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The Most Iconic Ad Campaigns in History


The Most Iconic Ad Campaigns in History 

Ads are everywhere we look in our world. On any given day, the average person is believed to encounter between 6,000 and 10,000 ads. These figures keep going up if the last few decades are anything to go by. In the seventies, the average number was much lower, at 500 to 1600 ads a day. 

With so many campaigns in our peripheral vision all the time, it is no wonder most of them don’t stick. This is why brands around the world invest so much time and money into finding the ad campaigns that will work. It also explains why ad spending’s are now rivalled by social media marketing.  

This doesn’t mean, however, that ads can no longer be effective. It simply means that they need that special something to really stand out. In this article, we will be looking back on history to identify some of the most iconic ad campaigns that have stayed with people for years. 

1931 – Coca Cola Reinvents Santa Claus 

While Santa has always looked a little like what we imagine him as today, Coca-Cola managed to put a face on this figure. So, that now Santa represents what most of us associate with the jolly man in red. 

Fred Mizen painted the first Coca-Cola Santa for the 1930s ad. But the Santa in the ad was not as friendly as the executives of the campaign would have liked. They hired Haddon Sundblom to create the iconic Coca-Cola Santa we know today. 

1942 – We Can Do it 

The Rosie, the Riveter poster for the “We can do it!” campaign, has grown much larger than its initial intended purpose. Westinghouse Electric’s campaign featured the now-famous image of a muscular woman with a head bandana, inspiring women’s engagement in the workplace. 

At its creation, the poster was intended to raise the morale of female workers at Westinghouse’s factories. They produced helmet liners during the second world war. Rosie the Riveter was not supposed to be an intended connection. She was a mostly fictitious factory worker presented to recruit women for their contribution to the war. 

In the 1970s and 1980s, the poster started to be used by feminists as a symbol of female empowerment. And by today, this single image has been used by Clorox and Beyonce to communicate the strength, determination, independence, and confidence of women that can get the job done. 

1959 – Volkswagen’s “Think Small.” 

In the late 1950s, Volkswagen innovated on the grand sales pitches of that time by acknowledging their product in a way that was self-deprecating, practical and understated. The campaign was designed by legendary ad agency Doyle Dane Bernbach and forever changed how companies engaged with their consumers. 

At the time, the public had grown dissatisfied with the idea of mass consumerism.  

Instead of boasting that their product would change people’s lives, Volkswagen focused on its actual practical applications. The fact that they were selling cars oriented on the utility that was smaller and more durable. Their ads were more straightforward and acknowledged themselves as sales tools.  

Volkswagen went as far as to call one of their cars a ‘lemon’ because the glove compartment was slightly damaged. In the wake of the “Think Small” campaign, advertisers moved away from over-hyping their sales pitches and created more playful campaigns. These learned to acknowledge the scepticism consumers were growing towards advertising. Marketing moved towards individualism instead of the desire to fit in with the grand corporations. 

1988 – Just do it. 

Did you know Nike’s famous slogan was this old? The first time they used it was in an ad that showed an 80-year old jogger make his way across the Golden Gate Bridge. His purpose? To complete a daily 17-mile run. 

The message was concise and straightforward and quickly rallied consumers to push their limits and go for what they wanted. To this day, the slogan is synonymous with an athletic mind set that convinces people they can do anything if they set their minds to it. 

Nike has built a strong brand on the back of this mind-set.  

Ad Agencies are Still Innovating Today 

In a saturated market, it has become difficult for ad campaigns to stand out. But with the rise of technology and a much more connected internet, there are only more ways to get creative and innovate. 

The historic ads captured a Zeitgeist and personally spoke to consumers of their time. New innovations are happening continuously, and consumerism keeps evolving. If your business is looking to make an impact, the right ad campaign could be the way to do it. 

ZAK Agency is an advertising company in London that specializes in delivering ground-breaking, innovative campaigns. Maybe we won’t make history – but we are sure to stand out in the minds of your audience. Get in touch today to learn how we can help.