In a world inundated with ads, it’s rare for one to become an indelible part of the cultural landscape. As modern advertising evolved from its 17th-century print origins, it grew into an art form that entrenched itself in popular culture and changed the relationship between company and consumer. Yet amid the sea of print ads, commercials, and social media campaigns that have launched over the years, a few outliers have managed to stand out from the crowd, lodging themselves in the collective consciousness and successfully changing the conversation. These five iconic ads are generally considered among the most successful ad campaigns of all time.
Nike: “Just Do It”
In 1988, the advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy debuted the “Just Do It” campaign, and catapulted Nike into the realm of cultural iconicism. Written by agency co-founder Dan Wieden, the slogan debuted in a TV spot for what was then a relatively small sportswear company. The empowering catchphrase was intentionally open-ended, and sought to capitalize on the decade’s enthusiasm for self-determinization and personal achievement. The idea for those three little words has a darker origin, however. The phrase was adapted from the last words uttered by convicted killer Gary Gilmore, who, shortly before his execution by firing squad, said, “Let’s do it.” Wieden and his collaborators swapped out a word, and the rest is history.