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Iconic adverts: What makes a memorable beauty campaign?

The most iconic adverts series: Health and beauty banner

An ad campaign has the potential to be glorious, moving, provocative, or sometimes even disturbing. They can win the occasional advertising award or propel a brand to cult status. But what is it that makes an advert both iconic and memorable? Why do some ads stand the test of time while others are so quickly forgotten?

The average person is exposed to over 6,000 ads a day. Yet so few leave a lasting impact, staining our memory for reasons we can’t quite explain. But the truth is more prosaic. Ad campaigns are often as memorable for their cultural context, as they are for the potency and deftness of their creative approaches. In other words, without the zeitgeist, the spark, the element of luck and serendipity, any ad could end up in the media wasteland.


Brands frequently use Relative Insight to measure campaign effectiveness and understand how an advert is received by the public. In this five-part series, we aim to uncover exactly what makes an advert iconic in the eyes of consumers.

We conducted a survey asking respondents to identify adverts which they consider iconic, game-changing or category defining. Submissions ranged from one-off campaigns to recognisable taglines to adverts that have become focal points of brand narratives for years.

Based on the responses, we split these campaigns into five categories: Health and Beauty, Fashion, Sports and Retail, Food and Drink, Technology and Other (automotive, finance and insurance). First up, we’re taking a look at health and beauty.

Notable campaigns that were mentioned included: Always #LikeAGirl, Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty, Herbal Essences iconic “Yes! Yes! Yes!” ads and L’Oreal’s “Because you’re worth it”.

To figure out what people loved about these adverts, we sought to analyse YouTube comments, social media and forum discussions for each campaign. Once we had collected this qualitative data, we uploaded it to Relative Insight, and compared the comments around each advert to all others in the category.

This enabled us to identify what is unique about each advert in the mind of the consumer, helping us to craft a recipe for the perfect campaign.

Always, Like A Girl

1. Showcase confidence and strength in advertising

When describing the Always #LikeAGirl campaign, viewers were 7.7x more likely to use words like strong, confident and bravery. By showcasing girls and women as something beyond a stereotype, and transforming a patronising insult into an empowering movement, the Always #LikeAGirl campaign was able to captivate audiences and contribute to a wider cultural conversation.

“The campaign is so simple and powerful, and I feel like it’s a universal experience that all women face growing up. I love how they turned a phrase that was perceived as patronising into something meaningful, because at the end I felt really empowered.”

Iconic Adverts Survey, Relative Insight 2021

2. Challenge opinion and advocate for change

When discussing this advert, people commented on the fact that Always had confronted real world problems and politics throughout their campaign, such as casual misogyny and “prehistoric stereotypes”. When brands use their platforms to challenge existing opinions, change the status quo and influence change, it clearly pays off and helps adverts to achieve iconic status.

Dove, Campaign for Real Beauty

3. Sell something that’s natural and attainable

What made Dove’s campaign stand out from the crowd was their push for representation of real beauty, highlighted by consumers in their comments. This campaign hugely influenced the social conversation on impossible beauty standards, real beauty and how advertising ideals are often unrealistic and fake. It challenged our culture’s obsession with perfection and redefined how we see beauty.

“Dove was one of the first beauty brands to campaign and recognise all body types are beautiful, encouraging many other brands to improve inclusivity in campaigning.”

Iconic Adverts Survey, Relative Insight 2021

4. Evoke emotions to connect with your audience

When reviewing Dove’s campaign, consumers were 3.8x more likely to use emotive language such as inspirational, feel, really sad, powerful and brilliant. Emotions are strongly linked to memories. Therefore, brand advertising that is able to inspire and moves people has a greater chance of being memorialised.

5. Create universal resonance and think of audiences as a community

Throughout the discussion surrounding Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty, consumers were 2.5x more likely to use plural pronouns and inclusive language like we, our, us and ourselves to describe the influence the adverts had. Dove created a brand message with universal resonance, uniting people in its mission to diversify beauty. Indeed, consumers have their own unique wants and desires. However, they should be seen as part of a wider collective and community.

Herbal Essences, Iconic “Yes! Yes! Yes!” adverts

6. Sex also sells!

The series of Herbal Essences “Yes! Yes! Yes!” ads that aired in the ’90s may have been steamy, but they did anything but fog people’s memory. When discussing these Herbal Essences campaigns, consumers were infinitely more likely to use sexual language such as orgasm, porn, naked and orgasmic. While clearly describing the daring-yet-comedic ads themselves, this shows that sex is a sticky subject that infiltrates the viewers conscious and it ultimately remembered over time.

“Top notch advertising.”


L’Oreal, Because you’re worth it

7. Create a memorable slogan

L’Oreal’s infamous tagline “Because you’re worth it” was first used amidst the feminist movement of the 1970s, and since then it has inspired generations of women. It serves as reminder of self-worth, empowering women to make their own decisions.

It’s therefore not surprising that consumers discussing L’Oreal adverts are infinitely more likely to talk about its slogan. By creating a tagline that is memorable, resonant and culturally relevant, L’Oreal have become an icon for something much bigger than beauty products.

8. Partner with influential brand ambassadors

Our analysis found that people reviewing L’Oreal adverts were infinitely more likely to mention various brand ambassadors such as Viola Davis, Beyonce and Elle Fanning. If you want to reach an audience, what better way than partnering with celebrities that your target consumer admires and respects?

“I feel worth it because Viola Davis told me so.”


So, what makes a health and beauty advert iconic? Usually, an ad that speaks to the zeitgeist; one that cuts through to speak in a single emotional moment; one that dares to push boundaries and have a social impact…

Stay tuned for part two.

Discover the power of language