The Greatest Ad Campaigns of All Time

As we move into a new decade of creative innovation in advertising and marketing, it seems only right to take a moment to respect the past.

To the end, we tapped the expertise of some of the leading advertising and marketing minds from the Philly region. Our judges were given one simple, straightforward question, to interpret however they chose:

What is the greatest ad/marketing campaign of all time?

Here’s what they said …Chris Helle, Chief Marketing Officer, Premier Dental & Medical Co.
All great advertising begins with a key consumer insight. Building on Nike’s iconic and inspirational “Just Do It” tagline, which speaks to the world of possibility and the aspirational athlete in all of us, Michael Jordan’s “Failure” ad delivered universal emotional resonance as well. Jordan introspectively recounts the critical shots he missed and the key games he lost and draws upon them for even greater determination and perseverance to pick himself up, work to get better and ultimately succeed beyond anyone’s expectation. The Wieden + Kennedy campaign was brilliant as it drew upon the insight that all of us achieve our greatest potential only after we’ve failed … and then learn to be resilient and push even harder to reach our goals.


Catie Haelig, Content Director, Xfinity Digital
When I think of great campaigns, I honestly come up blank. I’ve spent the past decade marketing things. I should be able to fire this off the top of my head, right? Instead, I find myself googling “great campaigns” (argument to be made here for Google, whose brand name is now a verb). So I took some time to not think about this. And the answer popped into mind at an incongruous 6:45am: ABSOLUT. A campaign so good, it appealed to every demographic. As a 13-year old, Absolut was art. As a 21-year old, it was the only brand name I already knew when I first legally entered a bar. As a 37-year old, it’s still a good answer when I’m stumped by the White Claws and alcoholic kombuchas of the world. Those posters. That bottle. Endless possibility and pure innocence attached to a liquor brand. :chefskiss:

John R. Wall, Consultant / Former VP Creative & Content at
The “I’m a Mac”/“I’m a PC” campaign from Apple is a favorite. With humor and a look that echoed Apple’s simple design philosophy, the campaign personified computers beyond their utilitarian nature and asked people to pick a side. Apple knows better than anyone that it isn’t about hard drives and peripherals, it’s about a product improving your life and making you feel like you’re part of something bigger.

Editor’s Note: Apple’s “Think Different” campaign also should be noted. Every great brand is a mirror in which its audience sees its best reflection. Has any other campaign done a better job of creating that magic mirror? Alas, for this writer, there was another campaign that edged this one out, if only for the challenges it overcame. (See below.)


Ryan Somers, Sr. Director, Global Sponsorships, SAP
The Bud Light “Dilly Dilly” campaign had already gone viral as a Game of Thrones parody. But then came the 2017 Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles. When Nick Foles asked Coach Peterson if they could run a trick play called Philly Special, he casually called it “Philly Philly” instead. The Eagles scored on one of the most iconic plays in Super Bowl history, and Bud Light hit the advertising lottery — by flipping “Dilly Dilly” to “Philly Philly” and massively capitalizing on the latter’s organic spike. It offered free beer during the Super Bowl parade and gifted the Eagles a statue that recaptures that conversation between Foles and Pederson. It now stands out front of the concourse at the Eagles Stadium, along with a massive Bud Light billboard overlooking the stadium from the highway. This is a rare instance of real-time decision that helped a brand capitalize on an unplanned heat moment. For those risk-takers out there, THIS is how you can achieve greatness.

Meghan Gainer, Senior Marketing Leader,
The more I consider the question, the more I come back to the Dove “Campaign for Real Beauty.” It was one of the first times we saw women of all shapes, sizes, colors and complexions in an ad for something that EVERYONE uses. Regardless of who you are, you can see yourself in the ad — and, therefore, benefiting from the product! While it was targeted at women (obviously), I think it actually opened up the conversation for everyone about how women have historically been portrayed as needing to fit in a particular box to be deemed worthy of being a spokesperson for a brand. It was a catalyst for a cultural shift that is still underway, years later. It also managed to shift Dove away from being perceived as an old lady product to something modern women use that’s gentle on skin. So, while likely not the greatest of all time, it’s one that had a real impact.

Carolynn Costanzo, Manager of Online Marketing, Lasko Products
My all-time favorite is Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty,” because it was a catalyst for actual change in the beauty and fashion industries. The campaign was unbelievably brave when it launched, it made people think differently, and it made women feel better about themselves. It is the first campaign I can recall that made authenticity truly important, and it started a trend which forced apparel and beauty brands to change how they traditionally operate and show their clothing on “real women.” It is uncommon for an ad campaign to challenge societal norms and create the type of change this one did. I am thankful it did, and I still buy Dove because of it.


Ron Wagner, SVP Marketing, The Judge Group
For me, marketing is all about problem-solving for customers and helping organizations make money, save money or do something better. For these things to happen, marketers need to be relevant, different, better and arresting with their products and campaigns. Based on these things as my litmus test, I’d say these 3 campaigns really stick with me as some of the best:

> New Coke: The launch of New Coke ignited a re-birth in their brand, but not for the reasons the Coca-Cola organization had hoped. Their failed attempt at upgrading their recipe sparked passions and outrage and had lifelong customers clamoring for The Real Thing, not the new thing.
> DeBeers Diamonds: Their campaign from the 40’s not only dramatically drove sales but cemented the diamond as the go-to item for wedding engagements then and now.
> Got Milk: This category campaign about a dull, bland, forgotten drink became a pop-culture phenomenon that still endures almost 30 years later.


Greg Ippolito, president & creative director, IMA
In 1958, when desirable cars were big, fast and beautiful, Volkswagen’s Beetle was small, slow and ugly. And German! A car that was literally a pet project of Hitler himself was to be marketed in the U.S. only 13 years after the Nazis surrendered. (Read that line again.) But Bill Bernbach, of DDB, knew how to sell it: Namely, by transforming the very standard of car advertising. With copywriter Julian Koenig and art director Helmut Krone, they created the iconic “Think small” ad. It was honest and fresh. It was smart and different. It stripped away all the color and gimmickry that was common in modern car ads, offering instead a thinking-person’s approach that had never been seen before. The ad, like the car, wasn’t for everyone — but both struck a strong chord with a select segment. The result is a brand that’s achieved a level of loyalty with its audience that’s borderline cult-like … and the DNA of that brand can be sourced all the way back to that first ad launched in 1959.

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