Jan 4, 2019

A Look Back at the Best Marketing Ad Campaigns of 2018

written by Abby Avery
A Look Back at the Best Marketing Ad Campaigns of 2018

We’ve seen brands experience many ups and downs over the past 12 months, but it’s what brands do when faced with difficulties or changing situations, that really make them stand out from the rest of the industry.

Here, we look back at some of the most memorable and creative marketing campaigns of 2018.  

One thing to take away here, is that digital marketing is constantly evolving. As soon as you start to get used to a new trend, update or feature, something else seems to come along. The true marketers upon us will see this change as a good thing; as an opportunity rather than a burden. Change allows room for innovation and it allows marketers new space within a crowded digital world to take risks, experiment, innovate, explore and stand out from the rest. 2018 has witnessed digital marketing innovations through ad campaigns that explore the use of AI, audience participation, hyper-local targeting, and we’ve even seen more success from a simple online videos than a multi-million pound campaign for some brands.

Time are changing, but hopefully the following marketing campaign ads that we have picked for you will help in understanding what is working in the marketing industry right now, and what may be in store for the rest of 2019.


1. Nike’s Controversial Kaepernick Campaign

Due to its controversy, Nike’s Kaepernick advert was the most talked about campaign of 2018, generating a whopping 8.2 million conversations online.

In 2016, American footballer, Colin Kaepernick, refused to stand for the US national anthem and chose to kneel instead as an act of protest against police brutality and racism. To celebrate 30 years of their ‘Just Do It’ campaign, Nike shared an image of Kaepernick with the caption “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.’

Kaepernick had not been able to play for the NFL since his actions  in 2016. President Trump branding him ‘Un-American’ and as a response to the ad, those sharing Trump’s sentiment plagued the internet with videos of Nike merchandise being set on fire and destroyed. Not everyone reacted the same though, and this controversial campaign actually resulted in Nike’s sales increasing by 31%.




2. Apple Launches the iPhone X

Every Apple release is hotly anticipated; that goes without saying. They wouldn’t be the world’s first trillion dollar company if they didn’t know how to create unprecedented excitement and interest in their products before they launched. Apple products pride themselves on being the very cutting edge in technology, with slick, luxury branding and fiercely loyal users. The cult branding of Apple meant that their ad campaign for the product launch of the year created 1.5million conversations on social media, so that’s definitely worth a mention.



3. IHOP Smashes Their Brand Awareness Campaign

So simple, yet so effective, IHOP’s quirky name change campaign is one that will be remembered for a long time.

IHOP is known for their pancakes, but when they decided that they wanted to add burgers to their product offering, they certainly thought outside of the box. A product addition can easily go unnoticed. Plenty of other places offer burgers, yet with this simple ad, IHOP managed to capture the world’s attention and even quadrupled their sales. Yep, quadrupled.



4. Google Unveils Their Artificial Intelligence

Back in May, the world was stunned and excited by Google’s artificial intelligence demonstration. Millions watched as  Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, demonstrated a Google phone carrying out a conversation with a business and successfully booking an appointment by holding its own conversation. Soon after the ad aired, 880,000 people were talking about it online.



5. Pepsi’s Nostalgic Ad Campaign Scored Big at the Super Bowl

The Super Bowl is THE place to be for big player brands in the US, and Pepsi is no exception. They spent a reported $33 million dollars to launch the start of their global, year-long “Pepsi Generations” campaign. Featuring the likes of Britney Spears, Michael Jackson and Cindy Crawford, the ad played homage to a previous Pepsi Super Bowl ad which aired back in 1992.



6. Remember When KFC Ran Out of Chicken!?

Back in February, #ChickenCrisis was trending internationally when a huge distribution error caused KFC to run out of chicken. It was a business’s worst nightmare as outlets had to close across the country; customers were outraged and staff were worried for their safety. All current marketing activities had to stop and instead concentrate on what on earth they could do to get out of this.

Once the distribution was back on track and the restaurants were open, a simple print ad went out to the morning newspapers displaying an empty chicken bucket, with the word ‘FCK’ replacing the logo, and a written sincere apology underneath.

This genius play-on-words resounded perfectly with the wit-loving Brits and all was forgiven. This new, humanised  understanding between the brand and its customers went from strength-to-strength as KFC went on to create two further noteworthy campaigns. One saw a Chicken Vs Turkey Western air on our screens during the Christmas period, and another more compelling digital campaign saw KFC embrace criticism of their fries to relaunch their recipe.







7. Nike’s Award-Winning LDNR Campaign

Nike steals a hotspot in our list again, but this time for an ad with slightly less controversy. Their LDNR campaign held a British focus, and celebrated a host of British sporting stars who explained why it’s so great to be a Londoner. The campaign won multiple awards at Cannes and went viral online as soon as it was released, however, a legal challenge over the use of the term ‘LDNR’ meant that Nike had to pull the ad from YouTube.



8. An Unexpected Marketing Campaign for Tide Pod

Tide Pods are laundry detergent tablets, which became the focus of a viral online challenge in January 2018. There had been some rare talk in the past of occasions where young children had eaten Tide Pods, and there was even a blog published on the oninion.com titled “So Help Me God, I’m Going To Eat One Of Those Multicolored Detergent Pods” in 2015. But due to their sweet-like appearance, a craze took over where teengers started to actively encourage each other to eat the poisonous tablets and film it whilst doing so. Soon, there were hundreds of memes and videos online and Tide Pods were hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons.  

Tide Pod felt they had to acknowledge this, and used a fitting viral-like video featuring England Patriot Rob Gronkowski to explain why people should not be eating them. This fiasco was talked about over 200,000 times online and thankfully, since the announcement the trends seems to have come to an end.



9. Does Amazon Deliver a T-Rex?

To generate excitement for the new Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom movie, Amazon created a 40ft box to look like their packaging, complete with air holes, the Jurassic World logo and a scannable barcode which revealed some sneak previews around the film’s content. The hashtag #AmazonFindsAWay was incorporated to continue the buzz online and it was even linked with their Alexa product with the ability to ask ‘Alexa, ask Jurassic Park what’s in the box”.



Credit: Amazon


What was your Favourite Ad Campaign of 2018?

We can safely assume that Amazon’s budget was much larger than IHOPS, but they both adopted the same strategy of using a mystery element to create brand-buzz online. This is a unique tactic that appears fresh, creative, and surprises customers and entices them to find out more. This method sparks conversation and is less likely to be lost in the sea of marketing messages that customers passively consume online.

We are intrigued to see what 2019 has to offer, but in the meantime, tell us what you think; are there any other campaigns of 2018 you found particularly memorable?