Successful video advertising campaigns have changed a lot over the last 100 years, moving from print to screen and now to digital, and each one utilizing its medium in its own unique fashion.

This article will take a look at a small selection of the most popular and effective video advertising campaigns of the last 100 years; considering what made them popular, why they were so effective and how – some of them – made an impact on new and emerging sectors of the media industry.

We’ve been floggin’ our wares for hundreds of years, largely using print to advertise to masses and though we all see thousands of adverts a day, often repeats of the same one over and over again, some of them just aren’t as memorable as others. Whether it’s a striking image, funny blurb or catchy slogan, advertisers have explored countless different ways of grabbing the attention of their audience and encouraging them to buy a particular brand or item.

One of the earliest stories of modern video advertising infamy is that of De Beer’s “Diamond’s Are Forever” campaign, an idea that first came to light in the late 1930s when a meeting with ad agency N.W Ayer & Son, prompted owners of one of the largest South African diamond mines to come up with the concept that would change the declining diamond industry forever: the men at the top decided that diamonds (which is not in fact the rarest gemstone on the planet) should become synonymous with romance, devotion and eternity. They knew they had to convince their buyers that their product – though a luxury – was a vital part of any romantic commitment and the campaign that followed told men the world over that your proposal wouldn’t be taken seriously unless there was a diamond ring involved.

De Beers Video AdvertisingThe slogan that came along nine years after this meeting in 1947 – supposedly penned in the dead of night by a lowly copywriter who asked God for some inspiration – has given the world one of the most well remembered and timeless phrases in the West, not to mention a very popular spy movie and theme song…

And De Beers still use the slogan to this day.

With the rising popularity of televisions at home, corporations quickly realised the potential of purchased airtime – now few channels in the US or Europe can sustain them without video advertising revenue.
The first ad aired on US television was in the early 1940s when the Bulova Watch Company bought twenty seconds before the start of a baseball game on New York City station WNBT (now WNBC); it was a simple advert that struck right at the perfect time, reaching all the right people. Just as America enters the Second World War, when Europe is torn apart fighting itself and a popular all American sports game is about to be shown.. What better time to show an ad that consists of a Bulova watch overlaid on a map of the United States and the slogan “America Runs on Bulova Time”.

Nowadays we’re bombarded with advertisements on our TV screens, most of which seem to pass us by without making much of an impact, but every now and then a campaign comes around that really sticks in the minds of audiences everywhere.

A famous example of one such ad is for a rather unlikely product that many Americans now couldn’t imagine not having in their fridge; whilst the pitch itself was so simple and memorable that it contributed to a 7% rise in the purchases of the product in one US state alone.

Running since 1993 the ad has since included cameos of various famous faces, all asking that one, simple question…

Got Milk?

The answer? Aaron Burr.

From here companies have utilized the beauty of television to promote their products at every opportunity – even with the ever increasing popularity of “Product Placement” in various soaps, serials and dramas. Parodied here in 1999’s The Truman Show we can’t help but ask “What the hell does this have to do with anything”?

It’s all about sales and studies have shown that after watching video advertising with name brand product placement in them consumers are up to 20% more likely to pick the brand featured over a competitor. Some scholars argue that product placement takes root in an area of the subconscious, causing consumers to choose one product over another because of an inherent familiarity that develops over time, whilst others take examples such as Aston Martin and Bollinger from the James Bond movies, and argue that the products become associated with a personality or concept the consumer would like to indulge in.

As with both the advert cases above and the increased association between Aston Martin and Bond we can see the power of “Brand Awareness”. Sometimes adverts aren’t about pushing a particular item but rather enforcing the strength of a brand, reminding people that it exists and encouraging them to choose it over a competitor.

Video advertising put Levi’s back in the fold

One of the most effective uses of brand awareness from video advertising is the ad that put a company, already over 100 years old and struggling with an out of fashion product, back on the worldwide sales map, eventually making it the leading brand in its area.

The theme and success of this particular ad has influenced many of Levi’s later advertisements, where the use of retro music and particular models have become part of their branding.

Whilst other ads use their brand to identify and appeal to their already existing clientele, aiming directly at the people who would already buy the product and reminding them just why they want it. Increase the popularity of an item and it becomes fashionable, and we all know how well that worked out for this particular seller…

But the cheeky twist behind these adverts is not only are they boasting their own innovations, but they’re tearing their competitors to pieces in the process.

In more recent years TV ads have veered away from television, using the popularity of social media to create viral ads; start with a video, tagline or even just something as tiny as a hash tag, and within hours your ad will have been watched by millions of people the world over.

The most successful and popular video advertisements of such campaigns tend to be humorous and rely entirely on being popular enough to make viewers spread the word themselves; saving ad companies loads of time and money. Unfortunately the audience for these ads are somewhat limited to the younger and more computer literate viewer and so aren’t suitable for every company – but sometimes an ad is so successful companies choose to expand the viewership further and air on TV proper.

The “Old Space Guy” advert was a huge success for the aging aftershave conglomerate, it’s short but surreal ad featuring a handsome man, a wealth of quotables and furthered by live appearances and question and answer sessions on Twitter, that made Old Spice incredibly popular with the 18 – 25 demographic; a feat nothing short of a miracle as for years Old Spice had been associated across Europe and America with old men, often being thought of as the aftershave for dads, or even granddads!

This video advertisement changed the worldwide perception of Old Spice as a brand almost immediately and spawning “The Return of the Man Your Man Could Smell Like” and other future Old Spice ads; but the very first remains my favourite and at 19 million views in its first six months alone, it’s no wonder it was popular.

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