10 Awesome Ad Campaigns You've Never Heard Of

Everyone's heard of the "Pause that Refreshes" Coca-Cola campaign -- which is why it's not included in this list.
George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images

There are a lot of innovative and creative minds toiling in the field of advertising today. Thanks to the advent of user-friendly desktop image manipulation and design programs like Photoshop and Illustrator, bending reality to an ad executive's whims is easier than ever. Because of these two factors, agencies worldwide have been churning out a treasure trove of awesome advertisements.

But not all of these ads make their way across the globe. Due to social mores, some are too racy for some Western sensibilities. Others speak more to a particular nationality or cultural group than others. And some, on the other hand, are hyper local; the campaign is too expensive to create more than a single billboard in one location.


Whatever the cause, some of the great ad campaigns around the world don't make it across all borders. As such, we present 10 of the better ad campaigns that may have slipped below the radar.

10: Obesity is Suicide

One of three images for Brandon Knowlden's "Obesity is Suicide" campaign.
Courtesy Brandon Knowlden

Art designer Brandon Knowlden created a buzz when he developed an ad campaign against obesity entitled "Obesity is Suicide," for the Western U.S. In addition to the man hanging himself with a rope made of sausages, the artist included a woman who has overdosed on candy and a man with a bomb made from butter sticks strapped to his chest.

The campaign was originally geared toward weight loss through surgical means, although after an outcry against it, it's been unbranded. Perhaps now more than ever it serves its purpose of warning the public against the dangers of obesity.


9: FarFoods

One of James Reynolds' "FarFoods" produce labels.
Courtesy James Reynolds

In an age where seasons no longer exist in grocery produce sections due to fast and relatively cheap transportation, it's extremely easy to overlook the environmental impact of that transportation. To combat this oversight, the sustainability community has created the concept of food miles, the amount of miles food travels from farm to store (and inherently the amount of greenhouse gases that travel generates).

Although it's not always a constant -- one famous study found that lamb shipped from New Zealand to England actually produced substantially less carbon dioxide than expected -- the fewer miles food travels the lower the impact it has on the environment [source: Chua].


Moving on the premise that consumers will make better choices if food miles aren't hidden, designer James Reynolds created FarFoods, a marketing campaign that includes functionality. The campaign is centered on produce labels that show how many miles a bag of clementines traveled, for example. The labels include bar codes and, when scanned, the food miles for each item appears by its price on the receipt and a total appears on the bottom.

8: Science Diet's Good Digestion Ad

This little puppy is one of three Science Diet used to demonstrate the power of its dog food.
Courtesy Mat Baker/Katapolt/JWT

Pet food company Science Diet contracted with JWT Advertising to run a series of print ads that showed a veterinarian examining three different dogs. Ostensibly, thanks to their owners feeding them Science Diet dog food, the pets have bowels so unobstructed that the beam from the flashlight the vet uses on the animals passes right through them. The tag line "For healthy digestion" appears in the bottom right hand corner of the advertisement.

The print ads ran in Australia and New Zealand in 2007 and won an award from the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity that year [source: Makam].


7: Feed SA Grocery Carts

Looking down into this cart could make anyone cough up some money to help feed hungry children.
Courtesy Feed SA/TBWA South Africa

Feed SA is a South African charitable organization that operates food programs to the poverty-stricken in townships around the country. An astounding 90 percent of donations are pumped directly into the group's food aid programs, making it an extremely lean organization administratively [source: Feed SA].

Yet, that figure alone doesn't necessarily drum up financial aid to Feed SA. To increase monetary support among South Africans, the organization contracted South African agency TBWA/Hunt/Lascaris to create a jarring guerilla marketing campaign.


The agency created decals sized to fit a standard grocery cart that depict an impoverished child, hands held out, who appears to be huddled at the bottom of the cart. The cart's handle bears the tagline, "See how easy feeding the hungry can be?" [source: Adland]

6: Nationwide's Spilled Paint Billboard

Must … buy … insurance.
Courtesy Andy Mahr/TM Advertising

Nationwide Insurance's long-running "Life Comes at You Fast" campaign has covered television, print media, radio and the Internet. But the company pulled out all the stops for a May 2007 local billboard campaign in Columbus, Ohio, where the company's international headquarters are located.

The company contracted with Texas agency TM Advertising to create what amounts to a street art installation. The company took over three billboards mounted on the side of the Atlas Building in downtown Columbus, two for a fake company called "Coop's Paints" and one for its logo and "Life Comes at You Fast" tagline. The middle "Coop's Paints" billboard spills yellow paint out of the imaginary world of advertising and into reality, covering the bottom of the building, the parking lot below, cars and the parking attendant's shelter. The message comes through loud and clear.


5: Swiss Skydiving School's Elevator Free Fall

A promotional image of the Swiss Skydive's elevator free fall campaign.
Courtesy Wirz /BBDO, Switzerland

Skydiving schools aren't usually flush with the same kind of cash multinational corporations are, and so they usually don't have large advertising budgets. Such is the case with Swiss Skydive, the largest skydiving school in Switzerland. Yet the group got a lot of word of mouth and press exposure when it hired the Wirz Gruppe to create a campaign designed to convey the thrill of skydiving to the masses.

The Wirz Gruppe came up with a decal designed to be stuck to the bottom of elevators --preferably glass ones -- around the country. These stickers show a view of a metropolis below, high overhead, to give the illusion of a free fall as the elevator descends. The January 2009 ambient ad campaign delivered the message effectively.


4: Science World's Sneezing Bus Shelter Ad

An unsuspecting but curious bystander takes a fake sneeze to the face at a bus shelter.
Courtesy Rethink

Since 2007, people standing around waiting for buses in Vancouver have had something to do -- specifically learning about how far droplets from a sneeze can travel. The answer is up to 12 feet, (3.65 meters) according to bus shelter billboards for Science World, a non-profit organization that operates an interactive museum in British Columbia.

The billboard is simply a large yellow circle in a white field with only a small Science World logo atop a push button and the tantalizing text, "Press here and we'll explain." Passersby curious enough to push the button are rewarded with a simulated sneeze in the face. A recording of a sneeze noise is accompanied with a mist of water vapor sprayed from the sign at face level. A recorded voice explains how far a sneeze can travel and includes the Science World "We Can Explain" tag line.


3: Amnesty International's Hidden Domestic Abuse Ad

The AI Germany domestic abuse campaign includes this bus shelter ad that features a camera that changes the poster's image.
JUNG von MATT, Hamburg

Here's another bus shelter ad with a far less humorous bent, although its design is perhaps even cooler than Science World's sneezing sign.

Amnesty International is known around the design world for fostering innovation in advertising; this bus shelter ad space decrying domestic abuse, created for the human rights organization by German agency JUNG von MATT in June 2009, is no exception. A poster for Amnesty International shows a couple standing unremarkably together, at least when the embedded camera senses you're looking at the sign. When the camera notes you're no longer looking at the poster, the image of the couple changes to a scene where the husband batters the wife. A preprogrammed delay times the image change so no observer actually misses the message.


The sign has the tag line "It happens when no one is watching," and features the Amnesty International logo.

2: Alka-Seltzer's Hangover is Dangerous

One print ad from Alka-Seltzer's "Hangover is Dangerous" campaign.
Courtesy PROVID

Sometimes Westerners don't catch awesome ad campaigns because they're run in very far off places, like Ukraine, for example. Such is the case with Alka-Seltzer's "Hangover is Dangerous" campaign.

The print ad campaign from 2008 ran in Ukraine's magazines and print media around the holiday season and featured images like the one above -- of a clearly hungover man, ostensibly on the morning after really tying one on, washing his dishes with his kitten instead of a sponge. Another ad shows a man using his Christmas tree as the toilet and still another one shows a man groggily answering a hot iron, instead of his phone.


1: Nikon's Paparazzi Camera Ad

Seoul subway travelers get the celebrity treatment at the Sindorim Station in 2009.
Courtesy Nikon

If you happened to ride the subway in Seoul, South Korea in the summer of 2009 and caught the train at Sindorim Station, you may have found yourself walking on a red carpet leading toward the shopping area surrounding the station. This red carpet was part of Nikon's campaign for their D700 digital SLR camera.

As commuters walked along the red carpet and past a billboard of photographers taking aim at them, they tripped a sensor that set off simulated flashes. The paparazzi treatment was well-placed: The mall that the red carpet led to came complete with a Nikon store.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Adland. "Feed SA trolley - ambient, South Africa." July 14, 2008.http://adland.tv/ooh/feed-sa-trolley-ambient-south-africa
  • Ads of the World. "Nationwide Insurance: spilt paint." Accessed November 24, 2010. http://adsoftheworld.com/media/ambient/nationwide_insurance_spilt_paint?>
  • Ads of the World. "Swiss Skydive: Free Fall." Accessed November 29, 2010. http://adsoftheworld.com/media/ambient/swiss_skydive_free_fall
  • Chan, Cheryl. "Bus-shelter ads nothing to sneeze at." Times-Colonist. September 12, 2007. http://www.oaaa.org/press/news/news.aspx?NewsId=385
  • Coloribus. "Amnesty International eye tracking." Accessed November 30, 2010. http://www.coloribus.com/adsarchive/outdoor-ambient-online/amnesty-international-eye-tracking-13354105/
  • Chua, Jasmine Malik. "FarFoods: food-mile labeling lays on guilt trip." TreeHugger. August 11, 2009. http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/08/far-foods.php
  • DSLR Camera and Lenses News. "Nikon D700 DSLR paparazzi advertising in Korea." July 16, 2009. http://www.dslrphoto.com/dslr/nikon-d700-dslr-paparazzi-advertising-in-korea,5763.html
  • Feed SA. "About Feed SA." Accessed November 24, 2010.http://www.feedsa.co.za/
  • Mackler, B. "35 of the most creative and innovative advertising campaigns for your inspiration." Design Tutorials 4 U. Accessed November 29, 2010.http://designtutorials4u.com/35-of-the-most-creative-and-innovative-advertising-campaigns-for-your-inspiration/
  • Mamuk, Sandeep. "Science Diet dog food - Cannes 2007 Lions Winner." 2wenty 4our. June 20, 2007. http://sandeepmakam.blogspot.com/2007/06/science-diet-dog-food-cannes-2007-lions.html
  • McWilliams, James. "Food that travels well." New York Times. August 6, 2007. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/06/opinion/06mcwilliams.html
  • Moncour, Laura. "'Obesity is Suicide' ad campaign." Starling Fitness. April 23, 2008.http://www.starling-fitness.com/archives/2008/04/23/%E2%80%98obesity-is-suicide%E2%80%99-ad-campaign/
  • My Modern Met. "Nikon D700: The interactive ad that makes you the star!" July 16, 2009. http://www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/nikon-d700-the-interactive-ad
  • The Inspiration Room. "Alka-Seltzer Christmas Hangover." December 31, 2008. http://theinspirationroom.com/daily/2008/alka-seltzer-christmas-hangover/
  • Toxel. "Clever and creative billboard advertising." January 5, 2009. http://www.toxel.com/inspiration/2009/01/05/clever-and-creative-billboard-advertising/