15th May, 2017

5 truly innovative digital ad campaigns (as chosen by the Gilpies)

Digital marketing and advertising has a number of advantages over traditional and print output. Digital campaigns can engage with their intended audience in an increasing number of innovative ways, and even turn the act of advertising into a truly two-way conversation—as the following campaigns demonstrate.

Five members of our team have selected their top digital ad campaign of recent years, and described exactly why they liked it so much.

Dumb Ways to Die

This Australian public service campaign, launched by Metro Trains in 2012, aimed to warn people against reckless behaviour and to promote rail safety. 

It was shared widely via social media and ended up going viral. As of April 2017, the video had racked up over 145 million YouTube views (2.5 million of which happened within just 24 hours of the campaign’s launch).

“The song still sticks in my head!” says Queena Wong (Personal Assistant). “The concept is a little like Mr. Men, with cute and colourful characters. It’s even launched merchandise.”

According to Wikipedia and Metro Trains, “the campaign contributed to a more than 30% reduction in ‘near-miss’ accidents, from 13.29 near-misses per million kilometres in November 2011-January 2012, to 9.17 near-misses per million kilometres in November 2012-January 2013”.

Nike Locker Room

This campaign is a great example of a company responding to local customer feedback. When Hong Kong customers complained about having to wait for hours in line to buy Nike trainers (often only to find the footwear sold out), Nike launched a website called Locker Room.

Locker Room allowed customers to preorder shoes online, enter lucky draws and giveaways to win pairs of Nike shoes, and share their fashion choices on social media. The service gained nearly 50,000 new members in the first six months, 40% of which preordered more than once. The website also saw a huge increase (87%!) in unique traffic from Hong Kong.

“Locker Room really allowed Nike to place its products directly in the hands of its true target market, so true fans wouldn’t miss out the latest products,” said Alex Chan (Chinese Editor). “It helped the brand to better engage the community of genuine sneaker enthusiasts in Hong Kong.”

The World’s Biggest A–hole

The language may be crude, but this American advertising campaign supported a worthy cause in an effective way by mixing humour and exaggeration with a clear, simple message. 

The campaign focuses on an “a–hole” called Coleman Sweeney who “regularly ignored the rules of a decent, acceptable society” and was mean “even to children”. One day (spoiler alert!), Sweeney dies suddenly of a brain aneurysm—and, to everyone’s shock, he is found to be a registered organ donor.

“Warning: LANGUAGE!” said Hallie Engel (English Editor). “It’s basically a mini movie about a terrible person who redeems himself by donating his organs after dying. At the end, viewers are encouraged to visit a site that lets them sign up to become donors. It’s equal parts hilarious and touching. Laugher is guaranteed!”

Absolut Vodka’s ‘Absolut Unique Access’

Perhaps one of the first brands to make a foray into WhatsApp for advertising, Absolut Vodka (Argentina) created a genius ad campaign in 2013 to celebrate the launch of their limited edition Absolut Unique range. The brand threw an exclusive party and offered a handful of lucky customers the chance to attend—if they could convince a fictional bouncer named Sven they deserved a place via WhatsApp.

“How do you build awareness and achieve close communication with people with a brand that historically doesn’t ‘speak’?” explained Absolut. “We created Sven, the doorman at the party. His job was to speak for the brand, and to choose the lucky entry ticket winners.”

Hundreds of people contacted Sven and tried to win a ticket, using songs, images, videos, even bribery. The campaign showed how WhatsApp could be a truly valuable resource for businesses at very low cost.

“This campaign was really fresh and innovative in that it used WhatsApp, making it quite exciting and unique,” said Nicky Jenner (Giles Publications’ Master Marketer). “It was a great way to push for high levels of engagement with their audience—plus, some of the entries were quite amusing, making it fun to watch on multiple levels.”

And, last but not least, Singapore National Night, in collaboration with Mentos and the Singaporean Government

Singapore has low birth rates. As Smithsonian Magazine wrote in a 2012 article titled ‘Singapore’s “National Night” Encourages Citizens to Make Babies’, these rates are “unbelievably low. [They] inspired ‘National Night’, a campaign to encourage Singaporean couples to ‘let their patriotism explode’ on August 9”.

The campaign takes the form of a catchy song, which begins with a couple eating Mentos mints in preparation for the night ahead. As Bea Seilern, Managing Editor of our Singapore office, puts it succinctly: “Need I say more?”

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