3 Brilliant Digital Ad Campaigns and Their Lessons

By Inspiring Interns

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Digital marketing has clearly been established as a vital part of contemporary commerce. Yet many businesses don’t fully utilise the unique advantages of digital promotion. Here are three examples of brilliant ad campaigns that provide us with lessons in how to maximise the potential of digital marketing.


The Man Your Man Could Smell Like

Old Spice’s advertising campaign ‘Smell Like a Man, Man,’ produced by their advertising agency Wieden + Kennedy, was an immediate success from its very first video. However, what really cemented the ad as a cultural phenomenon and prolonged its effectiveness, was their experiment in real-time branding. The team set out to create personalised video responses to social media comments.

In July 2010, this was unprecedented. Brand Manager, James Moorhead explained: “The entire team was blown away with it, as no one had ever seen anything like it and we weren’t sure how it could be pulled off.”

The creative team managed to post 186 video responses in around two and a half days of production, with some clips being turned around within 10 to 15 minutes. The team responded to both high profile celebrities and everyday viewers. By day two, Old Spice claimed 8 of the top 11 most popular videos online.

The collection went on to garner more than 65 million views, making it one of the most popular interactive campaigns ever produced.

The Lesson: Effective digital media campaigns engage their audience in active participation. Members of Old Spice’s audience loved being personally responded to, ensuring sustained buzz and high shareability.


Dumb Ways to Die

In late 2012, Metro Trains in Melbourne, Australia engaged the services of McCann to create a rail safety awareness message that young people would actually pay attention to. The result was one of Australia’s most talked about campaigns: ‘Dumb Ways to Die.’

The initial video featured animated beans singing about dying in stupid ways. The cartoon concludes that being hit by a train is possibly the dumbest way to die. The combination of a catchy tune, cute characters and dark humour made the advertisement very popular.

McCann set about creating related content, such as karaoke versions, gifs and online games. However, soon the public took over their production role, with many spoofs being made. No matter what people did with the video, The Metro never flagged any copyright infringement. They recognised that all references to the advertisement increased its exposure.

The video has now been viewed over 145 million times on Youtube and is linked with a 21 percent reduction in railway accidents.

The Lesson: Companies should allow for their advertising content to be repurposed. McCann Melbourne’s Executive Creative Director, John Mescall argues: “Social media has given us the possibility to influence like never before, but you can only do that if you are willing to give up control. See your ideas as a start for something, rather than the beginning and the end.”


This Girl Can

With the recent return of the hugely popular ‘This Girl Can’ advertisements, it is worth considering what makes the campaign so appealing.

Sport England launched the initial extensively-researched campaign by FCB in early 2015, to encourage women to become more involved in sports and exercise. They used realistic depictions of women exercising—sweat, jiggling, cellulite and all.

The television advertisements were supported by the creation of large social media communities. The online video received 37 million views on Facebook and YouTube, and the #ThisGirlCan hashtag banked up 660 000 tweets.

To assist their supporters, Sport England released material online, which facilitated the ‘This Girl Can’ branding and logos to be lifted for related marketing campaigns.

Even more innovatively, when women posted their concerns about exercise, a tailored algorithm sent them an encouraging tweet. Women visiting the site are now encouraged to use an app to create their own poster, with a slogan from one of the advertisements.

In a survey from January 2016, 2.8 million women said that they have done some or more activity as a result of the campaign.

Sport England’s Director of Business Partnerships, Tanya Joseph, sees the key to their success to be empowering women, both in the message and its spread. Tanya believes that: “the sports industry has always looked at the reasons why women weren’t participating in sport as simply excuses, but we really took a step back and listened.”

Lesson: Your campaign will be well-received if you can use digital media to help make your audience feel empowered. As Joseph explains, “you don’t need to make women feel bad about themselves to sell products or change behaviour.”


Innovative companies are constantly discovering new ways to harness the potential of digital campaigning. We should all pay attention to see what lessons we can pick up along the way.




Elise Britten writes graduate careers advice for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency. Check out their website to see which internships and graduate jobs are currently available. Or, if you’re looking to hire an intern, have a look at their innovative Video CVs.



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