74 of the very best print ads of all time

36. Penguin Books

Get some Shakespeare in your ears

Penguin Books used another brilliant print ad to promote its audiobooks. The campaign features illustrations of three famous authors – William Shakespeare, Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde – shaped into headphones so they could whisper directly into the ears of their listeners. Developed by team at McCann India, the campaign won a Gold Press Lion at Cannes International Festival of Creativity.

37. Choose One

Kinder Eggs are banned in the US to protect children; assault weapons are not

Grey Canada created this print ad campaign for Moms Demand Action, a collective of mothers calling for gun law reform. While the conversation has moved on somewhat since these print adverts were released in 2013, the campaign still hits hard.

Focusing on gun violence in schools, the Choose One concept features a child carrying a weapon, alongside a classmates holding either a Kinder Surprise egg, the book Little Red Riding Hood or a ball from the schoolyard game Dodgeball. One child is holding something that's been banned in America to protect them, with the audience asked to guess which one.

38. Expedia

IATA codes with hidden(ish) meanings

This ingenious advertising campaign by Ogilvy for travel brand Expedia uses airport IATA codes to great effect. The idea came about after the team noticed a woman walking through Heathrow with the word FUK hanging off her suitcase.

With over 9,000 airports around the world, each with its own three-letter code to choose from, the team created a series of prints. The tagline appears in the form of passport-style stamp: 'Find whatever floats your boat'.

39. Whiskas

The 'Big Cat, Small Cat' campaign depicts a small furry feline as a big cat in the wild

Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO's Whiskas campaign features a household cat in various scenarios in the wild planes of Africa. The clever 'Big Cat, Small Cat' campaign was shot by photographer George Logan, and highlights a cat's basic instincts. The series of print ads include dear Mittens hunting down gazelles, elephants and zebras in the wild. And we're particularly fond of the ad that shows a fully grown male lion bonding with the same cat as if they were family.

40. Alzas Bajas magazine

This beautiful print ad was developed by JWT for Argentinian magazine Alzas Bajas

This beautiful print ad was developed by JWT, Buenos Aires for Argentinian magazine Alzas Bajas. The team created four paper art images, including this gorgeous wildlife scene. Each are accompanied a small amount of explanatory text followed by the tagline 'more information, less risk'.

41. Duracell

Some print ads come out of the left field – and this is certainly one of them

Terrifying but brilliant, this is one of those print ads that shouldn't work but somehow does. The advertisement for Duracell features a sinister-looking doll in the doorway of a little girl's playroom, accompanied by the tagline 'Some toys never die'. Developed by advertising agency Grey in Singapore, this is certainly a unique way to promote longer-lasting batteries.

42. Dog Chow

No animals were harmed in the making of this commercial

The best print ads combine brilliant art direction whilst still maintaining the brand's image and ethos. And here's a great example that instantly put a smile on our faces. Dog Chow is a dog food from Purina, and Publicis was tasked with creating a series of ads to promote it. Entitled 'Stop treating your dog like a trashcan', the series taps into pet owner guilt and encourages them to shell out for some top-quality dog food.


Inspired by the artwork of M.C. Escher, these ads feature clever optical illusions

Ad agency McMillan encouraged animation lovers to rediscover the child inside with this print ad campaign promoting the Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF). Each of the five print ads features a gorgeous illustration and the tagline 'Get in touch with your inner child'. Some of the drawings contain mature content (see the full set here) but the cartoon-style characters and graphics maintain a fun, tongue-in-cheek vibe.

44. Wacom Bamboo

Print adverts: Wacom

Creativity has no boundaries

To promote design tablet king Wacom's Bamboo series, art director and illustrator Maria Molina developed this set of prints under the tagline 'Creativity has no boundaries'. The campaign includes three illustrations, each featuring various design tools with a twist that adds extra Inspector Gadget-style functionality. Bright colours, minimal text and simple graphics work perfectly together in this campaign.

45. Holes

Print adverts: Holes

Grey New York developed this hard-hitting print campaign

This hard-hitting print ad campaigning against gun violence comes from advertising and marketing agency Grey New York. The ads feature a single bullet target affecting three humans (including a small baby), and call for an update to the USA's antiquated gun laws. The ad, commissioned by non-profit organisation States United to Prevent Gun Violence, features the tagline 'Bullets leave bigger holes than you think'.

46. SMS mistype

Get the message?

We all know the dangers of using a mobile phone while driving. But we really like the simple but clever way ad agency Gitam BBDO points out the facts in this road safety message from car manufacturer Opel. The cool print has a black background, replicating a phone while at the same time making the white box of text all the more prominent. It's a simple but really effective concept.

47. diaTribe

Print adverts: Area 23

Well, this certainly packs a punch (Image credit: Area 23)

Healthcare agency Area 23 doesn't pull any punches in this campaign for diaTribe Foundation. The series, with the tagline 'Don't let diabetes be his/her downfall', aims to raise awareness about how childhood habits can lead to diabetes later in life. Two not-so-subtle illustrations capture a young boy falling directly from his fast food lunch into a hospital chair, and a little girl late night fridge raid landing her in a waiting hospital bed.

48. Who will inherit your greatest wealth?

Print adverts: McCann Health

It's not all about the money (Image credit: McCann Health)

How do you impress on the general public the value of organ donation? McCann Health skipped over any emotional angles and appealed to the general public's materialistic side in this series of print adverts for a Brazilian hospital. The images show different organs reimagined as precious objects, and ask the question: Who will inherit your greatest wealth?

49. Schusev State Museum of Architecture

Discover the full story of some of Russia's most famous buildings at the Schusev State Museum of Architecture

This beautiful illustration of St Basil's church in Moscow was created by ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi to promote the information available at the Schusev State Museum of Architecture. The campaign features a series of photographs of famous Russian landmarks, all of which are continued beneath ground (or water) level, and feature the tagline 'Discover the full story'. The stunning imagery is the thing that really sells this campaign.

50. One Accident is Enough

Print adverts: Volkswagen

Uh oh

When DDB was tasked with promoting Volkswagen's Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, it responded by seeing the humour in the situation. This series of print ads each captures a series of accidents and asks readers to 'stop the chain'. Who doesn't enjoy seeing a man crashing his bike into a tree, upsetting a bees' nest in its branches, and being chased by those bees into a crocodile-infested river? Subtle details in these ads encourage viewers to stop and engage with the images for longer than they might usually.

51. Flipped

Upside down; inside out

Beard hair just doesn't get the same kind of attention as head hair. Mandevu aims to change all that with its range of 'haircare for beards'. Ad agency Creative Y&R put together a series of adverts that flip the model's facial features, putting his beard on his head while his head hair becomes his beard. The unusualness of the image instantly captures the viewer's attention. 

Next page: More eye-catching print adverts

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Daniel John
Senior News Editor

Daniel John is Senior News Editor at Creative Bloq. He reports on the worlds of art, design, branding and lifestyle tech (which often translates to tech made by Apple). He joined in 2020 after working in copywriting and digital marketing with brands including ITV, NBC, Channel 4 and more.

With contributions from