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Iconic ads: Breaking down the best ad campaigns

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The best ad campaigns have a certain je ne sais qoui – but what is that special, intangible quality? Let’s find out!

All good things must come to an end, and in the last installment of our Iconic Ads series we’re analyzing the campaigns that didn’t quite fit in with our other categories. This miscellaneous grouping includes commercials from insurance, finance and automotive brands.

Traditionally pre-advertising campaign, brands use Relative Insight to inform marketing strategy by learning what messaging will resonate with target audiences. Post-campaign, they analyze campaign response on online and offline platforms to find out what people really thought. 

Our process

Throughout this series, we’ve analyzed public response to popular ads from five industries – beauty, tech, food and drink, retail, and this miscellaneous category.

First, we conducted an open-ended survey asking respondents to identify their favorite ad campaigns and why. Survey responses lead us to choose ads from Progressive, GEICO, Barclays, Lloyds and Audi. 

We collected YouTube comments, social media posts and forum conversations discussing each ad. We uploaded that data set to Relative Insight and compared individual ads against all other ads combined. 

This comparative approach shows us what viewers liked about each brand, giving us the framework for the best ad campaigns.

What did we find?



In 2008, Progressive Insurance launched ‘Flo’an enthusiastic and quirky saleswomen. The character’s passion proved to be infectious, with YouTube comments including words like funny, hilarious, fun and happy. This use of wholesome, character-driven humor landed with audiences and livened up a sometimes dull industry. 

“I usually leave the room at commercial time but I stay seated for this one.. too funny.” – YouTube



The key to an infectious slogan is catchiness and relatability – both of which Geico achieved with the insurance brand’s ‘Hump day’ ad campaign. The 2013 commercial depicts a camel excitedly asking his disinterested co-workers “Guess what today is?” until one begrudgingly answers “It’s hump day.” Get it? Wednesday is hump day, and camels have… well, I’m sure you get it. The ad was extremely quotable, and we can all relate to that mid-week slump. YouTube comments were largely made up of quotes like hump day, woop woop and mike mike mike mike mike.

“I love this… soooo funny. Woop Woop!” – YouTube



Barclays capitalized on desire in their successful 2008 ‘Waterslide’ ad. It’s a simple concept: create something so cool that everyone wants it. A credit card isn’t exactly cool, so Barclays produced a campaign that was. The commercial depicts a man watersliding through town – from the office to the grocery store to the library – all while swiping his Barclaycard. YouTube comments included words like want, wanna, dream and wish. 

“I so wish I had this in my dream life” – YouTube



Lloyds Bank proves that a brand’s marketing success goes beyond a single ad. YouTube viewers praised the brand for its consistently good commercials. The 2017 ‘By your side’ commercial depicts a stallion running through a town, ending with a sunset backdrop and the words “By your side for over 250 years.” Viewers generally liked this ad, but more so appreciated the bank’s long term creative strategy.  

“Lloyds always do the best mfkin ads” – YouTube



Audi is known for classy and sophisticated marketing campaigns, but took a slightly different approach in the ‘Ski of the world’ commercial. The ad depicts a man skiing through un-skiable terrain – snowless mountains, rain forests, deserts and an ocean wave. The scenic visuals don’t even feature a car. Viewers appreciated the visually pleasing nature of the campaign, and commented on the beauty of the locations and accompanying music and songs.

“it’s a place called Holingol in China ( inner Mongolia). looks awesome” – YouTube

Be sure to read the rest of the Iconic Ads series to understand how brands from five different industries found marketing success. 

Analyze campaign response