Top Eight Inspirational Ad Campaigns

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As a marketing communications professional, my first exposure to the world of advertising, public relations and social media was actually through a Nike campaign some 20 years ago. This particular campaign inspired me, pushed me to be better and forced me, even at a young age, to keep going even in the face of failure. Maybe it’s also partially responsible for my brand loyalty to Nike all these years.

Years later, the message behind this campaign continues to inspire me and it’s a message that I reach for when times are tough, when I get low and there doesn’t seem to be a way out. It inspires me so much that I even analyzed it in an academic paper.  As a professional storyteller for clients in film, food and tourism, helping them translate their stories for an array of mediums (whether it’s in PR, social media or a blog/print piece); I’ve always felt that a narrative doesn’t have to be long in order to be inspirational. Ad campaigns can go beyond selling something to actually make you feel something and messages also doesn’t have to come from a book, a film or a TV series in order be real, raw and realistic.

Without further ado, I’m going to share some of the most inspirational ad campaigns that have pushed me to be better and continue to fight through adversity and move forward in the face of failure.

1.Nike-“Failure” (1997)

Though far from the first Michael Jordan led Nike campaign I’d seen growing up, it was definitely the first of many Nike campaigns that struck a chord with me. As he’s walking into the Chicago Bulls locker room, one of the greatest basketball players of all time ruminates on all the times he’d messed up, missed a shot or the games he’s lost-and how it forces him to continue to push himself to be better. If there was one message that I continue to carry with me from this campaign, is that failure isn’t the end and that you can-and should-use it to as motivation to learn from your mistakes and move forward. Still a campaign I return 20-some odd years later whenever things are tough and I need inspiration.

2. Nike-“Maybe It’s My Fault” (2008)

Another Michael Jordan campaign that forces you to stand up and pay attention; this was the campaign formed the basis of the academic paper I mentioned earlier. With Michael providing the voiceover, the ad cycles through several significant locations and areas from his life, from his old gym and the locker room at UNC, to the trophies and accolades in the Chicago Bulls locker room. In the voiceover, the man himself talks about how peoples’ misconceptions about his career and his skill set allowed them to make excuses for themselves. At the end of the ad, he forces them to stand up and listen and to stop using him as an excuse for why they can’t play the game of basketball. The message here is simple: just because he was able to do what he was able to do doesn’t mean you can’t do the same. Stop putting him up on a pedestal that you can never reach and start working hard to get to where you want to go.

3. Converse-“Love Letter to Basketball” (2007)

Less of a campaign and more of a personal reflection that inspired a campaign for Converse, this was the video I remember showing a co-worker (herself a basketball player who had to stop playing due to chronic injuries) 7 years ago; which reduced her into a flood of tears. Written by the amazingly talented Dwyane Wade (one of the best currently active players in the NBA today) while he was still endorsed by Converse, it’s an inspirational piece about the struggles any athlete faces in the sport they love. When you struggle with something you love, it can be disheartening, it can beat you down, wear you out and cause you to want to give up. It’s a powerful letter filled with hope that things can get better if you persevere in what you love and don’t allow the cycle of negativity to suck you under.

4. Nike-“Together” (2014)

Are you perhaps sensing a theme in the types of campaigns I find inspirational? Even as a non-Cleveland Cavaliers fan and a casual fan of LeBron James, this campaign continues to cause me to choke up every time I see it. Why? It’s like the tagline says “This time it’s bigger than basketball,” and it was. This campaign was rallying battle cry for the city of Cleveland and it showed. This shared community, this shared love for sport brought out the loyalty, the love and the best out of the citizens of Cleveland. Say what you want about LeBron’s career, his attitude regarding some aspects of celebrity and the controversial move he made to leave Cleveland in the first place, but the man is a leader-and one who is great at rallying people around him.  And the payoff of this? Cleveland won their first-ever NBA championship two seasons later. I’d say the tears LeBron shed were well warranted.

5.Smarties-“Duets” (2008)

An interesting campaign that doesn’t show its hand on what product they’re promoting until the very end, this older Smarties campaign features several Canadian singers in a duet with one another in several different locations from a church and skate park to a city bus. Each pair features a singer with another musician playing an instrument, whether it’s a beatboxer, guitarist or saxophonist. Each one sings a variation of lyrics off of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Everyday People”, substituting the colors for occupations before ending with a flourish on the line “I am everyday people.” While this wasn’t a well-known Smarties campaign around the world or even in Canada at the time, there’s something about seeing people from all different cultures and ethnic backgrounds, singing the lyrics of a song that promotes inclusiveness and acceptance of diversity, especially in the face of today’s many issues surrounding racism and prejudice.

6. Chrysler-“Imported From Detroit (Super Bowl 2011)

While not a huge car fan by any means, this campaign during the Super Bowl in 2011 caught my eye because of the underlying implications. At the time, Detroit was still reeling from the 2008 recession, hit incredibly hard economically with houses foreclosing left, right and center and several auto makers had to be bailed out by the US government. Eminem, Detroit’s prodigal son, was also experiencing a major comeback in his career, having released the great album Recovery, a few months previously. What this campaign symbolizes to me is the revitalization of Detroit, the auto industry and indeed, Eminem’s career. It’s that blue-collar work ethic and the refusal to ever give up that really stands out in this campaign. The use of Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself’ was the perfect soundtrack to illustrate what Detroit and what Eminem is made of.

7. Nike-“Fate- Leave Nothing” (2008)

Directed by the legendary David Fincher, this is by far my favorite NFL football campaign. He focuses on the life-long journeys of pro football players, LaDainian Tomlinson of the San Diego Chargers and future Hall of Famer Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers as they collide in an NFL season game. In the campaign, you see how both players grew up, got involved with basketball and then football and how they trained for both sports. As the two collide on the field, the message is clear: give it your all, no matter what you choose to do and leave nothing on the table. If you leave it all out there, you’ll have no regrets, no matter what the result of everything you’ve worked towards.

8.Nike-“Let Your Game Speak” (2006)

I thought I’d close off the list with one last Michael Jordan campaign. Unlike the other ad campaigns featured on this list, this one contains no dialogue whatsoever. Instead, this campaign shows several basketball players making slick slam dunks and gorgeous shots on courts all over the world. College kids in tournaments, high school students in the gym, even students halfway across the world in China execute great plays on the basketball court. The ad ends with a basket being sunk due to a great shot from a young Chicago native during the Chi Classic while Michael Jordan stands, proudly watching the next generation-with the words ‘Let Your Game Speak’ going across the screen. Simple, but poignant, it tells you that sometimes, words are necessary to have make an impact. Sometimes, all you need is to let your skills speak for themselves.

That’s my list of ad campaigns that inspire me and push me to do better, move forward and continue fighting. Know any more that I should watch? Let me know!

In the meantime, here’s my list of go-to songs, books & movies that help me beat writer’s block.

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Generating Leads With Mobile Marketing

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Whether it’s viewing a website on your phone or playing an online game on your tablet, by now, you’ve probably been exposed to mobile marketing.

What is mobile marketing, exactly? Mobile marketing is as simple as optimizing your marketing strategies for people using a mobile device-it doesn’t actually have anything to do with the device itself. According to a Google Report, over 90% of people use multiple screens to accomplish a task.

What does that mean? Well, it means that someone could start reading an article on their phone, continue on their iPad and finish on their laptop. To make things easier for them, your job is to create a seamless, optimized experience for every single device. That means, if a website loads on their laptop, make sure people are also able to view it on their phones.

How do you make sure that every person on a mobile device has a seamless, optimized experience? Well you need to put some thought into responsive design and mobile ROI. When your website has a responsive design, it will be formatted properly across any device and you can start generating leads based on similar tactics I’ve already covered in previous blog posts such as Top 12 Calls-to-Action.

A Mobile Strategy Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Building an App

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If you’re thinking that all mobile strategy leads to app creation, stop it. Mobile strategy is about much more than an app. It’s about driving traffic to your website using responsive design. Responsive design gives users an optimized experience while browsing through your website no matter what they use, from their phones and tablets to laptops or desktop computers. This web design concept automatically re-packages the design so that it fits the device viewing it. What makes it versatile is because you can even use free website building tools like WordPress.com and it will allow you to preview how each template design you’ve chosen or created looks on a laptop, a tablet or a phone.

Top 4 Benefits of Responsive Design

1) Responsive design leads to higher conversion rates

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RW-CO_MobileClose to 70% of users are more likely to purchase a product if the website is mobile friendly. That means closer to 30% of users will leave the website if it’s not optimized for their conversion experience.

Take a look at this example of the RW & CO clothing website. Not only do you have to scroll down quite a ways to get to the clothing items you’re looking for, but every time you want to zoom in on an item, you have to pinch your fingers together, if you want to zoom out, you have to spread your fingers apart. Add that to the fact that you also have to wait for longer load times.

Compare that to Nike US’s mobile website and immediately after you enter the URL, you’re taken to a main page where you can see all the links immediately, the photos load up quick and crisp and navigation is breeze to scroll through. In a few clicks, you can find what you’re looking for.

So remember, the easier it is to convert on a website and for customers to find what they’re looking for, the more likely it is that customers will purchase products on the mobile site. Just help them along by making your website mobile-friendly.
2) Responsive design is less stressful to maintain than apps

Even though it may seem like a lot of work to manage and maintain content and design on several versions of the same website, in fact, with responsive design, you only have to update ONE version of your website because it’s just one device that conforms to the size of the screen. So, with one update, you can still maintain a website that’s easy to access to across all devices!

The result is that you save time, money and energy and you don’t have to have a web developer make updates for you! You avoid bottlenecks, save time on meetings and the approval process, which will help your marketing department become more efficient!

3) Responsive design improves SEO

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As you probably know by now, it’s vital to optimize your webpages with the keywords you’re trying to rank for. By having responsive design, you can update your web pages once and your website will automatically update across all platforms. Responsive design also eliminates the chances of you publishing duplicate content and splitting your inbound links.

Also, one URL helps Google establish indexing properties for your content on the website which helps the site rank better. Google also ranks mobile-optimized sites higher in mobile searches. With 15% of traffic coming from mobile devices, it’s really important how well your website ranks.

4) Responsive design calls for better usability

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Having a mobile-optimized website allows for better usability because it fits all different screen sizes. Moreover, according to Google, close to 75% of users want mobile sites to fit their smartphone screens better, have bigger CTA buttons, scroll up and down rather than left to right and be more clean and efficient.

Responsive design satisfies all these requests from mobile users by fitting into screens of varying sizes, having bigger CTA buttons, be clean and efficient and allow users to scroll up and down.

Now that we’ve covered why and how responsive design works to help you generate more website traffic, here’s 6 tactics that will help you generate leads.

1) Employ Progressive Profiling Forms

Most of the time, web forms can be too small for a mobile site, not to mention all the scrolling and zooming it you’d have to do to see and fill in the entire form.

But forms are vital to marketers, it’s a great lead capturing device, so you can’t exactly get rid of them. That’s where progressive profiling forms come in.

Progressive profiling technology is an extension of dynamic form fields allows you to set up forms that designate what questions appear to each lead based on what you already know about them. That way, every time a lead fills out the form, you’re progressively gathering more information and keeping your forms short and easy to complete. This helps you optimize your mobile site with shorter forms and higher conversions.

2) Create Simpler CTAs.

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This is a topic I’ve already covered in my post on the Top 12 Tips for Great CTAs, but on mobile sites, it’s even more important. Make sure whatever images you use are large enough with clear text on them that get your point across quickly.

3) Provide Discounts and Customer Loyalty

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You can measure your mobile presence through discounts like promo codes and customer loyalty discounts that are redeemable through your mobile device. Starbucks is a great example. Mayors of individual Starbucks stores were able to unlock the Mayor Offer and enjoy a money-saving perk for their frequent store check-ins.

4) Optimize Content for a Mobile Screen

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When you’re writing for a mobile audience, there’s a few things you need to remember. Frontload your content in case people don’t read all the way to the bottom and don’t put the punch line as the last line of the article and make sure the purpose of the article is visible from the beginning. Bold your headlines and make them something that people will want to share. Lastly, test some of your content to see what your audiences like better. Are top 10 lists getting more shares and comments or are how-to articles?

5) Make Your Phone Number an Active Link

When someone picks up their phone, they’re much more action-oriented than if they were on a laptop. Whether it’s searching for a website, opening an app or composing an email, people tend to do a lot more on their phones. Knowing this, one of the most effective ways to get your potential customers to the point of conversion faster is to make your phone number a clickable link. By doing so, they can automatically give you a call for more information. The fewer steps it takes for a potential customer to act, the more likely it is that they’ll do it rather than leaving the website.

6) Try a Text Campaign

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Although this might seem like a riskier option, there is still room in a marketing strategy for you to try an SMS campaign. Take Julep, for example. They ran a SMS coupon campaign for their newest nail polish and Julep was able to track what percentage of their mobile subscribers clicked on the link in their SMS coupon and how many of those subscribers purchased the promotion. This one SMS coupon generated a 34.23% click-through rate, and an astounding 17.44% purchase conversion rate based on subscribers that clicked the link.

How to Unlock Mobile ROI

Online-On Device Conversion

Most businesses allow customers to purchase products through their mobile sites. 61% of consumers have said that if they can’t find a product in that mobile site, they’ll turn to the competitors. The easier it is to convert on a website, the less likely consumers will turn to competitors. You must also make sure that the flow and design of your mobile site is optimized for the best usability.
Online-Mobile Apps

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Apps are popular because they can resourceful and easy to use. Typically, a purchase can be made within two steps, which makes them an efficient alternative to mobile sites.

The travel booking agency Priceline recognizes that 82% of their customers make their bookings less than a day before their arrival. So, they made their app easier to book reservations on the go. On the Starbucks mobile app, you can purchase items, locate the nearest location, reload your Starbucks card or share your purchases via social media.

Offline-Click to Call

Lots of times, consumers want to be able to phone the businesses easily. Comcast makes it easy for users to call them by including their phone number in their mobile site and their search ads. The company built a mobile ad extension that allow people to call directly from the search results.

As a result, Comcast got a 270% click through rate through their mobile ads than their desktop search ads.

All of these points indicate just how valuable mobile sites are to your overall marketing strategy. By providing mobile users with the information that you know they’re looking for, you can guide them through to a purchasing decision; which helps your business and leads to happy customers.

Keep reading every week to get more posts on awesome marketing strategies and tips on how to use different marketing tools. In meantime, learn more about how to understand your customers better!

And the New Color of the 21st Century Is………..Green

Anyone who has heard the news in passing over the last four to five years will have heard the word ‘green’ pass the lips of every news anchor and broadcaster in the world. ‘Sustainability’, ‘climate change’, ‘organic’ and ‘fair trade’ are words directly linked to the green phenomenon of the 21st century.

Certainly there have been questions that have been raised as to why the popularity of an issue such as global warming has taken an international focus, but more and more of it is directly related to media coverage. Images of receding glaciers and polar bears becoming endangered have aroused the worries of environmentalists and celebrities alike. Documentaries produced by former Vice President Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio, entitled An Inconvenient Truth and The 11th Hour, respectively, helped to bring the seriousness of climate change to the forefront.

Changes to the economy have helped Western society realize the need for conservation, with soaring oil and grain prices, and the increasing lack of natural resources such as fresh water. Measures taken by the Canadian government include, but are by no means limited to,  a carbon tax and participation in the Kyoto Accord to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Other alternatives receiving more publicity are the creation of bio-diesel fuel, using corn, vegetable and peanut oil, as well as “carbon scrubbing”, the action of capturing carbon emissions from factories and using them as fertilizer for farming after cleaning.

However, there are problems with the ‘green’ initiatives still to be addressed. Bio-diesel, while environmentally friendly, is not feasible for any vehicle other than trucks at least ten to fifteen years old. Carbon “scrubbing” although gaining popularity, has yet to be accepted by the Canadian or American governments. The creation of the electric Smart Car saved money on fuel consumption, yet still faces controversy on how often the battery must be recharged. However, the implementation of hybrid vehicles seems to have quieted the controversy, at least on the subject of vehicle emissions and climate change.

Even the fashion and food industries are capitalizing on the ‘green’ craze. Clothes are being sewn using organic fibers such as cotton, and marketed as being homemade. In the food industry, organic and fair trade items are making their way from specialty food stores such as Capers or Choices onto Safeway and other supermarket shelves, though for a higher price. Health concerns linked with eating genetically modified foods has the general public turning more and more to organic ingredients, believing them to be beneficial health-wise and free of pesticides. Organic food has also been embraced and promoted by vegetarians and vegans alike, although with alternative grains such as kashi and spelt flour to promote healthier living.

Organic and fair trade food is targeting people of younger demographics, starting with vending machines in elementary schools stocking healthier alternatives such as dried fruit chips. The restaurant scene has also expanded both on the main campus of my school as well as in the general public. Restaurants such as Nature’s Garden on campus serve fair trade coffee and organic, fresh food, with prices for coffee much lower than your average Starbucks, while The Naam on the West side serves up vegetarian and vegan meals to lineups on a daily and nightly basis.

Controversy has also hit the subject of organic and fair trade food, due to the advertising. Stricter rules have been implemented by the Food Inspection Agency to impose limits on the amount of organic ingredients or elements a food must have. Along with the questions raised about organic food, there is also the question of the re-useable cloth bags, now being implemented by specialty supermarkets such as Capers, and other supermarkets such as Superstore. Although implemented to reduce the use of plastic bags, which take hundreds of years to properly disintegrate in landfills, the question of how food would be frozen and protected from freezer burn should plastic bags be eradicated has yet to be answered.

More than restaurants and supermarkets, there has also been events and companies created specifically for the promotion of a sustainable lifestyle. Just a few weeks ago, the Epic Sustainability Expo was held in my city, promoting clothing, transportation, food and everyday household items used in an eco-friendly lifestyle. Leading this current worldwide promotion is the use of household cleaners with eco-friendly ingredients to preserve the environment. Fresh Squeeze, an organization with both Chicago and Seattle chapters uses its website and blog to promote the news of green initiatives in both cities before reaching mainstream media.

Although the phenomenon began over fear of losing natural resources and our sources for transportation, industry and the economy, it has evolved into being much more. Companies such as Nike, previously branded for unethical practices in sweatshops have been given the opportunity to redeem themselves through sustainability. Mountain Equipment Co-op, previously known for all matters of outdoor and camping gear has grown in popularity thanks to Western society’s ‘green’ lifestyle. In truth, if ever there was a need to group decades together by color, the color of the new millennium would be green.  

Inspirational Advertising: An Endangered Species?

“I’ve failed over, and over, and over again in my life. And that is why, I succeed.” Perhaps the most important line from a sports commercial in the 90’s, the message behind  Michael Jordan’s Failure Commercial, one of the many he shot as part of his endorsement deal with Nike; is seemingly dead in today’s advertising industry.


Less than twenty years ago, the message in sports was one of inspiration, championed by none other than His Airness. If you failed, climb to your feet and try again to succeed, if you make a mistake, learn from it. Above all, you throw off your critics and continue doing what you love, because you can, and don’t allow anyone to beat you down, not even yourself.  These were just some of the messages behind Michael Jordan’s commercials of the late 80’s to the late 90’s.  The intention was to inspire the audience, in particular young teens that looked up to an athletic legend such as Jordan, to do their best, and to achieve success in anything and everything that they chose to do. It wasn’t about being a showman, or bettering someone else simply for the sake of doing so, it was about pushing yourself to be the best that you could be, and it was an invaluable teacher to a generation of children who are currently or who have found success in their many endeavors.


Now, just over two decades later, such inspiration is gone from today’s advertising media. The messages in today’s advertising is all centered on humor, sex, and most often, image, in relation to how other people view you as a person. For Nike, who expanded their range of sports equipment to include hockey gear, their campaigns with NHL stars prove that inspiration did not even cross their minds. Commercials done by Markus Naslund, Jarome Iginla and their fellow professional hockey players have been centered on humor and their display of skill, from avoiding pucks being shot at a hundred kilometers an hour, to skating after pucks on pavement. There is no message of inspiration for their audiences; instead it is a message of humor, the projection of an incredible and impossible image that comes with being a professional athlete. Although enjoyable, the message to have self-confidence, drive and passion that was present in the earlier commercials of the Nike era was gone.


The lack of inspirational messages extends far beyond merely Nike in sports. Sportsnet, Reebok, and TSN contribute their own set of commercials using notable NHL stars, included among them, Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin. The messages among these chiefly seem to be the desperation to portray such professional athletes just like everyday citizens, who play pranks, get in trouble, and enjoy doing what they love. Although the underlying intention is to have the public see these hockey players as less like Gods to worship and more like regular people, the inspirational message is still absent. Once again, humor plays a key role in portraying the image of the athlete in question in a positive light. 


Although inspiration is lacking in advertising for sports, there is evidence that it has not completely disappeared. Tim Horton’s Timbits Hockey commercials featuring Sidney Crosby have shown that not all athletes care about money, fame, and the Stanley Cup. It shows that a professional athlete is willing to spend time and energy to mentor the next generation, not to mention the inspiration that arises from realizing Crosby’s humble beginnings.


Inspirational advertising in sports may not be dead just yet, but it is endangered. Too much of the focus is on humor, image and the power of consumption in order to entice consumers. Although the underlying motivation behind advertising has always been to entice consumers to buy, much of the time there still lacks the message to encourage the audience.


Inspiration in our lives comes from many sources, many of them from those who we grew up idolizing, whether they are Michael Jordan or Georgia O’Keeffe. Unfortunately, a medium of which we used to be able to receive inspiration from, in advertising, has changed, and has nearly ceased to broadcast the messages that made a difference to past generations.


“I’ve failed over, and over, and over again in my life. And that is why, I succeed.” Well, Michael, hopefully another twenty years from now, there will be those who will still remember your message.