7 World Brands' Advertising Ideas That Broke the Mould
Digital advertising is powerful enough to stir a wide range of emotions. Some ads are so irritating that they push you towards purchasing a premium subscription just to avoid them before your videos play. Others resonate so deeply that you find yourself sharing them with your Instagram followers and friends.
In this article, we showcase global brands' advertising ideas that have turned creativity on its head, featuring insights from Contagious, TrendHunter, Ad Age, Adweek, Cannes Lions, and the Effie Index. Get ready to be inspired — you might just find a strategy here to revolutionise your company's approach to marketing your business.
#1. Adidas: Liquid Billboard to Promote Brand's Inclusive Swimsuit Collection
In a groundbreaking collaboration with Havas Middle East, Adidas introduced the world's first swimmable billboard in June 2021. Located on Dubai's bustling Kite Beach, the campaign supported the launch of Adidas's inclusive swimsuit line.
This line, featuring long-sleeved tops, hijabs, and trousers, catered to countries where Islam predominates. Adidas acknowledged that 88% of Middle Eastern women feel uncomfortable swimming in public due to prevailing beauty standards, body dissatisfaction, and a lack of appropriate swimwear, leading to a decline in aquatic sports participation among women.
The innovative 5-meter-tall liquid billboard, containing 43.5 thousand litres of water—equivalent to 163 bathtubs—featured underwater cameras broadcasting live dives to the Dubai Mall's largest screen, near Adidas's flagship store. The campaign aimed to empower women of all sizes, ethnicities, and beliefs to dive in and join a global dialogue.
The Beyond the Surface campaign sparked conversations in over 50 countries across six continents within a week.
#2. Ogilvy: Morning After Island — Challenging Honduras's Emergency Contraception Ban
While nations like Colombia, Argentina, and Mexico have recently legalized abortion, Honduras stands alone in Latin America in prohibiting emergency contraception, with women facing up to six years in prison if they are caught using it. This law has led to an alarming number of underage pregnancies, with one in four Honduran girls becoming mothers before 18 — totalling over 330,000 in the past decade.
In response, women's rights advocates Grupo Estratégico PAE and Ogilvy Honduras joined forces to establish a floating safe space in international waters, beyond Honduran legal reach, where women could access emergency contraception without fear of legal repercussions. Ogilvy also rolled out a video campaign to encourage people to support a petition calling for legislative change.
The campaign quickly went viral, receiving early coverage from CNN International, which helped propel the movement. It collected over 800,000 signatures in under six months, and hundreds of media outlets across 14 countries highlighted the initiative.
The efforts culminated in Honduran President Xiomara Castro convening a congress to formulate laws protecting the sexual, reproductive, and civil rights of three million Honduran women. This advocacy led to legislation allowing the legal use of emergency contraception for the first time in 13 years.
#3. Burger King: Moldy Whopper Campaign to Effectively Position Brand's Burgers as Natural
Burger King took a gutsy step to prove the naturalness of their ingredients with their Moldy Whopper campaign. A time-lapse video against a black backdrop showcased a Whopper decaying over time, highlighting the absence of preservatives.
This unorthodox strategy successfully positioned Burger King as a brand willing to break the mould in advertising, boosting the sales of their premium burgers, especially the Whopper, by 14%. Garnering over two million YouTube views, the campaign earned prestigious honours, including the 2021 Cannes Lions Grand Prix and three grand prizes at the 2020 Epica Awards for creative advertising.
#4. Burger King & McDonald's: Worldwide-Known Marketing Wars
The clash of titans, McDonald's and Burger King, has been a defining narrative in fast food lore. McDonald's may engage in occasional jests, but it's Burger King that embraces bold marketing tactics, highlighting its unique offerings and pioneering spirit. The "Whopper Detour" campaign stands out as a testament to this, crowned as 2019's most creative campaign by the WARC Creative 100 ranking.
Leveraging the redesigned Burger King app's order-ahead feature, customers within 600 feet of a McDonald's were enticed with a Whopper for a mere cent. Upon ordering, the app cleverly navigated them away from McDonald's and toward the nearest Burger King. The campaign catalysed over 1 million app downloads within days, eventually surpassing 1.5 million downloads.
#5. Nike: An Immersive Experience That Gamified In-Store Product Trials
Nike China introduced a novel way to try out their new Nike React running shoes—by integrating a 3-minute video game into the in-store experience. Customers could fashion an avatar to mimic their movements as they tested the shoes in virtual realms including a fantastical Chinese metropolis, Panda Island, and Mount Fuji. This gamified trial was not just fun—it was an innovative marketing idea that effectively communicated the benefits of Nike React technology.
Hosted in Nike stores across Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, and Chengdu for a month, "Reactland" saw nearly half of its players purchasing the shoes post-gameplay.
#6. Duolingo: #TattooDuoOver Campaign Targeting Mistranslated Tattoos
Mistranslated and incorrectly spelt tattoos are surprisingly common. Fortunately, there's hope for those who thought they were inscribing the correct words. In a stroke of creative advertising genius, the language-learning app Duolingo unveiled a campaign for individuals who have tattoos in languages they don't fully understand.
In 2022, Duolingo encouraged users to share photos of their foreign-language tattoos on Twitter or Instagram, using the hashtag #TattooDuoOver. The company's team reviewed the tattoos for errors. The unfortunate but lucky winners were given a chance to fly to Paris and correct their tattoos. Moreover, all participants received complimentary monthly access to Duolingo Plus.
This campaign serves as an excellent example of a good ad, reflecting Duolingo's engaging way of promoting language learning.
BETC Paris, the digital marketing company behind this campaign, announced it garnered over 500 million views and a remarkable 167% surge in Duolingo subscriptions.
#7. IKEA: The Suitcase — Supporting Ukrainian Refugees
In 2022, millions of Ukrainians were forced to flee the war, taking remnants of their homes in a suitcase. IKEA had been active, repurposing spaces to shelter Ukrainian refugees, initiating social projects, and providing employment. Nonetheless, IKEA aimed to inspire broader community action.
From April 22 to May 8, 2022, IKEA stores across Italy, with the help of DDB Group Italy, symbolised the plight of Ukrainian refugees by packing the contents of a room setting into a suitcase, an action all too real for the refugees. The exhibit featured an empty room with only a suitcase, confronting visitors with the stark reality faced by every refugee and prompting them to donate essential items to Ukrainian refugees.
The campaign, featured in 21 Italian IKEA stores, achieved a total reach of 2.9 million and 7,500 interactions. Most importantly, in the first week alone, there were 2,300 donations to IKEA's "A Place to Call Home" project, offering many Ukrainian refugees a new place to live.