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What marketers can learn from the world’s 100 most effective ad campaigns

Looking at the Warc 100 class of 2016 – an annual ranking of the world’s best marketing campaigns and companies according to business impact – it is clear there are a number of themes that emerge.
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Ranked number one, the “Penny the Pirate” advert developed by Saatchi & Saatchi and OMD for optical chain OPSM combined traditional and digital media – an element which arguably raised it to the coveted top spot – by producing a printed book and app to highlight vision problems children may suffer. More than 126,000 parents bought the reading book, the number of eye tests conducted by OPSM increased by 22.6 per cent year-on-year and its sales grew by 22.4 per cent.

But there is far more to learn from the top 100 campaigns that could prove helpful to any business looking to create an efficient advert. Here are just a few of the key takeaways.

(1) The use of social media and online video clearly delivers results

Many of the campaigns that made the list used digital elements to deliver scale. One of the most notable uses of digital by a brand was the “Live Test Series” by Volvo Trucks – its YouTube video views of over 100m reached beyond the brand’s niche target audience of truck drivers and resulted in a 23 per cent growth in sales in the fourth quarter of 2013. Let’s face it, any advert with Jean-Claude Van Damme doing a split between two reversing trucks is sure to get people interested.

If We Made It” by Newcastle Brown Ale also needs to be mentioned as it used online video to parody the advertising hype around the Super Bowl. This led to an increase of volume sales by over 20 per cent. Brits love a good laugh – something which was highlighted in a Real Business article which found that Brits are more likely to talk about quirkily-named small firms than ones with anonymous, descriptive names.

From The Codfather to Florist Gump: Brits love a laugh when it comes to business names such as these

(2) Social activism is on the rise

Pioneered by Dove, and sometimes even dubbed “The Dove effect”, marketers around the world have learnt that taking a strong, socially progressive stance can help drive business impact. This need for brands to be seen as having social responsibility has transformed many top-performing marketing strategies, as is reflected in several top 20-ranked campaigns including “#LikeAGirl”, “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables“, “I Will What I Want“, “Touch the Pickle” and “This Girl Can“. 

Most brands choose relatively uncontentious causes, from encouraging female empowerment to cutting food waste, though with its “This is Wholesome” campaign, US brand Honey Maid took a braver stand and selected a potentially divisive topic: celebrating alternative family structures.

(3) Now is the time to break through the top ranks

IKEA and Heineken now premier in the top ten while Tata has become the ninth-best global advertiser. While we’ve come across the ads developed by these brands, they arguably never held much impact. This year, however, creativity seems to be running rampant and any brand can stand to knock the top giants off the top pedestals. This suggests that now is the time to action and be remembered by consumers.

The IKEA brand’s global scale and consistent success across markets were key to its strong performance, Warc suggested. Campaigns developed by agencies in 11 nations contributed to its overall total – and its fourth place in the brand ranking. Heineken’s broad portfolio of brands built its score: the core Heineken brand came sixth, while the Heineken company came fourth on the advertiser/brand owner rankings – both are record highs for the company. Heineken’s brand strategy of high-impact sponsorship of sporting events was also the driver behind several campaigns that contributed to its points total.

On the other hand, the Tata Group’s broad variety of categories contributed to it ranking ninth on the global advertiser rankings, up from 32nd place in 2015: Tata-owned auto, soft drinks, clothing and accessories, media and publishing, business and industrial and retail brands all played a part. Tata’s most successful campaign was “British Villains”, which was developed by Spark44 and ran in the US for Jaguar. It also shows that it pays off to be diverse in your advertising.

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(4) Much needs to be done in the UK

With only two campaigns in the top 20, the UK isn’t performing in the international rankings as well as in the past, although it retains its second place in the country table. Three’s “Holiday Spam” campaign by Wieden+Kennedy is ranked number 13, and the “This Girl Can” campaign for Sport England number 20.

AMV BBDO is the only UK creative agency in the top ten. UK media agencies perform better, with PHD London and OMD UK being joined by ZenithOptimedia Londonin the top ten. OgilvyOne London also moved up the digital/specialist agency ranking from tenth place last year to sixth in 2016.

The UK’s ad spend in 2015 was $23.9bn, a four per cent share of global spend.

(5) What some of the winners had to say

David Lette, Heineken’s brand director suggested the key to success was making sure people enjoyed your brand at every touchpoint. “This might be through buying a limited edition bottle at their local supermarket or enjoying a cold pint, served Extra Cold in their favourite pub, or perhaps engaging with the brand by tweeting with a Heineken football legend, whilst watching a gripping Champions League match,” he said.

But at the centre of Heineken’s success, he said was partnering up with sports activities and founding a long-term deal with the  Bond franchise.

Jonny Bauer, the global chief strategy officer at Droga5, however, claimed it was key to simply do your best to create the most influential work that’s deeply rooted in future facing strategy. Strategy was echoed once more by Alex Leikikh, CEO of MullenLowe, who suggested that brands needed to brush up on challenger thinking skills in order to deliver effective, high profile ads in the global marketplace.

Alternatively, Simon Prince of Powwownow suggested in order to market a brand in an unsexy industry you have to be clear from the outset what type of business you want to be – but you don’t need the flashiest all-singing product or marketplace to be able to engage millions.

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About Author

Shané Schutte

Shané Schutte is a senior reporter at Real Business, with a particular specialism in employment and business law, human resources, information technology and sales/marketing.

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