The Drum has joined forced with leading industry legends and The Financial Times to recognise the very best long-running ad campaigns, ahead of The Drum Advertising Awards, which aim to identify the best, most creative and innovative work in the industry. But we need your help! Find out why marketers are abandoning brand-building below and tell us what you think is the best long-running ad of all time.
Beanz Meanz Heinz. Because the lady loves Milk Tray. Andy Warhol’s hand-painted vodka bottles. Aleksandr Orlov, if we’re being generous. All campaigns that ran, and are still running, years and decades after their inception because they infiltrated the public consciousness and helped create world-beating brands.
According to senior industry figures, the days of brilliant long-lived campaigns are ending. Between a fragmented media landscape, short-term thinking from marketing directors and the imminent mass adoption of voice technology, branding as we know it could disappear.
Patrick Collister, former executive creative director and chair of Ogilvy & Mather and, until earlier this year, creative lead at Google, said: “I think we are witnessing the slow death of the brand. There are many murderers, most of whom are brand managers themselves. This is a pity because the brand is, in itself, probably the most powerful business idea of the last century.”
Fellow industry veteran Dave Birss, formerly of Mr Smith, MRM McCann and OgilvyOne, told The Drum: “Building up a brand is a long-term investment. When I was a kid there were campaigns running that had hardly changed in years – in decades. But because now we've got marketing directors who have a tenure of under 18 months on average, they come in and like to make their mark on their new job. So we end up with new campaigns and the old stuff, the brand-building stuff, gets ditched.”
David Buttle, global marketing director, commercial at The Financial Times which is partnering with The Drum to celebrate long-term strategies, said: “Driven by the allure of immediate results, the absence of metrics to measure brand-uplift robustly and ever-shorter CMO tenure and reporting cycles, marketers are increasingly planning campaigns which deliver against the lowest cost-per-sale rather than against brand outcomes.
“For a business to generate this long-term effect on the top line it needs to build a collective understanding of what its brand stands for. And that's the type of campaign which we are seeing a reduction in. Great brands, like the Financial Times, are built through creative bravery, high-impact formats and bold placements. As an industry, it’s time we reminded ourselves of that.”
What keeps a campaign running?
The groundbreaking campaigns of the past and present – from Jack Daniels’ ‘Postcards from Lynchburg’ to Gary Lineker’s spots for Walkers crisps – share common elements.
Collister offered up a set of four criteria for identifying and creating long-term campaign success.
- First, matching luggage – or the use of visual uniformity. “A great example of this is Comparethemarket.com. The meerkats appear in all advertising and brand extensions. Similarly, Budweiser uses Clydesdales – and in recent years a Labrador puppy – every year for its Superbowl offering.”
- Secondly there is thematic integration, which relies on a single line or slogan to string comms together. According to Collister, P&G’s ‘Proud Sponsors of Moms’ campaign around the Olympic Games is a prime example.
- Third, strategic integration. “Tesco is doing a pretty good job of this through Wieden+Kennedy with its ‘Food Love Stories’.”
- Fourth is total brand integration. “It’s as rare as rocking horse poo. Innocent was a great example, until it was sold to Coca-Cola.”
Offering his own criteria, Birss said: “You can look at consistent copy – a consistent strapline for instance. But it's really more about the strategy and tone of voice and making sure that each ad feels as if it’s from the same family. If it's got the same DNA running through it, people will understand. A company that's good at this is PaddyPower. It's cheeky and it's naughty, but the things that it does are quite different. It's still got the same personality throughout.”
Celebrating long-term thinking
We are now asking our readers to nominate the best long-running ad campaigns ever created, which will go in front of a panel of judges at the upcoming Future of Marketing event with the winner then recognised at The Drum Advertising Awards on 29 November in a special category sponsored by FT. You can nominate your suggestion for the best long-running ad campaigns here.
To coincide with the Advertising Awards, the December issue of The Drum magazine will be dedicated to debunking the idea that ‘advertising’ is a dirty word. If you’re not already a subscriber to The Drum, you can sign up here.