How do you catch and keep the attention of your audience, and galvanize them into action?
This is the Holy Grail of marketing and promotion professionals, and they have to nail it each and every time. That is, if they want to keep working in the industry. The thing is it has all been done before.
Or has it?
The Internet has not made coming up with ad campaigns any easier, either. Of course, that also levels the playing field, so ANYONE can try out a crazy idea without having to spend a ton of money.
Shock and awe are two emotions that are very useful in advertising because they are new, different, and memorable.
However, some of the best ad campaigns did not even start as an ad campaign, but it drew so much attention, it ought to have been.
Check out these 15 game changing advertising ideas.
1. Create drama with the push of a button (it doesn’t have to be an ACTUAL button)
The “Push to Add Drama” button was a series of elaborate setups created by TNT in the quiet corners of towns in different countries. It concerned a big red button, and a sign (in different languages) that said “Push to add drama.”
Unsuspecting pedestrians and drivers witnessed fights, accidents, and bikini babes on bikes in a carefully orchestrated event, culminating in a drop down banner ad for the TV channel.
Lesson learned: Everybody needs a little drama in life. Buttons can be virtual or metaphoric triggers.
2. Make it bigger
This poster ad by Staedtler features a pencil where the tip is a cathedral, implying that all big things built start with a pencil sketch.
It creates a compelling visual image for its target market. This series ad ran with Church, chair, and car as a print campaign in 2012 and won the gold and silver award for illustration in the 2013 Andy Awards.
Lesson learned: Scale creates different effects in design advertising. Use it in any clever way you can.
3. Make it smaller
IKEA pushed the envelope in space-saving ideas by creating an ad banner about their smallest IKEA store:
It featured a visual representation of ALL their merchandise in a particular store. You could browse by department, choose an item, and click to buy. It was space saving to the extreme!
Lesson learned: Novelty can come in small packages.
4. Post content about obscure but interesting facts
When Science World teamed up with Rethink Canada, an independent creative agency, the intention was to develop a campaign that would spark people’s interest in science. The team achieved through eye-catching billboards, such as the one saying “Bees can recognize faces.”
It’s not easy to find obscure and interesting facts that would get people’s interest. Research can be tedious, but it’s well worth the efforts.
If you’re having a hard time to find surprising facts, you can always rely on the researchers from Scholar Advisor, so that you can focus on script writing and video production.
Lesson learned: Tell something that people don’t know. Be informative.
5. Develop a game for your business; it’s easy enough, and fun too!
How do you get people to care more? Give them something to think about.
Melbourne’s Metro Trains Dumb Ways to Die is an animated video with a catchy tune, using cute characters coming to a sticky end by being careless or stupid.
Lesson learned: Games reinforce your message and keep the fun alive.
6. Feature something local and interesting on your website
Local ads tend to be cheesy, and well, pretty bad. But they continue all the same because the locals like them.
You can do the same by featuring something local on your website; it doesn’t have to be professional. The important thing is to use geographical hashtags to make you easier to find.
Lesson learned: You can get in on the action by giving attention to what is happening in your community.
7. Run an off-the wall photo or video contest on social networks
Have you seen challenges on Instagram? Here’s an example: Werkshop partnered with Instagram influencers to host a yoga challenge in March 2018. The participants were required to take daily photos of their practice and tag the brand in their Instagram posts.
This is a very effective and fun approach to advertising, since it brings people to action. You can think of all sorts of challenges for your target audience, such as singing, writing, or filming videos. Needless to say, you’ll provide prizes for the best entries.
Lesson learned: Get people to do something unusual for your social contests, so you’ll engage them more.
8. Share shocking photos or videos
The Flying Penguins video released by BBC on April Fool’s Day in 2008 was both funny and shocking.
As a promotion for its online player released on YouTube, it tapped into the human subconscious desire to believe in something unbelievable. It was a prank, but an amazing one.
It went viral, snagging 100,000 views on its first day, and currently nudging 5 million views today, more than 8 years later.
Lesson learned: Think about how to make the impossible seem possible.
9. Reveal startling information
This commercial for Mercedes-AMG Project One shows that the process behind developing a high-performance car is even more complex than most people assume. It shows how the brand implements its Formula 1 technology into a vehicle that makes us think: the future is now!
Lesson learned: Things are not always as simple as people assume. Show how complex the development of your product is, and you’ll definitely amaze the audience.
10. Challenge amateurs to come up with their own ad campaigns for you
“Crash the Super Bowl” was a Frito-Lay campaign for Doritos in 2006. It challenged ordinary people to come up with an ad campaign for Doritos. It was a risky move ($2 million worth of ad money) considering social networks were in its infancy at the time, but it worked.
It hurtled Doritos to the top of the most effective brands for the Super Bowl, and boosted sales significantly. Some of the ads even won the top spot in the USA Today Ad Meter! The company launched its last Crash campaign in 2016 after a successful ten-year run.
Lesson learned: Engage consumers through user-generated content.
11. Make fun of yourself
The funny and iconic “Whassup” Budweiser ad nearly didn’t make it out as executives thought it was too “urban”. It did though, and the laid-back, cool, dare-to-be-silly attitude resonated very well with the mainstream when it came out in 2006.
Lesson learned: Have fun, and others will, too.
12. Post a controversial question or statement
Diesel is no stranger to controversial ads. The one with a topless woman in a burqa triggered quite a discussion in 2013. But let’s focus on something fresh: the latest ad by this brand. The motto is “Flaws always win” and it’s all about people’s insecurities that lead to plastic surgery. Is it empowering? Is it shaming? It’s controversial, to say the least.
Showing some shocking statement or surprising information is also a good way to capture people’s attention if you want to convince and motivate them through your ad, speech or presentation.
Lesson learned: Create controversy. Become part of the conversation!
13. Post memes on your social networks
Finding the most viewed memes is hard. Cats are particularly popular though, particularly Grumpy Cat, who as it turns out isn’t grumpy at all. But who cares, right? The face is funny, so have at it!
Lesson learned: Memes are one-shot culture packages, and you can really get some great attention with very little effort. Use a meme generator and make it even easier.
14. Give a new twist to an old saying
Memes are also good for giving a new twist for popular quotes or sayings. You can make up your own, or use some on this list, stick it on a funny image, and post in on your blog, site, or social networks.
Lesson learned: You can always repurpose something familiar or old to suit your own ends. It makes people think.
15. Exercise social responsibility and give back to your community
When we think of socially-responsible brands, the name TOMS immediately comes to mind. Through its marketing, the brand’s focus is to raise awareness about important issues.
The “For One, Another” ad was popular not because it promoted great shoes. It was all about the cause – with every product you buy, TOMS will help a person in need. Sure; the shoes are great. People buy them because they look good. However, the brand reached popularity due its social responsibility, and that’s a fact.
Lesson learned: Goodwill is the best form of promotion.
Marketing and promotion don’t have to be hard. All you need is to come up with a good idea, and to run with it for all its worth.
These 15 advertising ideas and actual implementation is a good place to start, but don’t let that limit you. If you have some ideas of your own, we would love to hear about it. Remember, sharing is caring!
Tip: Hire an advertising expert or freelancer on Fiverr.com.
Guest Author: Stacey Marone is a freelance writer, blogger and traveller, who likes exploring new possibilities. She focuses on how small businesses can become successful the easy way. You can follow her on twitter @marone_stacey
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