Dove's 2004 "Real Beauty" Campaign Leads Ad Age's List of the Top 15 Ad Campaigns of 21st Century

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Apple’s “Mac vs. PC,” Budweiser's “Whassup,” and UNICEF’s “Tap Project” among other campaigns singled out as the most influential of the century so far

For its influential role in challenging social norms and sparking a worldwide conversation that continues to shape advertising and cultural trends to this day, Dove’s 2004 Real Beauty campaign has been named the top campaign of the 21st Century – so far – by Advertising Age.

Dove’s milestone campaign leads the list of Ad Age’s Top 15 Ad Campaigns of the 21st Century, a ranking of the watershed moments that have set new standards for the advertising industry, pioneered new categories, catapulted brands to the top of their market, and impacted popular culture. The top 15 highlight the trends that illustrate how marketers speak to 21st Century consumers, whether it is through new digital and interactive channels, tapping into social causes, creating new products or creating unforgettable characters, songs and catchphrases.

Other campaign’s leading the list include: Old Spice’s 2010 The Man Your Man Could Smell Like (# 4), a trailblazer for its use of customized tailored content and social channels; Burger King’s 2004 Subservient Chicken (#8), the viral hit that paved the way for interactive campaigns; Budweiser’s 2000 Whassup (#13), which penetrated pop culture and the vernacular and showed that multicultural was already mainstream; and UNICEF’s 2007 Tap Project (#15), which encouraged restaurant patrons for a single day to pay for their free drinking water, raising more than $2.5 million to date for safe drinking water initiatives. (The full list of the 15 campaigns is below.)

The list was selected by a panel of marketing and advertising industry leaders that included Droga5 Founder David Droga; Publicis Worldwide Chairman Susan McManama Gianinno; Brad Jakeman, PepsiCo’s President, Global Beverage Group; McCann XBC’s Chief Creative Officer Joyce King Thomas; and Google’s Executive Creative Director Robert Wong. (See full list of judges below.). In addition, Ad Age members voted for the top campaigns of the 21st Century, with subscribers and readers singling out several campaigns for the Members’ Choice winners that did not make the judges list, including Geico: Gecko Campaign, Volkswagen: The Force, and Progressive: "Flo" Campaign.

The Top 15 Ad Campaigns of the 21st Century list is unveiled in the January 12th issue Ad Age and in an online showcase debuting today ( featuring video and images from the campaigns and interviews with many of their creators and members of the judging panel. A new ebook going on sale today, Advertising Age’s Top Ad Campaigns will provide readers with an in-depth look at the campaigns, as well as the top 100 campaigns of the 20th Century as selected by Ad Age in 1999. For just $4.99, users can reference this resource of the most memorable campaigns for inspiration. Available from Amazon, Google Play, Apple iBooks, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo.

“In just fifteen years, advertising and marketing have evolved dramatically in response to rapid changes in technology, media, and culture,” said Ken Wheaton, Advertising Age’s managing editor. “Our goal is to single out the campaigns that have captured our imagination, and changed the way we interact with brands and organizations.”

Ad Age’s Top 15 Ad Campaigns of the 21st Century
(Also available at

1.    Dove: Campaign for Real Beauty (2004, Ogilvy)
This was a bold move by a Unilever brand to challenge cultural norms. The idea was to start a discussion around the notion that the definition of beautiful had become limiting. There have been a range of award-winning executions, including a film in 2006, “Evolution” and a follow-up in 2013 with the moving “Sketches” work.

2.    Nike: Nike+ (2007, R/GA)
This campaign stretched the possibilities for marketing into a new realm -- forget TV commercials. Now agencies could create platforms. In partnership with Apple, R/GA created this system for Nike to hook up shoes with a tracking device that could wireless connect with an athlete’s iPod, transmitting running stats that can be uploaded to iTunes. The site then let athletes track their own goals and hook up with a larger community or runners to compare performance. That evolved into another winning effort with the Fuelband a few years later, sparking the whole wearables trend. For an agency, it is the Holy Grail; to not just influence the advertising of a product but to be in on the ground floor of the development of it as well.

3.    BMW Films (2001, Fallon)
This campaign defined modern branded entertainment: eight short internet films, each conceived by a different filmmaker, with celebrity Clive Owen as the big star. And in each, BMW vehicles are integrated into the scripts (such as Chosen, Ambush, The Follow, The Star, Powder Keg). The movies were seen 11 million times in a matter of four months, and the carmaker saw its sales increase 12% in the span of a year.

4.    Old Spice: The Man Your Man Could Smell Like (2010, Wieden & Kennedy)
This effort revived an old-school brand for P&G. It was a feat of storytelling through digital, explaining how the handsome Isaiah Mustafah was the ideal man for women. The sheer scale of it and the ability to create the Responses campaign, which was customized tailored content in a flash, showed how brands could use social channels for CRM and interaction with Old Spice’s biggest fans.

5.    Red Bull: Stratos (2012)
There have been shows, concerts, sporting events but Felix Baumgartner’s stunt was the first and only sponsored leap from the edge of space. The 24-mile freefall jump broke 5 Guinness records and it also sold plenty of product. TV, radio and other news outlets everywhere tuned into the event via live stream and the brand earned tons of media mentions. In the first six months after the “Stratos” effort, Red Bull sales rose 7% to $1.6 billion.

6.    Burger King: Subservient Chicken (2004, Crispin Porter & Bogusky)
This approach took literally the idea of Burger King’s message to consumers: “Get Chicken the Way You Want It.” This interactive idea came with an intentionally lo-fi look -- a man in a chicken costume in a simple living room setting. Users could submit commands and the human chicken would respond. It was a stunt that went viral and was so successful that it was used in future campaigns. Underscoring the campaign’s popularity, the chain has just brought the Subservient Chicken back after a decade.

7.    American Express: Small Business Saturday (2010, Digitas, CP&B)
Started the day after Black Friday encouraging shoppers to visit Main Street brick and mortar shops to help patronize them amid the shopping season rather than just big box or, increasingly, shopping online. The first year Amex bought Facebook inventory that it turned over to small merchants, and made a success out of the hashtag #smallbusinesssaturday. It was an example of a campaign that started as a one-time promotion but had legs beyond that day, and is now still recognized. The campaign has solidified its reputation amid the very important small business community.

8.    Apple: Get a Mac (2006, TBWA/Media Arts Lab)
A rare example of an effective, palatable comparative ad campaign. Each ad, in which John Hodgman personified a PC and Justin Long personified Apple, managed to portray PCs (and thus Microsoft) in a brutal way. PCs were painted as inferior, unreliable and virus-ridden. Yet the ads were entertaining, making fans for Apple beyond just the fanboys. Market share went up. The series became so successful there were 66 ‘Get a Mac’ ads in all. And the consistency was uncanny, all overseen by the same director at Epoch Films.

9.    P&G: Thank You, Mom (2012, Wieden & Kennedy)
Rather than sponsor just the Olympics, P&G saw value in sponsoring those who make the games happen. Not the athletes, but the families and specifically the Moms who support the athletes all throughout their childhood. A series of emotional spots rolled out and as part of the campaign, and in an updated version for 2014, P&G sent $1,000 Visa gift cards to each of the 357 Olympic athletes' moms to help them travel to Sochi. The masterfully edited spot “Best Job” won the Emmy for best Primetime Commercial.

10.    American Legacy Foundation: Truth (2000, Arnold, CP&B)
Inspired by a Florida state campaign, Truth, launched in February 2000, and is the largest national youth anti-smoking campaign. It’s also the only national campaign not overseen by the tobacco industry. Through unconventional methods including public stunts and bold billboards, the campaign exposes the tactics of the tobacco industry, the truth about the health effects and social consequences of smoking.

11.    Dos Equis: Most Interesting Man in the World (2006, EuroRSCG [now Havas])
He’s tangled with bears, won arm wrestling matches and surfed the toughest waters in the world with ease. He’s the most interesting man! Everyone has seen these funny ads starring the dashing Jonathan Goldsmith. And they all know the way they end: "I don't always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis...Stay thirsty, my friends." The spots have become a web meme and sales are said to have gone up 22% thanks to the entertaining branding push.

12.    Metro Trains: Dumb Ways to Die (2012, McCann, Melbourne)
Swept the 2013 awards shows for its willingness to tackle a serious topic with a cute, comedic approach and unfurl the campaign over various platforms. This was a true integrated effort that started as a radio campaign, turned into billboards, a mobile game and a YouTube video that netted millions of views. The catchy, original tune helped to drive home the message to be safe around trains. And in the end the campaign really worked, with rail accidents falling since the start of the push.

13.    Budweiser: Whassup (2000, DDB)
This worldwide campaign repositioned the already hugely popular beer brand and made it more appealing to a youthful and multicultural audience. “Whassup” penetrated pop culture and became a catchphrase used by people worldwide. Internet parodies abounded, late night talk show hosts quoted it. Everyone knew this campaign. For a comedic campaign to net a Grand Prix at Cannes, too, was a recognition of the power of an ad that was so good, it didn’t even quite feel like advertising but just watchable content.

14.    Chipotle: Back to the Start (2011, CAA Marketing)
This campaign started on YouTube, then was brought to TV -- sparking a new way for marketers to test the popularity of an ad and only pay for media after they know they have a hit on their hands. This spot was special too for the craft involved, and its strong animation. The way that Back to the Start was embraced was a validation that marketing ideas can come from anywhere, and in this case, maybe far-reaching with consumers when the company has such direct access to high-profile creative talent like Willie Nelson and Coldplay.

15.    UNICEF: Tap Project (2007, Droga5)
Launched on World Water Day in 2007, this effort to raise awareness about providing the clean and safe drinking water to children in impoverished areas of the world. UNICEF for $1 could offer a child clean water for 40 days, and so Droga5 partnered with restaurants -- first in New York, and later nationwide -- to encourage patrons for a single day to pay for their free drinking water. Not only did this cause marketing effort raise awareness of UNICEF’s work around the world, but it also directly helped children by donating the proceeds to sanitation programs. Some $2.5 million has been raised, thanks to this joint effort from consumers and retail.

Judges for the Top Ad Campaigns of the 21st Century

●    Sergio Alcocer, President and Chief Creative Officer, LatinWorks
●    John Boiler, Founder, Chief Executive Officer, 72andSunny
●    Mike Byrne, Global Chief Creative Officer, Anomaly
●    Cindy Chen, Global Head of Innovation, Gum Category, Mondelēz International
●    Dave Droga, Founder, Creative Chairman, Droga5
●    Susan McManama Gianinno, Chairman, North America, Publicis Worldwide
●    Greg Hahn, Chief Creative Officer, BBDO New York
●    Rei Inamoto, Chief Creative Officer, VP, AKQA
●    Naoki Ito, Creative Director and CEO, Party Inc.
●    Brad Jakeman, President, Global Beverage Group, PepsiCo
●    Linus Karlsson, Creative Chairman of Commonwealth//McCann
●    Andrew Keller, Chief Executive Officer, Partner, CP+B
●    Keith Reinhard, Chairman Emeritus, DDB Worldwide
●    Jimmy Smith, Chairman, CEO, Chief Creative Officer, Amusement Park Entertainment
●    Helayne Spivak, Director, VCU Brandcenter
●    Joyce King Thomas, Chairman, Chief Creative Officer, McCann XBC
●    Robert Wong, Co-founder/ Executive Creative Director, Google Creative Lab

Ad Age’s Top 15 Ad Campaigns of the 21st Century – Members’ Choice

1.    Dove: Campaign for Real Beauty (2004, Ogilvy)
2.    Apple: Get a Mac (2006, TBWA/Media Arts Lab)
3.    Dos Equis: Most Interesting Man in the World (2006, EuroRSCG [now Havas])
4.    IBM: Smarter Planet (2008, Ogilvy)
5.    Old Spice: The Man Your Man Could Smell Like (2010, Wieden & Kennedy)
6.    AT&T: It's Not that Complicated (2013, BBDO, Atlanta)
7.    Volkswagen: The Force (2011, Deutsch, Los Angeles)
8.    ETrade: The Baby Campaign (2008, Grey)
9.    American Legacy Foundation: Truth (2000, Arnold, CP&B)
10.    P&G: Thank You, Mom (2012, Wieden & Kennedy)
11.    Progressive: "Flo" Campaign (2008, Arnold)
12.    Budweiser: Whassup (2000, DDB)
13.    Geico: Gecko Campaign (2000, The Martin Agency)
14.    American Express: Small Business Saturday (2010, Digitas, CP&B)
15.    BMW Films (2001, Fallon)

About Advertising Age
Advertising Age is recognized as the leading global source of news, analysis and intelligence for the marketing and media community. Advertising Age includes ongoing coverage of strategic topics for marketers from mid to large companies complemented by breaking news and a database of the world's best creative. The 85-year-old publisher produces more than 15 original rankings each year, including the 100 Leading National Advertisers and 100 Leading Media Companies lists, the Agency A-List, and the annual Agency Report.

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