10 top creative print ads – featuring KFC, Ikea, Absolut and more

Moms Demand Action, KFC, Ikea, NME

Despite the sharp rise in popularity of digital marketing in recent years, print advertising continues to hold a prized place in the hearts and budgets of advertisers.

This year, major publishers including Hearst and Time Out teamed up to promote print's potency to brands and media buyers. And as the likes of retailer Ikea and vodka maker Absolut have demonstrated, the tactile advertising medium remains a place where brands can prove their creativity and make a strong statement.

Here we look at 10 of the top creative print ads published in newspapers and magazines in recent years.

Ikea: ‘Sleepy’ (2018)

To promote its range of bed frames and mattresses, Swedish homeware giant Ikea teamed up with its UAE agency, Memac Ogilvy, to create a print ad that would help consumers sleep.

After a survey conducted by Ikea found that nine in 10 people in the UAE were not getting the ideal eight hours of sleep every night, the brand created this ad in a move to improve sleeping behavior. Serving as the back page of a magazine, the cardboard ad is removed by readers and easily assembled in order to improve their sleep. After opening the tab to activate both the white noise sound and the lavender scented ink, the user is invited to stand the ad upright beside their bed.

Ikea: ‘This ad can change your life as you know it’ (2018)

Here's another example of Ikea making smart use of print media in order to bring imaginative advertising to life.

In an ad for its range of cribs, the retailer incorporated a pregnancy test strip. Potential mothers are invited to urinate on the strip as with a regular pregnancy test and wait for the outcome. If the result is positive, the crib will be offered to them with a 50% discount. This outstanding print ad brings another dimension to Ikea’s 'wonderful everyday' tagline.

Ikea collaborated with both Swedish agency Åkestam Holst and Mercene Labs in the making of this ad.

KFC: ‘FCK’ (2018)

Following an unwise business deal with a new chicken retailer, shortages in stock forced the fast-food chain to temporarily close nearly 900 UK stores. In response to the public’s very vocal criticism of the brand, KFC released a full-page print apology for its cock-up in The Metro and The Sun newspapers. Playing about with the brand’s own three-letter acronym, the ads featured the KFC bucket with the letters ‘FCK’ emblazoned across the front.

The ad was developed by creative agency, Mother.

Liberty Mutual Insurance: ‘New car smell’ (2019)

Liberty Mutual Insurance incorporated the enticing new car smell into one of its print ads in a move to be thought of first for insurance when consumers purchase a new car. As smell is the sense that is the most closely connected with memory, the ad looks to jog the memories of consumers when they do buy a new car and have to consider new insurance. The eye-catching, bright yellow ad mimics the style of perfume print ads, showcasing their scent to magazine readers.

The ad was created by Goodby Silverstein & Partners and was ran in the April 28 issue of the Chicago Sun Times.

Hey Girls UK: ‘Make your own sanitary pad’ (2018)

Appearing in newspapers across the UK, the social enterprise Hey Girls UK ran a cut-out and keep ad to highlight the less than hygienic options available to girls that fall victim to period poverty. The double-sided ad features a cut-out outline of a sanitary towel, with fold printed on its wings. Striking for the reader, the other side of the ad features the shocking statistics of young girls that cannot afford sanitary products and are forced to make use of random items in their place. The ad also features a call to action: for every packet of sanitary towels bought, Hey Girls UK will in turn donate a packet to a girl living in period poverty.

The creative was produced by Adam&Eve/DDB.

Absolut: ‘Kiss with pride’ (2017)

To celebrate 50 years since the decriminalization of homosexuality in the UK, Absolut vodka ran a series of ads looking to influence 72 other countries to follow its example.

The ads comprise evocative close-ups of same-sex couples kissing, where the couples featured appear to come from countries where homosexuality is still illegal. Over their locked lips, Absolut projected the rainbow-colored outline of a vodka bottle. As a Swedish vodka brand, Absolut has made it part of its marketing strategy to support LGBTQ+ causes in order to give itself the edge over Russian competitors.

The series of ads was run as part of Absolut’s wider ‘Equal Love’ campaign and was created in collaboration with creative agency BBH and LGBTQ+ charity, Stonewall.

Netflix x NME: ‘The Umbrella Academy’ (2019)

In order to build buzz around the launch of The Umbrella Academy, Netflix commissioned music title NME to revive its defunct print edition for a one-off print special. The series was written by former My Chemical Romance front man Gerard Way, and it is thought it will garner an audience of music lovers. NME, which made the final move from print to digital in 2018, released 50,000 copies of the magazine across the UK and included interviews with cast members and an exclusive comic.

The deal between Netflix and NME was brokered by media agency Wavemaker.

Marmite: ‘Brexit’ (2019)

Drawing on the divisive nature of its product, Marmite ran a clever print ad in newspapers earlier this year that compared the spread to the equally divisive subject of Brexit. Featuring the slogans, ‘Hard breakfast? Soft breakfast? No breakfast?’ Marmite cashed in on the uncertainty of the UK's exit from the European Union. With the ad’s ‘Dividing the nation since 1902’ caption, the British condiment inserts itself humorously into the Brexit debate.

The ad was created with agency Oliver.

Moms Demand Action: ‘Choose One’ (2013)

This series of print ads was first launched in 2013 by gun control organization Moms Demand Action to highlight the hypocrisy of American gun control laws. The three ads feature innocent objects which have been banned in America to protect children, including a Kinder egg, a copy of Little Red Riding Hood and a ball used in playground game dodgeball. The ad invites the viewer to choose whether they would prefer their children to play with one of these items, or a rifle.

These arresting ads were released in response to the shocking number of school shootings which have plagued America, and to highlight the necessity of stricter gun control to the government.

The ads were created by advertising agency Grey.

Female Tribes: #FThePayGap (2017)

On International Women’s Day, Female Tribes ran a series of ads that cleverly highlighted the average 25% pay gap between men and women. The ads featured partially blocked out slogans which called for better pay for women yet doubled as offensive slurs to drive debate around the issue. These bold ads were run across print and the slogans were later printed on t-shirts.

The ads were created by Female Tribes parent company J. Walter Thompson Company.

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis

Join us, it’s free.

Want to read this article and others just like it? All you need to do is become a member of The Drum. Basic membership is quick, free and you will be able to receive daily news updates.