Are These the Smartest Marketing Campaigns of the Past Year?

Jami Oetting
Jami Oetting



smart-advertisingThis post originally appeared on The Agency Post. To read more content like this, subscribe to The Agency Post.

How often do you use the word “smart” to describe advertising?

More often, you hear words like innovative, transformative, and even synergistic.

But really it comes down to being smart -- with budget, with execution, and with the audience’s attention.

Warc just released its listing of the 100 smartest marketing campaigns worldwide. According to the site, “The rankings are compiled based on the winners of 75 effectiveness and strategy awards from around the world.” The ads were submitted to the awards circuit during 2013 and 2014.

Most of these you should remember well -- unless you took off to try that whole startup thing -- but they're worth another look. They prove that budget should never be a deterrent for compelling creative, and the best campaigns don’t need need some flashy tech integration. It is still simply about uncovering a core human insight and using that to bring together and connect with an audience.

1) Vodafone Fakka

Brand: Vodafone

Agency: JWT Cairo

Buying your groceries at open markets and small shops is the norm in Egypt. The thing is that most vendors don’t keep a huge supply of small change in their cash register. So, instead, shopkeepers give the customer a piece of candy or a spare vegetable as change -- causing confusion and a bit of frustration.

When Vodafone wanted to launch it’s micro recharge cards in the market, it used this issue as a method of distribution. The brand provided vendors with a supply of recharge cards to hand out in place of a slightly bruised carrot.

2) Small Business Saturday


Brand: American Express

Agency: Digitas & Crispin Porter + Bogusky

“Small Business Saturday” won a Blue award at the inaugural Facebook Studio Awards, and the New York Festivals International Awards deemed it the “World’s Best Idea.” But this campaign became more than just a once-a-year push to get people to swipe their credit cards at more local establishments. It raised the awareness of the public about who they spend their money with, got local officials -- and even the President -- involved, and taught local merchants how to use digital to garner community support.

3) It’s More Fun in the Philippines

Brand: Philippines Department of Tourism

Agency: BBDO Guerrero

The Phillippines’ tourism arrivals rate had stagnated, but there was little budget for an international campaign. Instead of trying to run a big campaign on a small budget, BBDO Guerrero and the Department of Tourism gave the reigns to the internet. It allowed anyone to create a meme using the new tagline, “It’s more fun in the Phillippines.” The project went viral, becoming the top trending topic on Twitter two days after it was launched. According to Warc, “Within three months, overseas visitors to the Philippines had increased by 16%.”


4) Thank You, Mom

Brand: Procter & Gamble

Agency: Wieden + Kennedy Portland

Relaunched to promote the 2012 Olympics in London, “Thank You Mom” shows the story of three kids as they grow into adult athletes, recognizing the unique role that mothers play in this journey. The campaign was continued for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Take a look, and bring the tissues.

5) Overstay Checkout

Brand: Art Series Hotels

Agency: Naked Communications Melbourne

Have you ever woken up in a hotel room, face stained with mascara and a throat that feels like you guzzled sand -- instead of tequila -- the night before? Okay, well that maybe only happens in Vegas, but the 11:00 a.m. checkout might be the worst part about a hotel stay. That is unless your room is next to the ice machine. With “Overstay Checkout,” people were able to stay in their Art Series Hotel room until the next guest arrived -- either later that day, the next day, or even in a week. It “beat sales targets and generated a 359% ROI” reported Warc.

6) Daily Twist

Brand: Oreo

Agency: FCB/360i

Forget the blackout at the Super Bowl -- Oreo was “winning” long before the lights went out. With its “Daily Twist” campaign, Oreo was early to the game of using a newsroom-style production method for advertising. For 100 days, it created a graphic that embodied what people were talking about that day -- from a rover landing to the new “Batman” premier to Cheesecake Day (July 30 if you need to update your calendar).


7) Smoking Kid

Brand: Thai Health Promotion Foundation

Agency: Ogilvy & Mather Bangkok

Advertising has tried multiple approaches to getting out the message that smoking causes emphysema, early death, cancer, and disease. But the Thai Health Promotion Foundation decided to take a different approach. Instead of shoving gory pictures of the effects of tobacco in a person’s face, it let children ask real smokers “why?”. The effect is brilliant.

8) Old Parts for New

Brand: ORBIS International

Agency: Ogilvy & Mather Hong Kong

ORBIS’ flying eye hospital -- a DC-10 -- had helped millions of people in developing countries. But its flights were going to be halted because of a need for new parts. To prevent the plan from being grounded, Ogilvy and ORBIS took the scraps from the plane -- including life jackets -- and created badges that could be sold for a fundraiser. The effort raised $6.5 million.

9) Real Beauty Sketches

Brand: Dove

Agency: Ogilvy & Mather São Paulo

Within a month, Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” became the most viral video ever released. A woman describes herself for a forensic artistic, and then someone she just met describes her to that same artist. The results are surprising because of the stark contrast in the sketches. The campaign put forward the simple truth that people do not recognize their own beauty.

10) Car Creation

Brand: NRMA Insurance

Agency: WHYBIN\TBWA Sydney

The car insurance industry is saturated with competitors. To differentiate itself, NRMA built a car from car parts that its competitors do not insure. The campaign used the power of the crowd to figure out what parts people wanted insured, and then they streamed an online video of the vehicle being created. This lead to “3.373 million enquiries to NRMA Car Insurance in the first 8 months following its launch, at an ROI of 129%.”

View the full list at Warc.

inbound marketing campaign free guide

Related Articles

We're committed to your privacy. HubSpot uses the information you provide to us to contact you about our relevant content, products, and services. You may unsubscribe from these communications at any time. For more information, check out our Privacy Policy.

Outline your company's marketing strategy in one simple, coherent plan.

Marketing software that helps you drive revenue, save time and resources, and measure and optimize your investments — all on one easy-to-use platform