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Planning for great advertising campaign ideas

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Why read this? : We share the key planning steps behind great advertising campaign ideas. Learn how they differ from one-off adverts and how to best work with your agency on them. Read this to improve the way you create advertising campaign ideas.

Making great adverts isn’t easy. Our how to advertise guide walks through the process behind making a single advert. But brands rarely stop there. There are always updates, new messages and more brand objectives to deliver.

This is when advertising campaign planning comes in. You think about how all your adverts fit together. What they do as a whole. In campaigns, the advertising idea stretches over multiple adverts. Each advert has to do 2 jobs. Deliver its own specific objective. And support the campaign objective. The thinking behind advertising campaign ideas has to go deeper than on a single advert.

Thinking about advertising campaign ideas

Campaigns need an overall theme. A big idea which helps you link the adverts together.

You plan how the message, style and story of each advert in the campaign will contribute to the bigger brand picture.

Campaigns can have a series of adverts which run at the same time but appear in different places for different target audiences. Or they can be a series of adverts which run over time, so they combine to tell a longer-term brand story.

Young man standing in Times Square at night looking up the bright media advertising billboards

Campaigns take longer to make. But they also have a longer-term impact. This is why you need a plan for how you manage your advertising campaign ideas. 

When do you need to think about advertising campaigns?

The first inkling you need a campaign usually comes as you define your objectives, set the budget and write your brief

During this planning period, you make decisions about reach and frequency of your advertising. You decide who needs to see it (the target audience). And where, when and how often they need to see it. 

You also define the change in attitude or behaviour you want the advertising to deliver. What do you want customers to think, feel or do differently after exposure to the advertising?

The advertising development process - a guide on how to advertise successfully

Often, it’s clear no single advert can do all the things you need your advertising to do. That’s when the idea of a campaign usually comes in. It’s usually when your advertising objective involves :-

  • brand family support.
  • multiple usage occasions.
  • brand building. 

Brand family support

A brand family is where you have an overall parent brand, which extends to a range of “child” products. This range appeals to different customers. Advertising can support either the parent brand or the child products. But you need some sort of campaign idea to join them up. 

Coca-Cola, Diet-Cola and Coke Zero is a good example of this. 

Coke is the parent brand. All Coke branded adverts have an overall similar brand theme (happiness). 

But each product advert also has to deliver its own product benefit message, while still feeling like a Coke advert. This is done by applying the brand “theme” to every child product’s advert. 

The theme usually comes from the brand identity. It’s often the brand essence, as in the Coke example.

But other brand assets also come into play. Intangible assets like the brand values and personality, for example. And of course, tangible assets like the logo and colour palette. These help make it clear each advert belongs to the same overall brand. 

Multiple usage occasions

In some cases, product usage is context-specific. It’s used at different times, or in different places.

If there are multiple usage occasions, you usually need multiple adverts to target these. That means you need ideas for advertising campaigns.

Look at seasonality, for example.

Chocolate brands are a good example of a category which connects to specific “events” during the year. 

Screengrab of Woolworths Mothers Day promotion including pictures of chocolates, a teddy bear and toiletries

Valentines Day. Easter. Mother’s Day. Halloween. Christmas. Chocolate brands run adverts specific to each occasion. But each of those adverts still has to link back to the brand’s identity. They’re part of the brand’s longer-term campaign plan. 

It’s a similar idea when brands advertise in different countries. Each advert has to have enough “local” appeal to drive sales. But they also need to connect to a “global” idea which supports the parent brand. 

McDonald’s for example, doesn’t run the same adverts in each country. They have slightly different products and prices. They’ll cast actors appropriate to the country where the advert runs. 

But each advert will still share the overall theme (friendly) and idea of McDonald’s.

And they’ll all use the same key assets. The logo, the colours and the tagline show you it’s still the same parent brand. 


Finally, campaigns are also used where brands want to build a longer-term brand story. One advert can only take up so much time or space. A 30-second TV slot. An A4 magazine page. There’s only so much you can say in one advert. 

One-off adverts work best when there’s a specific and immediate message to highlight. An innovation, for example. A sales promotion, or a packaging update. 

But brands can be more than just this stream of events. Brands can tell stories via advertising campaigns which build their brand identity. Which connect at a deeper level with customers.

The UK department store John Lewis is often highlighted as one of the best at doing this sort of brand-building campaign.

Their annual Christmas advert has become a UK institution and a way for them to build their brand long-term. 

Yes, each advert drives their sales that Christmas. But each advert builds the brand in the customer’s mind over a longer time. 

Another good example is Ikea.

The same theme runs through each of their adverts. Quirky and Swedish delivering affordable and stylishly designed products.

But each advert also stands on its own merit. They talk about different products and tell a different story. However, the overall advertising campaign idea joins each advert together. You know they’re all from Ikea.

When do you talk about advertising campaigns

There are 2 key times when advertising campaign ideas come up. 

First, in the run-up to writing the brief.

Your objective usually makes it obvious if you need a campaign. But you also need to look at your forecast and profit and loss to work out your budget.

Campaigns cost more to do. You need to be confident a campaign will deliver for you in terms of your business objectives. 

Business meeting round with a man presenting in front of a screen to 5 colleagues

Then, there’s the conversation about advertising campaign ideas which always comes up at the agency proposal stage. That’s when you start to talk about how the idea’s going to work. 

It’s part of the creative challenge you set in the brief. Your advertising has a specific job to do (land a key message). But it also has to “fit” with the brand’s other advertising. It has to fit with past, current and potential future campaigns. And with the overall brand objectives which could be brand family support, multiple usage occasions and / or brand building.

Agencies like doing campaigns. If you haven’t specified a campaign in the brief, they’ll usually push for one. They like to plant ideas about doing advertising campaigns because they see it as a win-win.

Creative agencies and campaigns - a win-win

Good creative agencies think at a campaign level. They want to help you with longer-term thinking about how to build your brand. That’s a “win” for you. And campaigns mean they can plan / do more advertising for you longer-term. That’s a “win” for them.

That doesn’t mean campaigns are always the way to go. Sometimes your budget won’t stretch that far. But in general, campaigns work better than a single execution over the longer term. 

So, look at your business objectives and budget. Look at your forecast and profit and loss. Good agencies should get your finances. (See our agency evaluation article for more on this). They should show you how their advertising campaign ideas will impact your longer-term profits.

Reviewing advertising campaign ideas

Once you agree a campaign is the way to go, you move on to the campaign idea.

You go back to the brief and the objective. Campaigns are normally about brand family support, multiple usage occasions or brand building.

You review campaign ideas, against these objectives. The link needs to be clear.

If you can’t see the link, chances are the idea won’t be clear for customers either.

Neon sign with a question mark inside a square at the end of a dark corridor

Campaign ideas have to stretch over many adverts. Each advert has to be clear it’s from the same overall idea. The idea also has to fit with the :- 

Customer understanding

Advertising should have a clear target audience. A group of people it’s for.

That can cover who that person is (e.g. age, gender, location). Where and when they use the brand. And what you want them to think, feel or do differently about or with the brand.

Advertising campaign ideas should work across all these areas. 

For example, they can show people who look or sound like the target audience.

Person holding glasses in front of them against a blurry street background

They can show people using the product where and when it’s most likely to be used. And they can use both logic and emotion to influence how customers think and feel about the brand.

You can also use advertising campaign ideas to connect to a broader attitude or belief. This shared attitude or belief helps customers feel like you’re a brand that’s for “people like them”.

A good example is the Dove Real Beauty campaign.

This well-known campaign tapped into an insight around different perceptions about beauty.

That a natural look could be as beautiful as a cosmetically enhanced one.

That campaign idea was used in multiple advertising executions over a number of years. 

Brand identity

These types of broader campaign ideas usually come from something deep in the brand’s identity. For example, from its essence, purpose or values.

The creative agency converts those concepts into a series of creative executions. Adverts which work in different media contexts, on different platforms and at different times. They’ll share the same overall theme, look and feel, but they’ll also stand on their own as distinct and separate adverts. 

When you review overall campaign ideas or specific advertising executions, look at how they support the brand identity. Are they adding to it? Is it clear? Meaningful? Does it make sense, and is it relevant? Is it helping you build a longer-term story about your brand which resonates with customers? 

Call to action

Ultimately, it’s this stronger connection between customers and brands which drives great advertising campaign ideas.

That connection’s why you do campaigns. It’s what drives the changes in customer attitudes and behaviours you want. 

Great campaign ideas change minds and drive actions. There’s a clear call to action running through all the executions. The customer gets what the brand’s saying. 

Wooden scrabble tlles spelling out Go for it, with a speech bubble calling out action!

Sometimes it’s as overt as Buy Now. But often it’s more subtle. The customer takeaway is that this is a brand for “people like me”.

Calls to action have to be relevant to the target audience. To where and when they see the advertising executions. And of course, the need the brand is helping them meet. 

That means advertising campaign ideas have to be flexible enough to work across multiple formats. From banner ads to billboards. From TV adverts to tweets. They also have to be flexible enough to work at different times and in different places.

Customers only see one advert at a time. Each advert in a campaign has to stand on its own feet. But over time, customers will see multiple executions within a campaign. So each execution also has to “fit” within the overall campaign idea. Like seeing different jigsaw pieces and knowing which jigsaw it came from. But also being able to place all the pieces together and see the bigger picture.

Building your brand identity over time

It’s this idea of a bigger picture where advertising campaigns add the most value. Campaigns work because they reinforce the key assets you want customers to associate with your brand. 

Campaigns bring to life a brand’s essence, purpose and values. They create strong mental associations, so customers recognise the brand as soon as they see its advertising. 

Think about how Apple advertise, for example. They communicate many different messages about different products. 

Half open and lit up apple macbook on a glossy beige table

But the “feel” of those adverts is always very consistent. They’re always simple and elegantly designed. They use few words and lean heavily on simple images. There’s an energy and a colourful feel to them.

Their overall advertising campaign idea is clearly based on their beautiful design aesthetic. But each different execution varies how that’s brought to life. 

Measuring the impact of your advertising campaign ideas

The bigger picture always comes back to the campaign delivering against the original business objectives from the brief. 

There are 3 different areas where this plays out :-

  • profit growth.
  • brand health growth.
  • what’s right for the brand. 

Profit growth

First, you should see the campaign’s impact on your profit and loss. It must drive your bottom line. You want the money you spend on campaigns to pay for itself, and then some. 

That usually plays out in a couple of key areas. 

Brands which have strong and lasting campaign ideas can usually charge a premium. They make more on every unit they sell.

Plus, they also have more loyal customers and less need for price discounts. Those are clearly all good for long-term profitability. 

Close up of woman's hands holding a bunch of dollar bills and in the process of counting them

Brand health growth

You’ll also see the benefit of great advertising campaign ideas in your brand health tracking. 

You should see key measures like awareness and consideration grow. Plus you should see growth in relevant brand attributes. Usually the ones which drive the theme of your advertising campaign. 

A quality brand. A trusted brand. This brand is relevant to me. 

Whatever the ideas sitting behind your advertising campaign, you should see more customers playing those back in your tracking. 

Group of game pieces following one game piece with added caption - we love you

What’s right for the brand

And finally, there’s your own gut feeling about what’s right for the brand. Campaigns instinctively feel like the right way to communicate with customers.

When you communicate with someone, you don’t say the same thing over and over. You come up with new and interesting things to say. But the way you say them is still consistently you.

And that’s really what great campaign ideas do. They build that ongoing relationship between your brand and its customers.

White round badge with a read heart symbol against a dark grey background

Conclusion - advertising campaigns

No part of marketing causes more anxiety and stress than advertising. It’s one of the most visible things your brand does. If it works well, great, But if it doesn’t, you’re in trouble.

For brands, advertising is an ongoing challenge. It’s part of an ongoing relationship with your customers.

And that usually means you need to think of advertising at a campaign, rather than single execution level. 

Adobe Animate Screenshot of Three-brains advertising

That means taking a bigger picture view of your advertising. Every advert you make has to be part of an ongoing brand story. That story helps you build stronger, longer-term connections with customers. 

That can be done via brand family advertising which reinforces the parent brand. Or through adverts which link to specific time and place occasions. Or adverts which reinforce your overall brand identity

The combination of these adverts across your campaigns strengthens the mental associations customers have with your brand. They help customers decide if your brand is relevant for them, and whether they should buy into what your brand stands for.

Check out our how to advertise guide for more on the overall process. Or reach out if you need help coming up with advertising campaign ideas. 

Photo credits

Night time billboards : Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Business meeting : Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash

Question mark sign :  Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash

Glasses : Photo by Josh Calabrese on Unsplash

Go for it (adapted) : Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Apple laptop : Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Counting cash : Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Game pieces (edited) : Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Heart Button : Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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