Ad Age’s Top 5 Ad Campaigns of the 21st Century

Here are the top five most influential ad campaigns of the 21st century so far, according to Advertising Age. (See the full list at

Watch: 21st Century Ad Campaigns: The Top 15

1. Dove: Campaign for Real Beauty (2004, Ogilvy)

This was a bold move by a Unilever brand to challenge cultural norms. The idea was to start a discussion around the notion that the definition of beautiful had become limiting. There have been a range of award-winning executions, including a film in 2006, “Evolution” and a follow-up in 2013 with the moving “Sketches” work.

2. Nike: Nike+ (2007, R/GA)


This campaign stretched the possibilities for marketing into a new realm -- forget TV commercials. Now agencies could create platforms. In partnership with Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), R/GA created this system for Nike (NYSE:NKE) to hook up shoes with a tracking device that could wireless connect with an athlete’s iPod, transmitting running stats that can be uploaded to iTunes. The site then let athletes track their own goals and hook up with a larger community or runners to compare performance. That evolved into another winning effort with the Fuelband a few years later, sparking the whole wearables trend. For an agency, it is the Holy Grail; to not just influence the advertising of a product but to be in on the ground floor of the development of it as well.

3. BMW Films (2001, Fallon)

This campaign defined modern branded entertainment: eight short internet films, each conceived by a different filmmaker, with celebrity Clive Owen as the big star. And in each, BMW vehicles are integrated into the scripts (such as Chosen, Ambush, The Follow, The Star, Powder Keg). The movies were seen 11 million times in a matter of four months, and the carmaker saw its sales increase 12% in the span of a year.

4. Old Spice: The Man Your Man Could Smell Like (2010, Wieden & Kennedy)

This effort revived an old-school brand for P&G. It was a feat of storytelling through digital, explaining how the handsome Isaiah Mustafah was the ideal man for women. The sheer scale of it and the ability to create the Responses campaign, which was customized tailored content in a flash, showed how brands could use social channels for CRM and interaction with Old Spice’s biggest fans.

5. Red Bull: Stratos (2012)

There have been shows, concerts, sporting events but Felix Baumgartner’s stunt was the first and only sponsored leap from the edge of space. The 24-mile freefall jump broke 5 Guinness records and it also sold plenty of product. TV, radio and other news outlets everywhere tuned into the event via live stream and the brand earned tons of media mentions. In the first six months after the “Stratos” effort, Red Bull sales rose 7% to $1.6 billion.