March 8, 2022

Freelancer inspiration: our top 10 favourite marketing campaigns

Written by Jack Lewis

When you’re a creative freelancer, there can be days when inspiration is hard to come by. Writer’s block, artist’s block, designer’s block – we’ve all experienced it from time to time. Rather than staring at a blank page or screen, we have some tried-and-tested sites we turn to to try and seek freelance inspiration.

While browsing one of our top websites for creatives the other day, we came across this article about a striking ad campaign from Think!. We loved how simple yet effective the poster was: an ad that asks the viewer to work to understand it, ending with a surprise revelation. That got us thinking about other marketing campaigns we’ve loved recently – and there are lots! We’ve popped them all in a list here that you can turn to whenever you need to spark those ideas flowing again.

1.         Innocent

When an errant typo in an email had Innocent drinks accidentally falsely advertising that their orange juice was full of Vitamin D (as opposed to Vitamin C), they had to send out a quick retraction. In true Innocent style, rather than your bog-standard apology, the mailer was charming, witty, and a little bit cheeky, pointing out that “actually D is just really close to the letter C on a keyboard”, and making playful use of strikethrough text to tone down the hyperbole. It ended with a hilarious list of their biggest mistakes to date, including “voting for Darius in the Pop Idol final” and “microwaving mackerel in the office’. Innocent always seem to nail it with their tone of voice, and this campaign was no exception.

2.        Aldi’s ‘Free Cuthbert’

Another big brand using adversity to prove that there’s no such thing as bad publicity was Aldi, whose genius “Free Cuthbert” campaign took their legal spat with M&S over their twin chocolate caterpillar cakes out of the courtrooms and onto social media. Aldi used the hashtag #FreeCuthbert all over its social platforms, building up momentum and public support around the humorous story and encouraging consumers to get involved with the meme. The clever use of social media saw Free Cuthbert as the number one trend on Twitter, with positive press and publicity eventually ebbing over into other media like television. Cuthbert won the hearts and minds of the public, which cast M&S as the villain. The copyright-infringement accusations no longer dominated the headlines, and as a final ace, Aldi then launched #CaterpillarsForCancer, creating a fundraising Cuthbert for Teenage Cancer Trust.

3.        Bloom and Wild: No red roses

Let’s face it, Valentine’s Day is the ultimate easy win for florists. So we had to admire the risk-taking gumption of Bloom and Wild’s “no red roses” campaign. With a message that particularly hits home after the last couple of years – that love isn’t in the cheesy, cliche overblown gestures but in the thoughtful, everyday acts of care – this campaign saw the online florist take Valentine’s staple red rose bouquets off the market. Instead, it encouraged people to “show someone that you care wildly”. Potentially a huge risk for their busiest time of year, but the clever marketing campaign worked, attracted lots of positive press and gave Bloom and Wild their most successful Valentine’s Day ever.

4.        Weetabix bean on biscuits

Another example of a company finding a social media campaign that goes instantly viral is Weetabix, with their now infamous (and still so, so wrong) tweet featuring a new twist on a serving suggestion. Asking with feigned naivety “why should bread have all the fun when there’s Weetabix?”, the accompanying image showed the breakfast cereal topped with baked beans in a mash-up more horrifying than The Fly. The provocative tweet did exactly what it intended and got Weetabix trending, with other brands like Dominoes, KFC and Yorkshire Tea responding in disgust and amusement. Even the US and UK embassies got involved with a sassy exchange of views – funny marketing at its best.

5.        Oatly New Norm&Al

Oatly’s new Norm&Al campaign has it all: quirky puppets, bad puns and some metaphysical questions about the nature of existence. Launching as a YouTube mini-series, the brand used a puppet parody of the sitcom format to get across its key messages about switching to a plant-based diet, including sustainability, environmental impact and flexitarianism. It’s amusing, shareable and informative content that recognises that its biggest competition is not other brands, but the set routines and preconceived ideas about “plant-based” that exist in the minds of the public. We particularly love the “Not Just for Hipsters” episode with its song celebrating that “anyone can eat plant-based” – no beards required!

6.        Mystery floating QR code at Superbowl

When it comes to advertising space, it doesn’t get more high-profile or more expensive than the Superbowl. With a 30-second ad slot during the game estimated to cost $7million, brands have to make it count. So it was a huge risk for one brand to use their big shot to screen an ad that was simply a colour-changing QR code bouncing around the frame. The ad – which quick snapping viewers would have found led them to cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase – didn’t even mention the brand or feature its logo. Instead, it worked by turning something relatively boring into both a game and a mystery. Very clever. Perhaps a bit too clever, as the brand’s website appeared to crash under the big surge of traffic – oops!

 7.        David Attenborough’s Green Planet

Some ads are created to attempt to go viral around the world, this ad was created with site-specific impact in mind. In London’s Piccadilly Circus, BBC Creative Studios took over the largest advertising display in the country to offer a stunning 20-minute, 3D animation featuring a hologram of David Attenborough and a mesmerising display of foliage appearing to grow out of concrete. Created to promote Attenborough’s new Green Planet AR experience in London, the 4K Deep Screen video installation was also accompanied by a real-life plant installation covering the famous Eros fountain. Stunning!

8.        BBC Dracula

Another ad example that showed the dynamic potential of outdoor advertising is this billboard for BBC Dracula. During the day, it looks bold and abstract, but by night, a new picture is revealed, much like the vampiric eponymous character himself. Spooky.

9.        Gymshark

We’re still not sure if this funny sign mishap was a set-up or not, but in the world of clever ads, impact is more important than intent! When Gymshark’s billboard “this is your sign to lift” fell off the wall, it created perhaps the best photo opportunity the brand had ever had – where passers-by stepped in to help lift it up, literalising the message that the ad contained and its slogan “united we sweat”. A social media moment was born.

10.        Graphic designer recruitment

We’ve seen a few iterations of this and it cracks us up at Dinghy HQ every time: a wanted ad for a graphic designer scrawled in MS Paint, or classic WordArt. This ad works because it really hits home that the organisation understands the power and importance of the role of graphic design, and so potential recruits know they’ll be valued in the organisation. It’s also pretty funny, even to those of us who don’t know our Illustrator from our Photoshop.

We hope you enjoyed these ads as much as we did! If you’re still struggling with creative block, one way to deal with it as a freelancer is to use that time to catch up with the other aspects of running your business. Distracting yourself with fiddly admin tasks like invoices or working on strategy might help force your mind out of its funk if you’re stuck on a creative project. One task that you could sort out is your freelance business insurance. Dinghy offers a range of business insurance packages for freelancers, including professional indemnity, public liability, and business equipment insurance. We can’t promise it will kill much time for you though because a quote only takes a minute or so via our website. But it will give you flexible cover and peace of mind as you go into your next project properly protected.

This is not a sponsored article and neither Dinghy nor our staff has any affiliation to the websites mentioned in this article. Dinghy is not responsible for the external content on the website links.

About Jack Lewis

Read more blog posts by Jack Lewis


Subscribe to our exclusive mailing list for the latest stories, newsletters and freelancer tips from the Dinghy team