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August 6, 2021 (Updated: May 4, 2023)
Ad campaigns are marketing strategies you can use to increase your brand awareness and revenue. They can address your customers’ needs and convince them why your product or service can solve their problems. Use this guide to learn about building and running an ad campaign and review 15 iconic ad campaigns throughout history.
An ad campaign is a grouping of advertisements that share the same message. They’re meant to achieve a specific company goal. They’re typically created around business objectives and appear across different mediums.
Ad campaigns are more than just flashy graphics that appear on search engine results pages (SERPs). While design and attractiveness are two components of a campaign, the best ad campaigns use research, organization, and a linear plan. These elements help marketers identify the campaign’s purpose, find the most effective ways to capture their audience’s attention, and persuade the audience to complete an action.
Ad campaigns can help your business bring its marketing and advertising goals into focus. Often, you’re not just trying to “beat out” the competition—you’re trying to find people who can benefit best from the things your company offers. Targeted ad campaigns can help you find the people that need your products or services, then convert them into long-term customers.
Even if you currently have a lot of visitors and views, it’s better to make sure those views are coming from the most profitable sources. Your ad campaigns can make sure your traffic and metrics represent meaningful views that are more likely to result in conversions. Learn more about who watches video content and how to optimize it by downloading CopyPress’ free eBook on video marketing.
Companies run ad campaigns across various types of media, including:
Online campaigns can be powerful because it’s easy to measure the changes and activities after launch. The more data you can collect and analyze, the easier it is to optimize ads, get better results, and spend less money on each campaign. Online campaigns use many of the best qualities of other types of campaigns. You can include distinct elements like:
There are four distinct types of online ad campaigns, which are:
Social media campaigns use platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, TikTok, and LinkedIn to share messages. You may target a different audience with each platform. For example, Facebook may be best for reaching baby boomers and Gen X. Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok are more popular with millennials and Gen Z. LinkedIn is for professionals of all ages. Twitter and YouTube can span all ages and audiences depending on the niche content of the video, channel, or feed.
Email marketing helps gain new leads and make conversions. These campaigns typically use a subscription list. The people on this list have typically consented to receive emails from you and have shown some interest in your company. Using email campaigns to follow-up with other communications can help convert subscribers into new or returning customers.
SEO and content marketing work together to help your search rankings. SEO is optimizing your website or blog to help your content rank higher organically in SERPs. One way to achieve this is by creating quality content for your site. You can share valuable information with the right audience to become more relevant to search engines when they’re crawling results for queues.
At CopyPress, we provide a range of content writing services, like blog posts, to help you create the most valuable and search-engine friendly content for your sites.
Like SEO and content marketing, SEM focuses on how to perform better in SERPs. However, SEM uses paid methods to capitalize on search engine ad space. Using methods like pay-per-click (PPC) and sponsored ads can get your campaigns to appear higher in SERP results.
Print campaigns focus on traditional paper-style media to reach customers. Examples of print advertisement channels include:
Print ads used to be the standard advertising format. While online ad campaigns may be popular today, they haven’t eliminated the need for print ads. Even companies that put most of their marketing budget into online campaigns may supplement those messages with print advertising.
For example, large corporations may still buy billboard space or put ads in print issues of magazines. Smaller companies may print yard signs for their customers to take and display at their homes, or they might hand out brochures at an in-person event.
Television advertising is exactly what the name suggests: ads that appear on TV. Most TV ads are between 10 and 60 seconds long, though some can be longer depending on the product and channel. According to Statista, advertisers spent over $60 billion on TV advertising in the United States in 2020. Larger companies advertise during big events like award shows or sports games, such as the Super Bowl. Small to medium-sized companies may advertise on local channels, public access channels, or during smaller events. With the rise of streaming services, companies also run ads on platforms like Hulu and Amazon Prime.
Television ads can use as actors, models, or celebrities to endorse products. They might feature footage, animation, or a combination of the two. Payment for this kind of ad space can vary by channel and air time depending on the audience you want to attract. For example, ads on major networks during prime time get many viewers and cost more money. Conversely, daytime ad space on a local channel may be cheaper, but it might require you to investigate which audience you’re likely to reach through this method in order to determine if the ad space is worth the investment.
Radio and audio advertisements use words and music to get their messages across. They run on traditional and satellite radio stations, during podcasts, and on music streaming platforms. There are different radio ads depending on the space you purchase. They include:
Follow these steps to help you get the most out of your ad campaign:
Set a goal to guide the rest of the ad campaign process. Think about the things you want to improve at your company that advertising can directly impact. Some common campaign goals include:
Decide what you want to get out of the campaign. This can help you pick the target audience, choose the right voice, and develop the ad design.
Focus on the consumer. Who needs to hear the message you’re going to spread? Define your target audience by demographic factors like:
Create profiles for these ideal customers. This exercise can make it easier to understand your target audience and create content that addresses and connects with their places in life.
Different campaigns may have different target audiences, even within the same company. For example, a company like Target, which sells products for all ages, may create one campaign for young adult clothing and one for children’s video games. Segmenting your audience further by their demographic factors can help decide which are most suited for your current campaign’s message. This can make your content and placement more specific and help you reach your goal more quickly.
Now that you know who you’re targeting with your ads, you’ll want to understand how best to connect with them. Different demographics or geographic regions might use different terms to refer to the same things. Researching how your target audience refers to your brand, products, and services can help you prepare to write an effective message.
Learn where your target audience consumes their media and advertisements. You can choose to work online, in print, or through other media channels. Consider using a combination strategy to increase the chances of people seeing your ads in different places.
Your message includes the actual words and ideas you want your target audience to understand from your campaign. Messages should be memorable but also focused on your goals. Try to keep your tone natural, organized, and clear. A 2019 study from the Technical University of Denmark says our collective attention span is shrinking, so being brief can also help capture viewers’ attention in the small window of time when they’re focused on your content.
Your textual messages are important for the ad campaign, but so are the visuals. When designing ads with images, consider the medium where you’ll publish them. Online and TV advertising can benefit from video and motion elements. Print and some internet advertising use only static images. The design also includes factors like:
Artistic elements can be subjective, so let your audience and brand guide your choices. Reviewing data about past campaigns and looking at the success of competitor campaigns can also help you decide what works best.
Measuring the results of your ad campaigns can help you determine its effectiveness. Most online ad campaign programs include their own built-in metrics, while tracking the success of television, print, or radio ads may take more work and observation. By carefully tracking data, you can make informed decisions about altering the ad campaign or amplifying its most successful elements in future marketing efforts.
The best ad campaigns meet their goals, evoke emotion, get people engaged, and have a lasting impact on consumers or culture. Based on this criteria, here are 15 of the best ad campaigns of all time:
The company first launched this campaign in Australia in 2011 when they personalized bottles with the 150 most popular names in the country. They moved the campaign to other countries, including the United States, and used a combination of print, online, and television ads to spread the message. Coke encouraged customers to use #ShareACoke on social media to tell people when they found a bottle or can with their name on it. This all helped amplify the campaign’s reach.
This campaign became so influential for Nike that it went from an ad to the company slogan. When the business started, Nike catered mostly to marathon runners. In the late 1980s, fitness became a popular pastime, and they created the “Just Do It” TV ad to attract other runners. Since then, the campaign exploded into print, radio, and online channels. The tagline now applies to all sports, and Nike has used many athletes to promote it over the years. They even created a 25th anniversary updated campaign to celebrate the success.
Google started this year-end campaign in 2010. It’s a simple online ad that includes a two-to-three minute video of the most common searches from the past year. The marketers compile images, video clips, and voiceover content to turn the searches into a story. It’s easy to forget this video is even an ad because it plays like a movie and feels more like a time capsule. This campaign works because it focuses on the nostalgia of the past year and makes viewers feel emotional about the included content, which they then associate with Google’s branding.
Australia Metro Trains got creative with their public service announcement about rail safety. The internet and radio campaign debuted in 2012 with a three-minute video showing cartoon characters engaging in foolish ways to die. The song associated with the campaign became so popular that they released it on iTunes and even created a mobile game around the premise of staying safe.
In 2006, when home and personal computers were becoming more common, there was the debate of whether people should get Apple Mac computers or PCs. Apple created a television spot personifying the devices, sharing how Macs weren’t susceptible to the same computer viruses as PCs. The ad was simplistic and humorous, and it worked. Apple’s market share grew 42% within a year of launching the campaign.
IHOP, or the International House of Pancakes, knew how to cause a media stir when they launched their IHOb campaign in 2018. The print, television, and internet ads seemed to show that the company was changing its name to IHOb, or the International House of Burgers. Later, the company revealed it was all a clever tactic to remind people they served more than just breakfast food. It worked because, according to AdWeek, sales of their burgers tripled after the campaign.
This campaign started in 1993 with a very simple goal: get people to drink more milk. Though it first appeared in print, it later moved to television. Celebrities and fictional characters donned milk mustaches and asked the simple phrase “Got milk?” The success after the first year likely led to the campaign’s longevity: milk consumption increased by 7% from 1993 to 1994.
The clothing brand Aerie started their #AerieReal campaign in 2014 to promote size inclusivity and body positivity with their products. This primarily online campaign showed diverse celebrity models and influencers. It also boasted a “no retouching” policy for things sometimes seen as imperfections, like freckles or stretch marks. The hashtag encouraged customers to share photos and stories about their experiences online also without editing or retouching. Following the launch, the company grew to a $1 billion business.
Insurance is one of the harder services to market. Everybody needs it, but there are many places to get products with the same benefits. In 2008, Progressive created the character Flo, a peppy insurance agent, to sell their services. The original television campaign followed storylines of her antics and making deals with customers. For over a decade, Progressive has built additional campaigns around the same character. They’ve expanded her storyline to include friends and family members, too.
To reignite interest in one of their products, the Mars candy company created a debate: which Twix bar is better, the left or the right? They created a backstory of two Twix factories that each manufacture part of the chocolate bar. The television, print, and online ads then prompt consumers to try both and decide which is better. The company still uses this campaign to promote new products, like their Cookies & Cream bar.
Perhaps taking a note from Progressive, Allstate introduced its own fictional character in 2010 called Mayhem. The campaign focused on the different ways this personified action could interrupt people’s lives and lead to cases where they’d need insurance. Most of the television and online ads were timely, addressing topics like football season or holidays. In 2020, the company branched out and used new storylines without the character, but given the campaign’s success, they could bring him back in the future.
This campaign became so iconic that many don not know it was once an actual advertisement. The first version of this print ad appeared on the July 6 cover of Leslie’s Weekly magazine in 1916 to address how the United States planned to respond to the outbreak of World War I. Between 1917 and 1918, the U.S. Army printed over 4 million copies to advertise to recruits.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt revived the poster for World War II to repeat its success. This campaign worked because it played to people’s senses of emotion and patriotism by using a familiar fictional character—Uncle Sam—to evoke a sense of duty.
This other iconic historical image also got its start as an ad campaign. The first posters appeared at Westinghouse Electric factories to boost internal morale among women workers who took new jobs to help production during World War II. Over time, this ad became associated with women’s empowerment. Throughout history, the character and phrasing has appeared in ads for many other brands, such as Clorox and Connections Academy.
Dove launched this print and television campaign in Canada in 2004 to separate its products from other beauty competitors. The original campaign focused on inner beauty and how people view themselves differently than others see them. Today, the campaign is still popular and has developed to include online content. These new portions include videos about unedited photos and hashtags like #MyBeautyMySay and #TheSelfieTalk.
Before asking questions on social media was popular, the Tootsie company used print and television ads to ask an important one: “How many licks does it take to get to the tootsie roll center of a Tootsie Pop?” The print campaign used cartoon drawings of a child and wise forest animals to determine the length of the process. Tootsie still uses the television commercial today. They even share studies that universities have conducted to solve the mystery.
Understanding how the ad campaign process works makes creating and implementing these marketing tactics easier. Using campaigns along with other business strategies—like keeping your website current and engaging with potential leads—can help you address more of your goals and meet them more quickly.
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