with props. The result was an ad that was funny, engaging and took a bit of the mystery out of the roommate search. At the end of the series, the student pretended to be waiting for a response before finally exiting with a goodbye message scrawled on the whiteboard.

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Viral Videos With a Message

The modern video advertisement makes a statement without selling a brand. In 2014, an ad for a small clothing brand based in Los Angeles, Wren, went viral — and most viewers probably didn’t even realize it was selling something. The three-and-a-half minute film showed strangers asked to kiss for the first time, on camera, often with emotional results.

A non-profit, Save the Children, also used video, but to spread a much different message: They wanted to communicate the reality of civil war. They did this by showing a year in the life of a (fictional) child, over the course of 90 seconds, as her life is devastated by war. The film brought in $100,000 in donations while showing the universal horror and destruction caused by political conflicts.

Stunning Print Graphics

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People often flip through magazines, so ads must be striking in order to catch and hold a reader’s attention. Creative Bloq‘s collection of exceptional print advertisements includes a large yellow square with numerous unmatched socks. At the bottom of the page is an organizational product made by IKEA, along with the company’s logo. Another example is an ad that depicts the rings on a tree stump in the shape of a whale. Beside it is the message that Penguin Audiobooks “save paper.”

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SANCCOB, non-profit organization, used an optical illusion in order to highlight the plight of an endangered species. Their ad shows African penguins in a row at the top of the page, but morphs into fewer animals as the reader looks down. There is a similar effect in an ad for the WWF, with two paper towel dispensers side-by-side. On both, there is the cut-out shape of a continent. As the paper towel, dyed green, is used, there is gradually less green space across the land.

Famous Logos and Taglines

If you can recognize a brand from a random shape or a catchy phrase, it’s been successful at marketing. Nike went from a company that catered only to elite runners to a general fitness brand using the tagline “Just do it” and the recognizable swoosh logo. Its sales grew from $800 million in 1988 to $9.2 billion 10 years later.

Likewise, even if you don’t drink alcohol, you probably recognize the Absolut Vodka bottle, the shape of which was in every company ad for 25 years. The “In the Wild” campaign found the bottle in big city traffic or the winding shapes of an urban metro station.

Ultimately, history’s greatest advertisements are memorable and invoke an audience response. A long-term brand association can lead to product purchases, donations and in-depth thought on a pressing social issue.

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Isabelle Daigle
Isabelle Daigle

Isabelle Daigle runs all content marketing for Hello Focus. She's an avid writer and loves long Netflix binge sessions!