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10 Top Advertising Campaigns & Why They Work

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10 Top Advertising Campaigns & Why They Work

Keeping up to date with advertising trends keeps you informed of the current ‘mood’ and feeds ideas for your own advertising and marketing.

Just like memes on social media, it’s common to see threads and trends develop and it’s important to keep track to influence your own marketing and digital marketing efforts.

Here, you’ll find some of the top advertising campaigns from the last 12 months and reviewing how and why they worked.

First, what makes an ad effective?

Brand Messaging In 2022

Post pandemic, there has been a real shift in marketing messages, and most brands are embracing sustainability and authenticity.

Real stories, strong moral stance, and contribution are all essential values for brands to project.

However, be wary of jumping on tropes and trends just to be part of a movement.

Unless you are genuinely authentic, this can backfire and social media does not hold back to call out anyone who seeks to profiteer from a movement.

Retailer John Lewis in the U.K. faced considerable backlash for their 2021 Christmas campaign of “Let Life Happen,” featuring a young boy in a dress and makeup rampaging through the house.

It failed to hit the message of being inclusive about gender fluidity, and instead was derided for their off-brand middle-class efforts.

In contrast, a brand that managed to positively confront the perception of sexism in its historic advertisements was Budweiser.

By recreating their 60s ads from a current gender equality perspective, Budweiser sent a clear message that they were tackling cultural changes in attitude head-on by embracing their past – a more authentic way for a brand to suddenly change lanes.

How To Create An Effective Ad In 2022

Connecting with an audience in 2022 is all about being credible, unique, and memorable. And, brands need to position themselves carefully, with consideration to nuanced shifts in culture.

To create effective adverts that will resonate with an audience in a post-pandemic world, follow these rules:

A Simple Message

Basic rules of advertising dictate that your message should be understood quickly and easily.

In the ’80s, we had a trend of cinematically beautiful adverts that bordered on the surreal and often left you wondering what it was all about.

Today, make sure your advert has a strong central message.

Emotive

As Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said but not how you made them feel.”

Emotion creates stronger brand recall and will make someone feel connected to a brand.

Aligned With Your Audience

Put your audiences’ needs front and center of your messaging. Address what they want and what they need. Not what you need.

Aligned With Brand Values

In today’s culture, having strong values is essential for brands that want to build long-term connections with an audience.

Making a stand for your values shows that you care, and this is essential to connect with younger audiences who are the future.

Aligned With Your Brand Positioning

More than anything, be clear and consistent with who your brand is.

If you do want to tackle current trends and any societal issues, then make sure that you do it aligned with who you are and not trying to suddenly pivot in a forced and obvious manner.

Authentic

Switched-on audiences can detect a brand trying to take advantage of a cultural issue. It’s a brutal takedown on social media for a brand that gets it wrong and is considered inauthentic.

Memorable

The fundamental law of all advertising. Brands use shock, comedy, twists and sometimes distaste to stand out and be remembered. The Burger King Moldy Whopper is a visual you will not forget.

Check Out These 10 Effective Ads From 2021

1. Draw Ketchup, Heinz

Heinz Ketchup in Canada ran a campaign that perfectly illustrates the power of brand recall.

In an inspired meta approach, they used brand recall to show their brand dominance to affirm more brand recall.

Heinz achieved this by conducting a social experiment. Without revealing who the experiment was for, they asked random people around the world to illustrate the word ‘ketchup’.

Of course, all the results show Heinz ketchup bottles (except one guy who drew mustard!).

The naivety of the illustrations connects to a sentiment of nostalgia and encourages the viewer of the advert to mentally picture what ketchup means to them.

A brilliant example of user-generated content, offline. This is a memorable campaign that taps emotion.

2. The Return, Jif® Peanut Butter

“The Return” hits several metrics of what makes a good advert.

First of all, the team at Publicis who conducted the campaign defined the Jif audience as Millennials, and that rap music is a top music genre for this generation.

Partnering with a rapper like Ludacris creates a brand association with an influencer that resonates with rap-loving Millennials.

The Publicis team conducted social listening research and found that the new styles of rap sounded like the rappers had a mouthful of peanut butter. This led to the perfect connection of how to develop a narrative for their ad.

The advert was also promoted with a TikTok campaign challenge using the hashtag #JifRapChallenge.

“The Return” uses a nuanced blend of humor with an audience-relevant influencer in a memorable way.

3. Introducing The Icelandverse, Visit Iceland

“Icelandverse” by the tourism board for Iceland is the perfect example of how to jack a current trend.

Following Facebook’s “Introducing Meta” infomercial, “Icelandverse” was a fast-response spoof video that perfectly captured the incredulous sentiment to the ‘Meta’ brand announcement.

Within just five days of the Facebook ad, “Icelandverse” was launched and has achieved over 1.8million views on YouTube.

The narrative for the video is “a revolutionary approach on how to connect with our world without being super weird.”

It trades a comparison between the features of Iceland and the Metaverse. You can connect with humans (you are human, right?); skies you can see with your eyeballs; caress volcanic rocks.

The slightly “odd” main character and the awkwardness of the film offer a brilliant satirization of Zuckerberg to hit the overall sentiment online in response to the Facebook leader. The subtle humor is perfectly timed and is an example of just what can be achieved in only five days.

“Icelandverse” is certainly memorable and offers an example of how jacking current trends is a strategy that even small brands can use to get significant viral exposure.

4. End Plastic Waste, Stan Smith For Adidas Original

“It’s not easy being green,” famously said Kermit the Frog, who narrates the voiceover to this Adidas commercial.

As climate change and a theme of sustainability are now essential brand values for fashion brands that want to reach the younger demographics, Adidas has responded with an update on their iconic Stan Smith trainers.

The advert featuring Kermit and Stan Smith taps into the current focus on environmental issues combined with the history of the brand. Combining the nostalgic with the modern is always a strong hook for advertising.

It might not be easy being green, but it is even harder to produce an advert that can trade on serious issues without appearing condescending or inauthentic.

Adidas has tapped authenticity perfectly whilst at the same time managing to get on a level with Gen Z. They have ticked alignment with brand values and their audience, combined with an emotive and inspiring short film.

5. ScissorHandsFree, Cadillac

Who is the target audience for Cadillac? The grown-up Gen Xs who fondly remember the surreal beauty of 1991 “Edward Scissorhands.”

In advertising, the nostalgia for things from your teens and early years is always a hook for connection, especially for the middle-aged and older.

In “ScissorHandsFree,” the main character can enjoy the thrill of driving on the open road, even though he has scissors for hands. What a way to sell the benefits of hands-free driving!

The advert which is a follow-on from the original film also manages to interweave current themes of diversity and inclusivity.

Cadillac has managed to align itself with current social themes, tap into nostalgia, align with their demographic, and create a stunning memorable experience all in one advert.

Take note, those with budgets that can hire Winona Ryder and Timothée Chalamet, this is how it’s done.

6. Fumble, iPhone 12

Yet another advert from Apple that has great timing, great editing, and leaves you a little breathless.

Apple is the master of minimalism which they extend to all their campaigns with simple messaging.

Trading on the phone’s selling feature of the ceramic shield, the ad puts the durability of the phone at the center of the message in a clear and memorable way.

The music by Nitin Sawhney contributes to the panic and urgency of trying not to drop a phone.

So simple and perfectly aligned with Apple brand values.

7. Last Year’s Lemons, Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade

When the pandemic happened, at first, brands were paralyzed and unsure of how to proceed.

We then had a burst of ads with a homemade feel that drew on the total shock and emotion of what the world was experiencing.

Two years down the line, the pandemic is now so seamlessly part of life, we are so over it.

Just when we thought we couldn’t take any more pandemic-related advertising, Bud Light steps in with the perfect cultural reference of “when you get lemons, you make lemonade.”

In a brilliant narrative of an apocalyptic event where it starts raining lemons, Bud Light manages to tap into the total chaos of the last two years in a wonderfully bittersweet sentiment.

The last throwaway line also perfectly echoes how we are now so burnt out with the pandemic.

Perfectly aligned with social sentiment, audience, and brand positioning.

8. Meet The King, Jimmy John’s

Aligning with celebrities and fictional classics translates to trading off the success forged by these real and fictional characters.

You could call it success-jacking or value-jacking. It’s why celebrities charge so much for endorsements.

Of course, not everyone can afford to make a Goodfellas-style short film. But, it is possible to leverage this technique by understanding your audience and using cultural references they respect.

In this case, Jimmy John’s did have the budget for a short film aired in the coveted Super Bowl slot.

With a hint of humor and a lot of Goodfellas-style direction, this ad provides a brand positioning and alignment with a certain audience.

Creating the narrative around the product makes sure the brand and product are at the forefront.

9. The Ad Where Nothing Happens, Progressive Insurance

In another post-pandemic reference, Progressive Insurance chooses not to make a flashy advert to give people a break from the events of the last few years. “People have been through a lot.”

Well-written and perfectly hits the current sentiment of burnout.

Progressive Insurance clearly knows their demographic as they also throw in the brilliant cultural reference to an aged NSYNC that only someone who grew up in the 90s would get.

A simple message delivered dressed up as a basic advert that is nuanced with subtle humor.

10. Jessica Long’s Story, Toyota

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Saving the tear-jerker for last. The power of the inspiring story.

This advert taps into current themes of diversity and inclusivity combined with the hero’s journey.

Toyota shows the real-life story of an athlete that represents how anyone can overcome, even if their “life is not always easy.” The perfect antidote to shake us out of any lingering post-pandemic self-pity. It hits social sentiment perfectly.

The advert does feel like something Nike would make, but Toyota is a sponsor for the Olympic team.

Rather than selling a product, Toyota is using the alignment of positioning with those who work hard to overcome difficulties to succeed in life.

A memorable advert that defies anyone to not cry and affirms the Toyota brand values.

Takeaway For 10 Best Advertising Campaigns

What these 10 examples of top advertising campaigns show is that there are several ways to approach a memorable ad:

  • Use humor or strong emotion.
  • Use cultural references.
  • Use current social sentiment.
  • Trend-jack other brands and adverts.

And sometimes, it’s just reaffirming the established dominance of the brand in a way that respects its audience and shows authenticity.

More Resources:


Featured Image: LuckyN/Shutterstock




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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

Google removed the Covid-era structured data associated with the Home Activities rich results that allowed online events to be surfaced in search since August 2020, publishing a mention of the removal in the search documentation changelog.

Home Activities Rich Results

The structured data for the Home Activities rich results allowed providers of online livestreams, pre-recorded events and online events to be findable in Google Search.

The original documentation has been completely removed from the Google Search Central webpages and now redirects to a changelog notation that explains that the Home Activity rich results is no longer available for display.

The original purpose was to allow people to discover things to do from home while in quarantine, particularly online classes and events. Google’s rich results surfaced details of how to watch, description of the activities and registration information.

Providers of online events were required to use Event or Video structured data. Publishers and businesses who have this kind of structured data should be aware that this kind of rich result is no longer surfaced but it’s not necessary to remove the structured data if it’s a burden, it’s not going to hurt anything to publish structured data that isn’t used for rich results.

The changelog for Google’s official documentation explains:

“Removing home activity documentation
What: Removed documentation on home activity structured data.

Why: The home activity feature no longer appears in Google Search results.”

Read more about Google’s Home Activities rich results:

Google Announces Home Activities Rich Results

Read the Wayback Machine’s archive of Google’s original announcement from 2020:

Home activities

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Olga Strel

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Google’s Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

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Google's Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

In a recent LinkedIn discussion, Gary Illyes, Analyst at Google, revealed that the search engine takes a binary approach when assessing a website’s lastmod signal from sitemaps.

The revelation came as Illyes encouraged website owners to upgrade to WordPress 6.5, which now natively supports the lastmod element in sitemaps.

When Mark Williams-Cook asked if Google has a “reputation system” to gauge how much to trust a site’s reported lastmod dates, Illyes stated, “It’s binary: we either trust it or we don’t.”

No Shades Of Gray For Lastmod

The lastmod tag indicates the date of the most recent significant update to a webpage, helping search engines prioritize crawling and indexing.

Illyes’ response suggests Google doesn’t factor in a website’s history or gradually build trust in the lastmod values being reported.

Google either accepts the lastmod dates provided in a site’s sitemap as accurate, or it disregards them.

This binary approach reinforces the need to implement the lastmod tag correctly and only specify dates when making meaningful changes.

Illyes commends the WordPress developer community for their work on version 6.5, which automatically populates the lastmod field without extra configuration.

Accurate Lastmod Essential For Crawl Prioritization

While convenient for WordPress users, the native lastmod support is only beneficial if Google trusts you’re using it correctly.

Inaccurate lastmod tags could lead to Google ignoring the signal when scheduling crawls.

With Illyes confirming Google’s stance, it shows there’s no room for error when using this tag.

Why SEJ Cares

Understanding how Google acts on lastmod can help ensure Google displays new publish dates in search results when you update your content.

It’s an all-or-nothing situation – if the dates are deemed untrustworthy, the signal could be disregarded sitewide.

With the information revealed by Illyes, you can ensure your implementation follows best practices to the letter.


Featured Image: Danishch/Shutterstock

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

There’s one thing standing between you and several days of SEO, socializing, and Singaporean sunshine: your boss (and their Q4 budget 😅).

But don’t worry—we’ve got your back. Here are 5 arguments (and an example message) you can use to persuade your boss to send you to Ahrefs Evolve.

About Ahrefs Evolve

  • 2 days in sunny Singapore (Oct 24–25)
  • 500 digital marketing enthusiasts
  • 18 top speakers from around the world

Learn more and buy tickets.

SEO is changing at a breakneck pace. Between AI Overviews, Google’s rolling update schedule, their huge API leak, and all the documents released during their antitrust trial, it’s hard to keep up. What works in SEO today?

You could watch a YouTube video or two, maybe even attend an hour-long webinar. Or, much more effective: you could spend two full days learning from a panel of 18 international SEO experts, discussing your takeaways live with other attendees.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve speakers from around the world.

Our world-class speakers are tackling the hardest problems and best opportunities in SEO today. The talk agenda covers topics like:

  • Responding to AI Overviews: Amanda King will teach you how to respond to AI Overviews, Google Gemini, and other AI search functions.
  • Surviving (and thriving) Google’s algo updates: Lily Ray will talk through Google’s recent updates, and share data-driven recommendations for what’s working in search today.
  • Planning for the future of SEO: Bernard Huang will talk through the failures of AI content and the path to better results.

(And attendees will get video recordings of each session, so you can share the knowledge with your teammates too.)

View the full talk agenda here.

There’s no substitute for meeting with influencers, peers, and partners in real life. 

Conferences create serendipity: chance encounters and conversations that can have a huge positive impact on you and your business. By way of example, these are some of the real benefits that have come my way from attending conferences:

  • Conversations that lead to new customers for our business,
  • Invitations to speak at events,
  • New business partnerships and co-marketing opportunities, and
  • Meeting people that we went on to hire.

There’s a “halo” effect that lingers long after the event is over: the people you meet will remember you for longer, think more highly of you, and be more likely to help you out, should you ask.

(And let’s not forget: there’s a lot of information, particularly in SEO, that only gets shared in person.)

The “international” part of Evolve matters too. Evolve is a different crowd to your local run-of-the-mill conference. It’s a chance to meet with people from markets you wouldn’t normally meet—from Australia to Indonesia and beyond.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve attendees by home country.

If you’re an Ahrefs customer (thank you!), you’ll learn tons of tips, tricks and workflow improvements from attending Evolve. You’ll have opportunities to:

  • Attend talks from the Ahrefs team, showcasing advanced features and strategies that you can use in your own business.
  • Pick our brains at the Ahrefs booth, where we’ll offer informal 1:1 coaching sessions and previews of up-coming releases (like our new content optimization tool 🤫).
  • Join dedicated Ahrefs training workshops, hosted by the Ahrefs team and Ahrefs power users (tickets for these workshops will sold separately).

As a manager myself, there are two questions I need answered when approving expenses:

  • Is this a reasonable cost?
  • Will we see a return on this investment?

To answer those questions: early bird tickets for Evolve start at $570. For context, “super early bird” tickets for MozCon (another popular SEO conference) this year were almost twice as much: $999.

There’s a lot included in the ticket price too:

  • World-class international speakers,
  • 5-star hotel venue,
  • 5-star hotel food (two tea breaks with snacks & lunch),
  • Networking afterparty, and
  • Full talk recordings to later share with your team.

SEO is a crucial growth channel for most businesses. If you can improve your company’s SEO performance after attending Evolve (and we think you will), you’ll very easily see a positive return on the investment.

Traveling to tropical Singapore (and eating tons of satay) is great for you, but it’s also great for your team. Attending Evolve is a chance to break with routine, reignite your passion for marketing, and come back to your job reinvigorated.

This would be true for any international conference, but it goes double for Singapore. It’s a truly unique place: an ultra-safe, high-tech city that brings together dozens of different cultures.

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Little India in Singapore

You’ll discover different beliefs, working practices, and ways of business—and if you’re anything like me, come back a richer, wiser person for the experience.

If you’re nervous about pitching your boss on attending Evolve, remember: the worst that can happen is a polite “not this time”, and you’ll find yourself in the same position you are now.

So here goes: take this message template, tweak it to your liking, and send it to your boss over email or Slack… and I’ll see you in Singapore 😉

Email template

Hi [your boss’ name],

Our SEO tool provider, Ahrefs, is holding an SEO and digital marketing conference in Singapore in October. I’d like to attend, and I think it’s in the company’s interest:

  • The talks will help us respond to all the changes happening in SEO today. I’m particularly interested in the talks about AI and recent Google updates. 
  • I can network with my peers. I can discover what’s working at other companies, and explore opportunities for partnerships and co-marketing.
  • I can learn how we can use Ahrefs better across the organization.
  • I’ll come back reinvigorated with new ideas and motivation, and I can share my top takeaways and talk recordings with my team after the event.

Early bird tickets are $570. Given how important SEO is to the growth of our business, I think we’ll easily see a return from the spend.

Can we set up time to chat in more detail? Thanks!

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