8. 5. 2022
Try asking yourself how many advertising campaigns you can easily recall. Then think again and ask yourself why these particular examples come to your mind. You will probably find that the unifying element in a lot of them is that they are original and evoke a particular emotion in you. Joy, emotion, horror, outrage - it doesn’t really matter. The important thing is that they stick in your mind so much that you remember them even years after you no longer see them on screen or elsewhere. Creative advertising campaigns are simply the most reliable tool available to marketers, which is why it’s a shame that today’s examples are outnumbered by those that don’t have much originality. Does this mean that creativity is dead? Not in the slightest - in fact, it’s quite the opposite.


According to the American marketing theorist Orlando Wood, advertising in general is experiencing a crisis in the 21st century that is characterised by a departure from the values and trends of the last century. He explains this shift using the neuropsychological theory of the left and right brain. In very simplified terms, the two brain hemispheres perform different tasks. While the left one tends to be more schematic and categorizing, the right one is more alert and basically perceives reality in context. Of course, the two hemispheres cooperate to some extent, but some perceptions and impulses stimulate the activity of only one part of the brain. And, according to Orlando Wood, since about 2006 we have been living in the era of so-called left-brain advertising.

How to describe such advertising succinctly? The advertisements of this time are much flatter and, in line with the theory of the two brain hemispheres, also much more schematic. When they feature people, they are fictional characters rather than truly believable characters. These ads tend to instruct and rely more on features such as rhythmicity and literalness of message. Right-brain ads are in many ways their opposite - they are characterized by depth, humanity, emotional realism, and an emphasis on the specifics of geography and time. It is only logical, therefore, that the feelings the ads evoke in viewers are different in each case. Left-brain advertising will leave a feeling of flatness, which is not the best thing for either attention or engagement. Right-brain advertising makes you think about what you knew, even after watching it, and ideally want to know more.

Video: presentation by Orlando Wood for his book Lemon (2019)

Wood finds several reasons why the current advertising season is dominated by the left brain hemisphere. Let's recall the two main ones; the most obvious is probably the digital revolution of the 21st century. The shift to online in the advertising world has meant a move towards short-term formats and away from conceptual long-term brand building. Online advertising can be found in various forms literally everywhere. And with the increasing quantity comes an acceleration of creative processes.

Another major phenomenon is global advertising. International brands create campaigns for products that are traded in many markets around the world. Adverts therefore need to be universal enough to be used equally successfully in, for example, the UK and Japan at the same time. This is particularly problematic because it loses its local character and risks being so disembodied that it is unable to generate the desired emotional response in either market. Such advertising simply will not be 'at home' in either Britain or Japan.


Why is creativity in advertising so important? The theory of the two cerebral hemispheres has already suggested something, but in general, creative advertising is able to tell an emotionally believable story of the brand itself. The key aspect here is the corporate philosophy and values on which the brand is built. Successful advertising is therefore characterised by several qualities...


    According to a recent study by the Millward Brown agency, only 16 % of all advertising messages hit the mark. Again, this is to some extent a 'credit' to the digital revolution. The average user is assaulted by hundreds of ads a day on the internet, so it's only logical that their attention filters out most of them as unnecessary and only pays attention to those that stand out in some way. Creativity is a way to differentiate your message from the plethora of others and engage the consumer public.


    Where there is creativity, there are usually the expected results. In layman's terms, any investment in unique and creative advertising is a better decision than even a negligible investment in advertising that does not have these qualities. Theorist James Hurman has taken the trouble to analyse more than three decades of advertising campaigns, evaluating them in terms of creative execution, which he then put into context with their success with consumers. He found that a high-quality creative campaign has up to eleven times the return on investment of campaigns that are not creative. His findings were later backed up by an analysis by The Harvard Business Review, which found that an investment of one euro had twice the effect on creative campaigns than on non-creative campaigns. So creativity wins again in a landslide.


    Consumers believe that if a company is able to put out imaginative and memorable advertising, it applies the same philosophy in all areas of its business. Therefore, they also tend to believe that products are given the same care and that the advertising does not lie. In short, it is important to them that they can believe in the brand. This actually builds customer loyalty, for which trust is a key building block. Consumers are therefore more likely to appreciate advertising that is story-driven and carries a message with a point. On the other hand, an advertisement that is obvious from the first glance that it has been rushed out with the sole aim of presenting and selling a specific product will not evoke any feelings of affection. At best, such advertising will only end up in consumer oblivion.


    Creative advertising will find its own way to consumers. This is, of course, a bit of an exaggeration, but it does work in some respects. It is one of the positive aspects of the digital age for a change. High-quality creative advertising requires lower media spend because people are more likely to simply 'share' it between themselves. This effect is magnified in the social media environment - quality pieces simply stand out in the flood of advertising messages. It's a huge source of joy when your ad is interesting enough to be noticed by a well-known or influential person. Sharing it on their accounts can then be downright beneficial to the campaign, with literally minimal media spend. Non-creative formats will find it very difficult to go down this route. No one needs to give free space to something that is no different from the average.

Where does advertising of the type described above thrive best? The answer is simple - its natural home is still, of course, the television screen. It will be seen from the examples below that creative advertising campaigns often have great ambition and in many cases have downright cinematic qualities. Therefore, they clearly benefit from bigger screens, which also has an impact on the audience's perception of them. Given that most authors want to tell a specific story, the scrolling option offered by online platforms does not seem entirely appropriate either. Simply put, these forms of advertising creative want to evoke an emotion in the recipient, which is best done in a linear way and without the 'information noise' that the internet is full of. Moreover, in all honesty - we still see television as a medium in which we relax. We simply pay more intense attention to advertising messages, which is not entirely true of the internet. Television is simply the natural home of creative advertising campaigns. And as such, it suits them very well, as can be seen in some of the specific examples below.


If we live in an era that is more conducive to the production of unoriginal and forgettable ads, what was it like in times past? Sometimes we come across the claim that the Italian fashion company United Colours of Benetton was at the birth of modern marketing. It began to change the world of advertising with the advent of the 1980s, and to this day has produced a number of controversial and memorable campaigns that are often associated with the name of the company's creative director, Olivier Toscani. While one of these campaigns landed the company in court, it doesn't change the fact that it undoubtedly deserves its place in the marketing hall of fame.

See article: top 10 provocative United Colours of Benetton ads

Toscani's creative style was characterised by the fact that it was not at all obvious from the ads what brand they were supposed to promote. On the contrary, they focused on current issues and ongoing debates - the company did not remain an uninvolved bystander, but rather took on the role of an active glossator and actor in social events. In 1990 and 1991, Benetton became one of the most vocal campaigners for the prevention of HIV/AIDS, a taboo subject in the society of the time that no one wanted to talk about. The campaign featured human body parts that were labelled as HIV carriers. A year later, Benetton shocked in perhaps an even more intense way - by then, the campaign's main face was the activist David Kirby, who was already bedridden during the production phase and death from the disease was only a matter of weeks away.

Video: interview with Alessandro Benetton on the controversial campaign with statesmen (2011)

Benetton was no stranger to provocative messaging, even during the Black and White campaign aimed at combating racism. Thus, in 1989, the world was flooded with advertisements and billboards of handcuffed black and white men, white men painted black and black women breastfeeding white babies. But Toscani hit hardest with his 2011 campaign, which depicted kissing statesmen from all corners. The most controversial spot was one featuring then-Pope Benedict XVI and the imam of Cairo's main mosque, Al-Azhar. The Vatican's indignant reaction came shortly after publishing the provocative ad and the whole row ended with Benetton pulling it from circulation. Two years later, moreover, the company's management assured the world that 'provocation that is intended only to be provocative will no longer be acceptable to society'. But Benetton's legacy endures despite this bitter denouement.

But successful advertising is not necessarily provocative. But those that manage to shock or amaze are undoubtedly in a better starting position. Take, for example, Apple's famous ad that the company unleashed on the world during the 1984 Super Bowl. Under Ridley Scott's direction and the catchy title 1984, the company presents us with a dystopian Orwellian world in which everyone's lives are constantly affected by the brainwashing of censorship authorities. The Macintosh personal computer, which the company first launched, was supposed to be the way out of this nightmare. The day after its launch, consumers took electronics stores by storm, spending a staggering $150 million on the Macintosh.

Video: Apple - 1984


But at the same time, it's been shown time and again that creative advertising does not equal advertising that reflects serious life and social issues. Sometimes it's enough if viewers just have fun. That's why the most successful TV commercials include many that rely primarily on original humour. Who doesn't know, for example, the iconic 2010 ad for the Old Spice deodorant line, which featured "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like". The ad goes to absurd extremes - at one point, the ad's protagonist promises that he can turn sea shells into diamonds, and the final line "I'm on a horse." became very popular. And above all, it increased Old Spice sales by an astonishing 11 %. Since then, the ad has been given various iterations, featuring American actor Terry Crews, but there is still only one original.

Video: Old Spice - The Man Your Man Could Smell Like (2010)

It is an undeniable fact that the participation of famous celebrities is good for the memorability of commercials. Actor George Clooney, for example, is already intrinsically linked to the Dolce Gusto brand - but that doesn't necessarily mean that a celebrity alone will ensure the immortality of such an ad. Some brands go a little further in their efforts, after all. In 2010, the popular chocolate bar Snickers succeeded with its "You're Not You When You're Hungry" campaign featuring Betty White. The latter has always been a guarantee of top-notch comedy in its own right, and the ad, which brought in nearly $400 million for the company over two years, clearly only benefited. The global impact was further enhanced by the fact that the company produced countless alternative versions for individual markets, featuring not Betty White but some of the nation's celebrities. However, the original commercial had a beneficial impact not only on the company but also on the career of the then eighty-eight-year-old Betty White, who caught a second wind and continued to bring joy to television audiences until her death on New Year's Eve 2021.

Snickers - You're Not You When You're Hungry

And so did a visit to the home of famous Hollywood couple Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis in 2021. The central theme of the original ad is the idea that Cheetos is just so good that your supply just happens to mysteriously disappear. So here, it's a partner squabble over the fate of a packet of Cheetos - and Ashton Kutcher suspects his partner of being the one who knows where the packet has gone. Mila Kunis, however, has a seasoned advisor on her side - Jamaican reaggeton singer Shaggy and his megahit "It Wasn't Me," which has become a well-established universal defense against any accusation. Despite the fact that the singer still can't believe that this excuse can ever really work in real life.

Video: Cheetos - Wasn't Me (2021)


Who is a greater champion in humour than the Czechs? Even in our own country, a plethora of TV commercials have been produced over the years, and they certainly don't lack creativity. A great example of this is the spot for which the domestic Kofola brand is responsible. It has become a de facto Christmas messenger and the company puts it on air every winter virtually unchanged.  It takes on a completely different take and creative reworking of the popular tradition of the golden pig when a father and his young daughter go into the woods to find a Christmas tree and encounter an uninvited guest. It's a scene that seems to have fallen out of an iconic Czech comedy - a format that simply works very well in this country. Moreover, Kofola proves that it is not an isolated case and is capable of creating TV advertising gold.

Video: Kofola - The Golden Piglet (2005)

Popular Czech TV commercials are very often quite "talky". In these cases, the brand usually relies on well-known actors and comedians who usually convey a specific message to the audience in a satirical or even absurd way. Companies often try to get the most out of working with a well-known personality, which is why these campaigns are characterised by their 'serial' nature. The comedian is either acting as himself or herself, or it is a character-shifted version or a completely new character. Among the legendary ones are many campaigns of the telecommunications operator T-Mobile, for example - let's remember the series with Jakub Kohák, the stories about Tydýt in the title role with Lukáš Pavlášek or the various adventures of Ivan Trojan. It seems that mobile operators generally have no problem with creativity, which is confirmed by the legendary advertisement produced by rival Vodafone - Petr Čtvrtníček wanted to make a normal Christmas ad with Christmas reindeer, but in the end he decided not to. And it became a spot that went down in history.

Video: Vodafone - Petr Čtvrtníček (2006)

Let's add an example of a commercial that is so original and creative that everyone almost immediately forgot what brand it was supposed to promote in the first place. Everyone remembers Bobik the pug and his fateful visit to a Chinese restaurant, but only a few can remember whose idea the legendary ad was. To recall, it was the Czech search engine, which for some time tried to compete with the far more successful Seznam. Centrum is now a thing of the past, but that doesn't change the fact that we owe it one of the funniest domestic ads ever. For this creative rendition of the usual stereotypes, the defunct company deserves to be remembered fondly, at least "post mortem".

Video: - Bobika (2003)


There are simply many creative ads that have easily stayed in our memory - despite the fact that there are many more forgettable ones. But as it turns out, it doesn't matter if you are controversial, want to cheer up or grab the heart. What matters is the original idea, story and execution. That's why there's no simple guide that will guarantee you'll create a memorable ad in every circumstance. What Apple executives didn't believe in 1984 was that Ridley Scott was delivering an advertising masterpiece that would rewrite marketing history. It's almost tempting to say that the most brilliant viral hits are the ones no one even expects.

So let's finish with a campaign from the company that certainly doesn't have a global reach, but the ad in question is known all over the world. The campaign is called "Dumb Ways to Die" and is an initiative of Metro Trains, the local public transport operator in Melbourne, Australia. It wanted to come up with a prevention campaign to educate passengers to avoid unnecessary risky behaviour in the immediate vicinity of the tracks. Because that would just be an extremely stupid way to die. And so a de facto encyclopaedic parade of unnecessary and stupid deaths was created, packaged in a package whose contents consist of an extremely cute animated video with an equally cute morbid chant that you won't be able to get out of your head for months. The campaign has also produced three games for mobile phones and tablets, which have also received a massive response. For what was originally intended to be a small local campaign; an unprecedented success.

Video: Metro Trains - Dumb Ways to Die (2012)

So it's fair to say that despite the fact that the current marketing world is dominated by the left brain hemisphere, we shouldn't forget all the gems that were created to please the right. For if being stuck in the current status quo were to result in the death of creative marketing as we know it today, it would be a death as needlessly stupid as overdosing on expired Paralene or filling up on a tube of superglue instead of lunch.
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