HomeBlog23 Creative Advertising Ideas That Actually Work

23 Creative Advertising Ideas That Actually Work

Author: Mary Lister
Last Updated: October 17, 2023 | Marketing Ideas

Per a report from SJ Insights, people are exposed to an average of 5,000 advertisements and brands per day. Of that number, only an average of 153 advertisements are noted, and we only engage with about 12 ads. The competition for attention is fierce and to be the best, your ads need to stand out from the crowd to get noticed.

And so, I’ve compiled a list of creative advertising ideas with examples to make your brand stand out!

1. Capitalize on Ego with a Sponsored Quiz

Someone told me once that the trick to getting people to like you is to simply get them to talk about themselves. They’ll walk away from the conversation knowing very little about you, but feeling great about themselves. That’s exactly what sponsored Buzzfeed Quizzes do! Everyone wants to know what type of Skittle or M&M they are, how they’ll die on Game of Thrones, if they’re a host or guest in Westworld.

Buzzfeed Quiz

2. Sponsor City Maps

This advertising idea seems to be most beneficial to tour bus companies and chain Italian restaurants (I have no idea why). While I was backpacking, I relied on these handy freebies that were largely available at train stations or—again, not sure why—Italian restaurants.

I carried these suckers everywhere. The maps are usually marked with the big tourist attractions and business locations. If you got the map from a bus company, all the bus stops would be marked. I inevitably ended up going back to the restaurant or finding my way to a bus stop when I got lost and using it to find my way other places.

creative advertising for tourists

3. Create Coupon Books

When I was growing up, we sold cookie dough, girl scout cookies, wrapping paper, and coupon books. Now, you can find coupons everywhere—online promo codes, Groupon, the newspaper, print ads on the subway. But coupon books are still alive and well. They seem to benefit tourists the most, with discounts on museums admissions and popular attractions, but what better way to get new customers than to put coupons in a city discovery guide?

✴️ Want more creative marketing ideas?

Free download >> The 30 Best Ways to Promote Your Business (With or Without Money!)

4. Use the Environment to Your Advantage

These creative environmental ads are SO COOL. Not only are they better than boring billboards, they make an ordinary space into something funny or interesting for advertising purposes. I personally feel like these creative ads came straight from the brain of a five-year-old.

Advertising Ideas


Advertising on Boats

5. Don’t Be Afraid of Innuendo

As always, sex sells. It makes people look twice and pounds the image into their brain. Aziz Ansari has a comedy bit that talks about Equinox ads—like the one below—and how they rarely feature people working out or a gym. Instead, Equinox showcases models in exceptionally good shape in compromising positions. What does that have to do with their brand or product? Almost nothing. But I can attest that I will never forget seeing the below ad blown up on the side of a building on 53nd and Madison!

Equinox Ad Ideas

6. Reference Pop-Culture

Of course, an advertisement featuring Kim Kardashian should lead into pop-culture references. Depending on your audience, you could make a sly reference to Marilyn (a la Snickers), a popular movie, or blatantly make fun of a famous star’s dance moves. Ah


Creative Hulk Band-Aid Ad


Dog Selfie

7. Be Funny

Good and creative ads have a foundation in common knowledge or shared humor. It’s like creating an inside joke with your prospective customers!

Rowenta Vacuum Advert


Wind Creative Funny Advert

8. Be Pun-ny

Everyone loves a good dad joke, but these puns can be a clever and creative play on words—or use the graphics to tell the joke for you.

Economist Pun Advert

9. Show Cute Animals

If sex sells, so do adorable creatures. Just look at Budweiser! I hate the beer and I went on a tour of the brewery just to see the Clydesdales (unfortunately, the puppies weren’t around). The creative advertisement below with the kitten slays.

Bad Dog Creative Advert


Kitten Advertisement

10. Work Outside the Box

It’s a nice surprise to find billboards that aren’t just a boring rectangle off the highway. Probably the most widely known is from Chik-fil-a, with cows graffitiing “Eat Mor Chikin” on a white billboard. There are plenty of ways to make your ads 3-D like Law & Order did below.

Law and Order Billboard

11. Give Away Swag

The Office told me that “Swag” stands for Stuff We All Get (thanks, Michael!), but just because we all get it doesn’t make it any less cool. I’m a huge supporter of giving out free water bottles—saving the planet from plastic with a nice logo, sold—and here at WordStream we also like to hand out bottle openers, pens, t-shirts, cozies, sweatbands.

Give away swag to advertise

12. Let Others Advertise for You

This one is easy. In fact, it’s as easy as getting a snapchat filter or printing a giant Instagram frame to allow people to take selfies with your brand. It could be anything that people would want to take a picture of or with, like an art installment.

Snapchat as an advertising platform

13. Create an Instagram grid

Instagram grids are all about seeing the bigger picture. Musicians tend to do this with album covers or brands will do it to announce pop-up shops. The trick is to make each individual picture attractive as well as the conglomerate. Reynolds Kitchens does this so well by show individual dishes that make up a giant banquet table!

Instagram Grid Advertisement

(See the best Instagram marketing campaigns of the year here)

14. Check out Street Art

This might be my favorite type of creative advertising. Often referred to as “guerrilla advertising”, street art can be anything from stickers to chalk art to graffiti. I like that street art makes you stop in your tracks, and could present another opportunity to have others advertise for you through Instagram!

Graffiti as an Advertisement


Street Art Creative Advertising

15. Invest in Creative Business Cards

Though you wouldn’t normally look at business cards as an advertisement for your business, you should! There are tons of creative ideas for business cards depending on what your profession is. I personally like the tiny cheese grater—something useful for picnics and an advertisement!

Cheese Grater Ad


Lipstick Stamp


Stamp Business Card as an Ad

16. Try a Jingle

As annoying as jingles are when they’re stuck in your head, coming up with a smart, catchy jingle is a great way to get creative with your advertisements.


Free download: Up your game with our free all-star online advertising playbook.

17. Show Your Artistic Side

There is something awesome about seeing ads that are so creative, you want to take a picture and make it the wallpaper on your phone. This Scrabble ad is just that, while illustrating the weight of “goldfish” vs “shark” in the game.

Scrabble Advertisement

18. Go Retro

A creative way to reminisce about bad nighttime television: remake a commercial selling your product a la 1999.

19. Inspire through Video

Inspirational commercials are a tried-and-true way to have people engage and share. An easy way to do this is to sponsor a charitable organization or a drive.

20. Try Misdirection

The ad below creativity grabs your attention with a girl in a bikini, but is about illiteracy. Attractive graphics can make any kind of boring brand or topic easy to advertise. Selvera does it well through display ads!

Illiteracy Advertisement

21. Go Live on Facebook (or Periscope)

Facebook Live and Periscope are becoming more popular, probably because the platforms are being aggressive about teaching users how to broadcast live and alerting their connections when someone is live. Larry loves periscope! It’s a great way to show company culture and broadcast events.

larry Advertising through periscope

22. Create an Instagram Journey

I saw this for the first time from Mercedes and it’s awesome. Someone had to work tirelessly to create this Instagram customization journey, creating all kinds of accounts that are tagged together—lots of manual labor—but the result feels personalized and interactive.

23. Go Big or Go Home

We’ve all seen (or even participated in) a social media challenge, like the Ice Bucket challenge for ALS awareness, the trendy mannequin challenge or running man challenge. Use the power of the internet for good! The number one rule of social media is to engage with your audience, and a creative way to advertise your brand is to get your coworkers together to do a silly challenge.


Join 683,369 other marketers that receive our weekly newsletter!

Meet The Author

Mary Lister

Mary is a content writer/strategist at Starry, Inc. and an enthusiast of all things Internet. When she’s not writing words for work, you can find her eating extra-cheesy pizza while planning her next trip.

Recommended for you


Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

Unlock your business potential

We offer innovative technology and unparalleled expertise to move your business forward.