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10 advertisers that use creativity to boost their brand

To be successful in advertising, the one thing you need to be is creative. Whether your campaign appears on billboards, posters, TV or online, to grab people's attention in a media-drenched world is by no means easy, and this intense challenge stretches the world's finest creative minds on a daily basis.

So whatever type of creative pro you are, there's a lot you can learn from how the world's biggest brands have stayed at the top through inventive and eye-catching advertising campaigns.

In this post, we bring together some of our favourite examples of creativity in advertising, from viral videos to powerful posters and beyond...

01. Leica

Companies with a long and rich history face a dilemma when it comes to advertising. It's tempting to make legacy the main focus of your campaign, and some brands, such as Guinness and Jack Daniels pull this off well. But 'longevity' can also be read as 'outdated', particularly in a fast-evolving technical field such as photography.

So when tasked with creating a campaign to celebrate German camera brand Leica's 100th anniversary, F/nazca Saatchi & Saatchi (opens in new tab) had a tough job. Their solution was to cleverly recreate 35 iconic photos in this visually stunning short film.

This superbly creative ad managed to square the circle, by exploiting the hipster fascination with vintage, in a way that portrays Leica as both classic and contemporary.

02. KFC

It's a well known psychological principle that people respond to smiling faces, even ones that aren't really there (clocks and watches are famously set to 10:10 because it puts a 'smile' on them).

This poster campaign for KFC by BBDO Proximity Malaysia (opens in new tab) makes use of negative space to depict happy grins in the shape of the fast food giant's products.

It's a great campaign that makes the customer look not once but at least twice, reinforcing the message and the emotional connection to the brand.

03. Soundcloud

Creativity in advertising is all about drawing out the story of a brand. And here's one element of streaming music app Soundcloud's story that people didn't know: its headquarters are situated where part of the Berlin Wall once stood.

In this highly original campaign, Grey Berlin (opens in new tab) collaborated with Soundcloud to create an "acoustic reconstruction" of the infamous wall that once separated the two Germanys. The seven minute 32 second sound file uses the wavelengths of the different sections of the 155km construction to create a 'visual image' of the wall, including its watchtowers.

An unconventional approach to advertising an unconventional company, this ad also tugs on the heartstrings by featured short memorials for the 120 people who lost their lives trying to cross the wall and reach the West.

04. Fanta

Doing something entirely new with print sounds like a tall order. But that's exactly what OgilvyOne (opens in new tab) delivered with this advertisement for Fanta... which you can actually taste.

Yes, you read that right: it's just like the edible wallpaper in the Willy Wonka movie – except, well, real.

Readers were encouraged to tear a piece off the advertisement, place it in their mouth and chew. Glutinous rice flour, water, salt, propylene glycol, FD&C colour and glycerine were used in the production process to make this print ad taste like orange Fanta.

05. Samsung

When Samsung teamed up with Argentina's government to promote road safety, it had its work cut out. Almost one person dies in a traffic accident every hour in the South American nation, and the majority of fatalities involve attempts to overtake on one-way roads,

Leo Burnett (opens in new tab) teamed up with Volvo Trucks, software company Ingematica and trailer company Helvetica to come up with a road safety campaign the like of which no one had seen before.

The centrepiece was a giant video screen on a moving truck, which transmitted live footage from cameras in the front and rear, enabling fellow drivers to see what's coming and plan safe overtaking. This attention-grabbing campaign served as a great way to promote both road safety and Samsung's persona as a global tech leader.

06. Australia Post

"If you really want to touch someone, send them a letter." That was the tagline for this campaign for Australia's postal service, and M&C Saatchi Australia (opens in new tab) interpreted it perfectly with this thoughtful design.

Railing against the dying art of letter writing in the social media age, this poster brings the arts of typography and photography together in a stunning synergy, and the emotional underpinning couldn't be clearer.

07. Coca-Cola

Thought all Coke advertising was generic? Think again. This campaign, launched in the Middle East during Ramadan, doesn't actually mention the drink at all. But it conveys the brand's values in a way that's far more memorable than a message about 'refreshing taste' could ever be.

Entitled 'Remove Labels This Ramadan', the ad shows a group of strangers meeting and chatting in pitch dark, and imagining what each other looks like – with unexpected results.

Created by FP7/DXB (opens in new tab) and Memac Ogilvy (opens in new tab), this smart take on stereotyping was accompanied by the release of a special Coke can that tied it all together with the slogan: 'Labels are for cans, not for people'.

08. Action on Hearing Loss

When the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) renamed themselves Action on Hearing Loss, they brought in Hat-Trick Design (opens in new tab) to create a cool new visual identity for the charity.

Hat-Trick went on to create this series of hard-hitting posters to highlight the dangers of listening to loud music.

Featuring attention-grabbing black-and-white images, the designs were used on billboards, telephone boxes and cinema adverts during London's Camden Crawl music festival, and in the press, including the NME and The Daily Telegraph.

With so many charities competing for our eyeballs, Hat-Trick scored a winner with this campaign, which was graphic without being gratuitous; shocking without being exploitative.

09. Greenpeace

Don't Panic London (opens in new tab)'s campaign for Greenpeace was launched in protest against Lego's relationship with Shell, due to the latter's advocacy of drilling in the Arctic.

Cleverly parodying the title song of The Lego Movie, and using Lego figures to stage a scene of environmental disaster at the North Pole, it quickly went viral.

It was a total success. Lego quickly bowed to all the public pressure that was generated, and broke off all its decades-long ties to the controversial oil giant.

10. Honey Maid

Droga5 (opens in new tab)'s TV campaign for wholesome cracker brand Honey Maid raised eyebrows by reflecting the rapidly changing face of the American family – spotlighting same-sex, interracial and single parents.

Although the public response to it was overwhelmingly positive, the campaign inevitably attracted a number of negative online comments. But Droga5 turned that into a plus too, in the form of an online film where each comment was printed, rolled up, and turned into an art installation, working with two artists known as Indo.

This creative response turned the tables on the bigots, and reinforced the sense of modernity the campaign had given this traditional brand.

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Tom May is an award-winning journalist and editor specialising in design, photography and technology. Author of the Amazon #1 bestseller Great TED Talks: Creativity (opens in new tab), published by Pavilion Books, Tom was previously editor of Professional Photography magazine, associate editor at Creative Bloq, and deputy editor at net magazine. Today, he is a regular contributor to Creative Bloq and its sister sites Digital Camera World, and Tech Radar. He also writes for Creative Boom and works on content marketing projects.