In 2019, companies like Coca-Cola and Budweiser dropped about $5 million for a 30-second Super Bowl ad.
Unfortunately, that type of budget is not available for small businesses. And learning how to best advertise within limited resources is often challenging.
By taking a closer look at ads from Fortune 500 companies, though, small businesses can find helpful principles for their own advertising and marketing.
So here are five of the best ads of 2019 our team has seen recently, as well as what you can learn from them.
1. The “Mayhem” Cat
Mayhem was created in 2010 by Allstate to market the company’s insurance services. While all of the Mayhem commercials are funny, PR Expert & Strategist Tracy thinks the latest installment is one of the best ads of 2019.
In the commercial, Actor Dean Winters portrays Mayhem as a cat. The shining moments of the ad include Winters swatting items off the countertop and batting at cat toys.
This commercial provides a great example of how to take something boring, like insurance, and make it interesting through a creative approach. Most homeowners can’t help but think about their policies by the end of this commercial because of how the ad highlights a possible issue that could come up.
This same principle of offering a creative approach to problems can work for small businesses. For example, if you offer a line of stomach-calming teas, one problem your product may alleviate would be stomach gurgles.
You could use that knowledge to create a simple, cost-efficient video — or an image for social media — that shows someone in a business meeting feeling embarrassed because of stomach gurgles. Another option would be to design pay-per-click ads with copy about stopping stomach gurgles and post-meal discomfort.
Focusing on that anxiety in a humorous way encourages customers to choose you so they won’t have to worry about this happening to them.
2. The Pregnancy-Test Ad
Normally, a customer peeing on your ad would be a bad thing. But that’s not the case with this interactive print ad from IKEA.
The Swedish furniture-retailer worked with a laboratory to create the ad with a built-in pregnancy test. When urine was applied to a certain part of the ad, a lower price showed up if the woman was pregnant. She could then take the ad to the store and purchase the featured crib at a 50% discount.
This ad worked well because it was hyper-targeted with a placement in a Swedish women’s magazine that served relevant age groups. The discount brought the expectant moms into IKEA, where they were likely to purchase more than just the crib.
This ad also generated conversations on social media and was featured in advertising publications because of its innovative approach, which increased brand awareness beyond the reach of the ad’s original placement.
While most small businesses don’t have the resources to work with a laboratory for special print ads, the principle of interactivity and incorporating life events is valuable.
Let’s say you own a store that, like IKEA, sells baby products and nursery furniture. To create an interactive experience, you could offer a 50% discount on a diaper bag to expectant moms who post a photo on Instagram with a positive pregnancy test and tag your store in the caption.
You could also provide a scratch-off card for every $10 spent in the store. The card would them reveal discounts or free items, and you could promote it in print, social and digital ads.
Like IKEA, this will lead to more visitors to your store and increasing awareness of your brand.
3. The She-Shed Fire
Business Development Manager Eric particularly enjoys this State Farm advertisement because of the contrast between the husband’s deadpan answers and his wife’s passionate responses. The wordplay and alliteration in the script also amplify the humor.
But between laughs, the purpose of this ad remains clear as State Farm subtly urges homeowners to think about what their insurance covers.
Staging a burning building is probably outside of your marketing and advertising budget. But creating a relatable, humorous story that highlights your product or service is well within reach.
For a small business specializing in paving driveways, this could look like sharing a detailed, well-written testimonial with before and after images in a social media post or on a direct mailer.
Or you could take a humorous approach by featuring imagery of someone tripping over a pothole in their driveway, with coffee spilling out of their travel mug and a tagline about not letting your driveway ruin your day.
Creating a funny, relatable moment will make your business memorable and interesting to prospective customers.
4. “A Coffee Stain”
Whether you love or hate Tide’s songlike ads on Pandora, the brand has certainly found a niche with its catchy tunes. In fact, Social Media Manager Bethany considers this one of the best ads of 2019 because of how she frequently finds herself humming it.
This ad works because it focuses on the awkwardness of having stained clothing in certain situations – like when you’re on a date or in a job interview. By doing this, the brand positions itself a preemptive solution to prevent uncomfortable feelings.
Plus, these ads juxtapose jarring, ominous music with softer, higher-pitched melodies, like the voice of Jane in this ad. This interplay only adds to the ad’s humor and catchiness.
Pandora may not be the right place for your brand. But not taking your brand too seriously, like Tide, can yield good results for small businesses.
Maybe your business could enlist the help of a local songwriter to write a humorous, tongue-in-cheek tune about your product or service, which is then shared on social media or in your next email newsletter.
Or maybe you could create a slightly humorous poem, a rhyming tagline or even a pun for your next advertising campaign.
Outside-of-the-box thinking like this can help prospective customers remember who you are and choose your business when they’re ready to purchase.
5. The Barkley Family Eats Out
It’s tough not to love commercials with dogs, and this one is no exception. The Barkley family is just about to enjoy some hot dogs from the “Wanna Wienie” food stand when something derails the whole family outing.
On the surface, this commercial has little to do with Subaru, unless you consider that the car manufacturer has worked with the Center for Pet Safety for years to determine the best way to protect pups traveling with their owners.
However, since Subaru has used the Barkley family in the past to cover life’s moments, the premise of the commercial makes sense to people familiar with the brand, while also tugging at your heartstrings.
You probably can’t drum up the money for dog trainers, but you can still find ways to incorporate animals into your marketing.
Perhaps your business could volunteer at the local humane society one day, and then post about it on social media. Or maybe you could offer a certain percentage of sales from a product or service to the humane society in October, which is Adopt-A-Dog month.
Any content that communicates your business cares about animals can humanize your brand and increase engagements.
Learn from the Best
As a small business, you don’t have the same resources as Fortune 500 companies. But you can still pull principles from the best ads of 2019 to inspire your own campaigns.
The next time you see a commercial, social media ad, pay-per-click digital ad or print ad that you like, think about what you like about it. Then talk to your internal team or your marketing agency to brainstorm how you could incorporate that principle into your next campaign.
You don’t need to be discouraged by what falls outside of your budget. Instead, focus on what you can learn from the big companies and the best ads of 2019.
Then go and create your own best ad of the year.