Stephen Eastwood
December 2016.

Which are the best and worst ad campaigns of all time, and why?

1 answer

That’s a very subjective question. If it’s a case of my favourite ad is of all time, the Guinness ‘Surfer’ ad from the late 90s with the Leftfield soundtrack really sticks in my head. That was a particularly interesting generation. The 90s was kind of the pinnacle of visually-led advertising, visual culture, semiotic sophistication and postmodern culture, if you like – whereas post 1990s and moving into the 2000s and towards the 2010s, things have moved very much towards online. Here ads are targeted by behaviour and profiling.

Another campaign that stands out are the print and billboard ads for The Economist. They’re very simple, one-line ads – often just a string of text on a red background. Whereas the Guinness ad is a delight for the eye, if you like, The Economist ads are ultra-simple exercises in really good writing. It’s all about the quality of the ad, the writing and the idea.

I guess the worst campaigns are the ones I can’t really remember, so by default they just don’t work!

Andrew McStay is the author of Digital Advertising, now in its second edition.