The Best Advertising Slogans of All Time
Ad slogans help us determine the best products for our lives, and the best ones hit us in the feels.
While the advertising world has churned out countless award-winning catchphrases, it's hard to rank the best of the best. Any list doing so is going to be subjective, considering we'll never have every detail about what makes an advertising campaign successful. But regardless of where your favorite ad slogan landed, the whole list is a fun trip down memory lane.
Here are a few things we took into consideration. The most significant sign that a slogan was a success was the decision to keep running it year after year. Some of these famous catchphrases are still being featured in new advertisements for their companies. Others are so popular that most people know the phrase as American slang and don't realize that it started as an ad. So, longevity is a factor we considered in determining the list. Awards won and money made we also taken into account.
We also looked to the experts in the field — advertisers themselves. Most of the slogans featured on the list were also listed in Ad Age's Top 100 Advertising Campaigns of the 20thcentury. We also consulted Ad Age's Top Advertising Campaigns of the twenty-first century for more modern and recent award-winning, successful campaigns. Both campaigns took into account what industry leaders determined were the best of the best.
But, in the end, these are our 43 picks.
Say "Whassup" in a crowded sports bar, and you'll be cheerfully greeted with the same phrase. The simple world became famous when Budweiser created an entire campaign around it.
In a series of commercials, a group of guy friends calls each other to see what they're doing, and with each new character exaggerates the "whassup" for comedic purposes.
The ads first appeared during the 2000 Super Bowl and became incredibly popular.
Plus, Anheuser-Busch was over a decade ahead of its time when it came to incorporating a digital initiative. Viewers could access Budweiser.com, where they could learn how to say "whassup" in 30 languages. Traffic, brand recognition and advertising awards rolled in.
42. Dos Equis
Alcohol — and especially beer — ads typically feature young guys, as that is the typical target audience for the product. But frequently, the aspirational nature of advertising makes the consumer feel bad. With the "Most Interesting Man in the World" campaign, Dos Equis was able to speak to its target demo without isolating them.
Dos Equis created an older, worldly male hero so younger men wouldn't "see him as a threat or as a reminder of accomplishments they hadn’t achieved yet," former senior brand director Paul Smailes told Ad Age.
In the award-winning, still-popular campaign, actor Jonathan Goldsmith plays the "Most Interesting Man" who has done all kinds of crazy things including parachuting out of an airplane in a boat. He often gives helpful tips, the most famous being "I don't always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis...Stay thirsty, my friends."
The campaign that launched in 2007 spiked sales of Dos Equis and still airs today.
41. Procter & Gamble Co.
Grab some tissues and watch any of the "Thank you, Mom" campaign videos from Procter & Gamble Co. if you're in the mood for a good cry.
The award-winning campaign launched with a video for the 2010 Winter Olympics, but it was such a success that P&G keeps making new ones and we keep weeping.
Following the success of 2010, P&G made new assets for the campaign for the 2012 London Olympics and "added an incremental $500 million to P&G sales, by its own account," Ad Age reported.
Each new addition to the award-winning campaign (timed for the Olympics) continues to build P&G's brand awareness while also scooping up nearly all the attention from the other Olympic sponsors.
The phrase "are you a Mac or a PC" went viral before going viral was a thing, thanks to the "Get a Mac" campaign from Apple.
The series of 66 commercials started in 2006 and were also known as "Mac vs. PC." John Hodgman played the nerdy PC and Justin Long played the cool Mac. In the playful, funny ads, Mac managed to be competitive without bullying, which is nearly impossible in advertising.
The campaign was a significant success and parodies, memes and imitations were quickly created from all kinds of places including “South Park,” Lego, religious groups, Greenpeace and the Republican National Convention.
"A testament to how it impacted popular culture, it's hard to find an ad campaign that generated more knockoffs and memes other than the 'Got Milk?' work back in the day," John Boiler, founder, chief executive officer at 72andSunny told Ad Age. "In the early days of social and sharability of the internet, people were making the effort to put their own spin on it."
39. Old Spice
For a lot of us, Old Spice (and its ads) were for our dads. But in 2009, Wieden & Kennedy’s Old Spice team changed all of that with the "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like" campaign.
Wieden & Kennedy had a difficult task: sell Old Spice to women, who make the majority of body wash purchases in American homes, according to the company. "They realized a lot of men were just using their wife or girlfriend’s body wash and this really wasn’t good for Old Spice sales," Jason Bagley, who oversaw creative direction on the ad, told Ad Age.
The team used humor to deliver its message, and it paid off with tremendous results. Clever writing delivered by smooth-talking NFL athlete turned actor Isaiah Mustafa made the slogans, commercials and campaign a viral sensation. Women-focused media outlets wrote about the campaign as if it were breaking news.
Robert Wong, chief creative officer Google Creative Lab, told Ad Age the campaign achieved "iconic pop culture status."
While we think of soap as a means to clean, Dove reminded the world that advertising plays a more significant role than we realize with its megahit "Campaign for Real Beauty."
Sure, the campaign was successful in selling soap. The company's sales increased from $2.5 billion to well over $4 billion during the campaign, Ad Age reported. But it also did something much more important — change the conversation around beauty and help women feel beautiful and empowered. Unilever and Ogilvy, which are credited with creating the 10-year-campaign, have the research to suggest that it worked.
"The campaign began with a global survey in 2004 that found, among other things, that only 23% of women felt they were responsible for influencing their own definition of beauty," Ad Age reported. "Ten years later, a Dove survey found nearly three times as many women felt that way."
37. Motel 6
Most Americans could probably recognize this slogan in a few seconds, and that's because it’s still running today.
"We'll leave a light on for you" has been the slogan for Motel 6 since 1988, and it has helped the company create a lot of brand recognition. The Portland Radio Group says the company's series of radio ads was often chosen as people's favorite. Motel 6 also makes print and TV ads featuring the same concept.
The writer Tom Bodett voiced the tagline for the commercials. When people met him, they always expected him to look more like them. "So Tom surmised that the success of the Motel 6 commercials was due to people casting themselves as the star," the Portland Radio Group says. "And who's better at selling something to you than you."
"The ultimate driving machine" slogan for BMW was so beloved that when the car company tried out a new campaign, fans freaked out.
"The idea was to reinforce the user benefit of owning The Ultimate Driving Machine," Forbes reported. "But the [new] campaign started a public uproar that BMW was turning its back on one of the best taglines ever."
The 1975 slogan from Ammirati & Puris is credited for much of the company's financial success. BMW proudly relies on the catchphrase today.
35. California Milk Processor Board
The "Got Milk?" campaign from the California Milk Processor Board was first launched in 1993 but has proved so successful that the ads still run today.
The ad campaign was started to encourage people to drink more milk. The ads feature celebrities with milk mustaches and the famous slogan "Got Milk?" Additional ads in the campaign showed people eating sticky foods that paired well with milk.
Levi Strauss launched his business selling clothing, blankets, handkerchiefs and more in San Francisco in 1853.
Fast-forward a few years to 1984 and enter ad agency Foote, Cone & Belding and its "501 Blues" campaign. While the classic jeans had already been famous thanks to James Dean and Marilyn Monroe, the new campaign introduced the iconic brand to a new generation.
Perhaps the most noteworthy part of the campaign was the series of commercials featuring young adults dancing to blues music in city streets and sidewalks. The company won the Governor’s Committee Media/Advertising Award from the New York State Office of Advocates for the Disabled, for its positive portrayals of people who have disabilities in the commercials.
The famous ad campaign translated into $7 billion in revenue annually.
In 1910, teenage entrepreneur J.C. Hall launched the business that now employs about 30,000 people worldwide.
In the 1930s, Hallmark sales and marketing executive Ed Goodman wrote down what he thought the company stood for — caring, quality and the best. From there, the ad agency Foote, Cone & Belding created the catchphrase that the company still cherishes: "When you care enough to send the very best."
It’s still working. The company brings in a revenue of about $4 billion every year.
Car rental company Hertz first started renting cars in 1918, but it was in 1961 that the company found its permanent slogan.
"Let Hertz put you in the driver's seat" was featured in various forms of advertising including popular commercials. You can still watch some of them on YouTube.
The ad agency Norman, Craig & Kummel is credited with the famous campaign. Composer Richard Adler wrote the jingle for the commercial that introduced the ad.
31. Life Cereal
"Hey, Mikey!" was a phrase uttered in a commercial for Life cereal that became so popular that the campaign was used for 12 years.
Art director Bob Gage of Doyle Dane Bernbach created the ad and directed the commercial. In it, little Mikey tries a "healthy" cereal when his brothers refuse to do so. Spoiler alert: He loves it!
The catchphrase won various awards and was ranked in the Top 10 Commercials of All Time by TV Guide. Despite its launch in 1972, a 1999 survey showed that 70 percent of adults could still identify the famous ad based on just a description of it.
Hopeful of competing with popular colas like Pepsi and Coca-Cola, 7UP hired the ad agency J. Walter Thompson. It created "The Uncola" slogan in the 1970s, which is considered one of the most successful campaigns of the 20th century.
The first commercial featuring the product's new slogan starred Broadway actor Geoffrey Holder, who played a planter. In his deep and mesmerizing voice, he explains the difference between cola nuts and the "uncola nuts" that were just lemons and limes.
The ad was a mega-hit and distinguished 7UP as a fresh new soda unlike those boring old colas everyone else drinks.
Ad agency BBDO created the "Look sharp, feel sharp" catchphrase for shaving company Gillette in the 1940s, and the brand used it for decades.
Alongside the slogan, the ads featured Sharpie, a loud cartoon parrot that served as the company's spokesbird. He had a special song called “The Look Sharp March,” which also became insanely popular.
"Over the next twenty-some years, this colorful bird became one of the most effective commercial characters of all time, squawking his way through thousands of commercial spots on the immensely popular Gillette Cavalcade of Sports broadcasts," the company says.
Thanks to Sharpie, The Look Sharp March was the most played march at high school and college football halftime shows in the 1950s and ‘60s.
"It's so simple" was a smart way to sell a new camera to the masses before we all got cameras in our phones.
The slogan for Polaroid was crafted in 1977 by Bill Bernbach of the Doyle Dane Bernbach agency. Bernbach was famous in the advertising world and responsible for many award-winning ads, including two more you'll read more about below.
This slogan and his other work "brought humanity, wit and intellect to a field that struggled to achieve even one of the three," according to Adweek.
27. Rice Krispies Cereal
The first time the phrase "Snap! Crackle! Pop!" appeared was in 1929 in a print ad for Rice Krispies cereal from Kellogg's. The breakfast meal had just appeared on shelves the year before for the first time.
The slogan is working as the brand still uses it today. It’s based on the noise the cereal makes when milk pours over it.
In 1933, artist Vernon Grant created three elves named Snap, Crackle and Pop after being inspired by one of the company's radio commercials. The brand loved it, and since then the characters have been featured in all kinds of advertisements.
Since its inception in 1957, the slogan has remained popular, but the company has tweaked it over the years. "Go Greyhound and leave the driving to us" was one iteration. The most recent version aired in 2000 and read "Proud to Serve America. Go Greyhound, and Leave the Driving to Us."
Coca-Cola is one of those brands that's had a ton of luck creating catchy, well-known advertising slogans for its product. But the most popular is the phrase "It's the real thing."
While Ad Age lists McCann-Erickson as the agency behind the big idea and 1970 as the original creation date, the famous slogan goes further back. Painted signs advertising the popular product show the slogan as far back as the 1940s. When Coke was rebranded in the 1970s, it was considered one of the largest advertising endeavors ever.
Since Coke is technically the original cola (it’s 12 years older than Pepsi), the phrase will likely always be used by the company in some capacity.
24. Kit Kat
If you sing "Gimme a break" in your office, there is a good chance at least a few folks will remember the famous jingle.
The catchy song was released in 1986, and it was a spin on the candy’s 1958 slogan "Have a Break … Have a Kit Kat." which was incredibly popular in London, where the phrase is still used today.
The American remake, which happened after Nestle purchased the company, is considered the much more popular slogan, though.
The song is so popular that researchers at the University of Cincinnati discovered that it was a common earworm.
23. American Express
Before you could use almost any credit card in nearly every country, many travelers brought American Express traveler's checks with them when they ventured abroad.
The phrase "don't leave home without it" was introduced by the company in 1975, but was so popular that the company utilized it until the late ‘90s.
Between its bright orange boxes and its famous slogan — "Breakfast of champions" — Wheaties dominated the cereal market for decades.
Ad agency Blackett-Sample-Hummert released the catchphrase in the 1930s and Wheaties partnered it with its sponsorship of athletes. The phrase and the food became so popular that of the players in the 1939 Major League All-Star Game, 46 of the 51 of them endorsed Wheaties.
Over the years it has kept its association with sports stars.
Ad agency Benton & Bowles created the "Please don't squeeze the Charmin" catchphrase in 1964 for the toilet paper company.
It was such a success that Charmin created more than 500 commercials featuring actor Dick Wilson over 21 years. Wilson played "Mr. Whipple," who begged grocery store customers not to squeeze the soft, squishy toilet paper.
The ad was so popular it made Ad Age’s list of top campaigns of the twentieth century. It also received a shoutout in "Weird Al" Yankovic's song "Dare to Be Stupid": "You better squeeze all the Charmin you can / When Mr. Whipple's not around."
If you thought the phrase "always a bridesmaid, but never a bride" has been around forever, think again. It's not an old-timey phrase women uttered to one another, but instead a clever marketing slogan.
The agency Lambert & Feasley came up with it in 1923 to sell Listerine mouthwash. It was featured in a series of ads with women who looked devastated not yet to be married.
We were hesitant to include it on a list of best advertising slogans since, as a society, we've pushed past the narrative that a woman's only goal is to get married. But we ultimately did include it since the phrase transcended advertising and became a staple of the American vernacular.
To compete with and call out its competitors, Wendy's launched a slogan that would become inescapable.
"Where's the beef?" is the question three old ladies ask each other and out loud in the commercial that launched the famous catchphrase. The concept centers around the idea that McDonald's and Burger King provide giant buns and a small burger while Wendy's is focused on delivering more meat.
"[It] instantly became a catchphrase, and Wendy's sales jumped 31 percent in a single year," the Tampa Bay Times reported.
In 1954, cigarette company Winston released a grammatically incorrect slogan that became so popular it aired in advertisements for nearly 20 years.
"Winston tastes good… like a cigarette should" was the famous tagline. The ad agency William Esty Co. purposely used "like" instead of the grammatically correct "as."
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company used the phrase in newspaper, magazine, radio and television advertisements until 1972. It won countless awards, including Advertising Age naming it one of the top 10 best radio and television jingles. It was so well known that it was also included in the 1988 edition of Simpson's Contemporary Quotations.
In the 1950s, Timex released a variety of ads featuring the slogan "Takes a licking and keeps on ticking."
Sales skyrocketed when the ads appeared featuring "torture testing" of the watches. Timex watches went through a series of insane tests. The watch survived being put in a paint mixer, frozen in an ice cube tray, attached to an archer’s arrow tip that was shot through a pane of glass, cast off a deep-sea fishing boat, swallowed by a cow and tossed over the Grand Coulee Dam.
I could have sworn the "Melts in your mouth, not in your hands" slogan from M&Ms was invented in the 1980s when I was a kid. But that's just what happens when a company strikes gold — it keeps using the same famous catchphrase decade after decade to build brand loyalty and recognition.
The Ted Bates & Co. agency wrote the line in 1954, highlighting the chocolate candies’ hard coating. The concept was supposedly spotted in Spain during the Spanish Civil War by Forrest Mars, Sr., aka the first M in M&Ms.
The success of the famous slogan is detailed in advertising books, has its own Museum of Modern Art webpage and is listed in the top ads of the 20th century from Ad Age.
In 1958, Crest released a series of ads featuring kids holding report cards and the slogan "Look, Ma! No cavities!"
The ads became iconic for a few reasons. First, Norman Rockwell drew them. Second, it was the first time a brand released fluoridated toothpaste. Nowadays fluoride is expected in toothpaste, but it was revolutionary at the time.
With the help of the ads, Crest remained the leader in toothpaste sales. After that, the company struggled from 1979 to 1985. Eventually, Crest made a rebound with a tartar control formula.
Saturn's famous line, "A different kind of company. A different kind of car," ushered in a new era of car manufacturing in the United States.
With the new car came a new way of doing things. General Motors made the vehicles at a plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee, that was entirely computerized and relied heavily on robotic assembly systems. The cars also featured plastic panels in areas to prevent dents.
"But what made Saturn special was never really the cars, which were solid but not exceptional. What made them magical was the marketing," the Los Angeles Times reported. In addition to the futuristic tone of the slogan, Saturn prided itself on being the only car company to offer haggle-free car buying. The price on the sticker was the price you paid, which was a new thing in the 1990s.
Sadly, despite extreme success with the slogan and the new kind of vehicle, Saturn couldn't make it for the long haul, and GM let go of the brand in 2009.
13. Morton Salt
When a product slogan becomes really famous it becomes a household phrase.
The famous catchphrase "When it rains, it pours" can be traced back to 1912 when N.W. Ayer & Son created the slogan for Morton Salt. At the time, the company's product — free-flowing table salt — was a new thing. Previously, salt would clump when it was damp, but Morton Salt added magnesium carbonate, which allowed the salt to pour freely.
While the company uses calcium silicate nowadays, it never ditched the original slogan or the famous logo of a girl in the rain that went with it. The iconic girl was created first, but both the girl and the catchphrase continue to be used on products and in advertisements.
The Energizer Bunny is an award-winning mascot and marketing icon of the battery company Energizer, and the catchphrase “still going” really broke through.
The pink mechanical toy rabbit wearing sunglasses was introduced to the world in 1989 thanks to agency Chiat/Day. The company still uses it today. A series of commercials starting in the 1980s featured the “still going” slogan and you can still find some of the old ones on YouTube.
Ninety-five percent of consumers recognize the Energizer Bunny, Adweek reported.
In 2016, the creative company Camp+King gave the famous mascot an update by animating him. This gave the bunny an increased range of motion and facial expressions, but kept the original slogan in place.
Budweiser has had plenty of catchy slogans over the years, but its 1970s hit "This Bud's for you" remains the top pick in advertising circles.
Ad agency D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles gets the credit for creating the slogan.
Michael Roarty oversaw the iconic campaigns for four decades at Anheuser-Busch, including the most famous one. Roarty was inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame for his work.
10. U.S. Forest Service
The U.S. Forest Service, the Advertising Council and the agency Foote, Cone & Belding are to thank for our love of Smokey the Bear and his constant efforts to keep our nation's forests safe.
The "Only you can prevent forest fires" slogan was created in the 1940s. It was so successful that the organization still relies on it — and Smokey — more than 70 years later to educate and inform people about forest fires.
Smokey even has his own website that jam-packed with helpful resources for kids and adults. The ad campaign is listed as the No. 26 most successful ad campaign of the 20th century by Ad Age.
9. Campbell Soup
What does a company at the top of its game do with an advertising campaign it’s had since the 1930s do? Well, as the old saying goes, if it isn't broke, don't fix it.
The Campbell Soup Company, more commonly known as Campbell's, launched its famous phrase thanks to the help of ad agency BBDO and never looked back. It's listed as the No. 25 most successful ad campaign of the 20th century by Ad Age.
8. Burger King
Burger King launched the "Have it your way" slogan in 1973.
Ad agency BBDO created the catchphrase. The goal was to compete with McDonald's and highlight how rigid the competitor was in comparison to Burger King, which was happy to adjust your order.
It was so successful that the company ran it for more than 40 years before updating it to "Be Your Way" in 2014.
7. U.S. Army
The U.S. Army released its most popular slogan ever in 1980 — "Be all you can be." The catchphrase was so successful it ran until 2001 and has never been bested.
Senior copywriter Earl Carter penned the phrase while working for the ad agency N.W. Ayer & Son. The slogan was so successful at recruiting soldiers that the army awarded the writer the U.S. Army Outstanding Civilian Service Award in 2003.
"Your slogan and creative advertising strategies were featured in song lyrics, television, radio, and print advertising for nearly two decades, 'Be all you can be' encouraged America's young men and women to serve their country," Maj. Gen. Michael D. Rochelle, Commanding General of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, said at the ceremony. "Your efforts directly contributed to the successful establishment of the all-volunteer army."
The slogan for the car rental company Avis was so popular the company ran it in its advertisements for five decades.
It first hit in 1962, when the company was trying to compete with Hertz, the top car rental company at the time. Ad agency Doyle Dane Bernbach created an ad that took pride in Avis and the company's status as second-best. The ad is considered timeless by industry experts.
5. Maxwell House Coffee
Maxwell House's "Good to the last drop" slogan is so famous that the company has used it since 1915.
Ad Age credits agency Ogilvy, Benson & Mather for creating the popular phrase in 1959. But newspaper ads from the 1920s show the slogan. Then, in the 1930s, the coffee giant started running ads claiming that President Theodore Roosevelt had uttered the phrase first after having a cup of the joe at Andrew Jackson's estate, The Hermitage.
While Maxwell House Coffee has never been able to prove the president actually said it, the company pushes the theory and ran commercials starring famous Roosevelt impersonator Joe Wiegand in 2009.
Before Justin Timberlake made McDonald's even more famous with his "I'm Lovin' It" song and corresponding slogan, the fast-food giant had several successful advertising campaigns.
In 1980, McDonald's released the famous phrase "You deserve a break today," which was a hit on its own. The ads suggested that kids and adults should take a hiatus from their busy lives of school, extracurricular activities, and take a break at McDonald's.
The ads were so successful that the company revamped it in 1995 and released the new expression in the form of a question: "Have you had your break today?"
Volkswagen's "Think small" campaign could be considered vintage at this point, but its success is still widely discussed in advertising circles. Ad agency Doyle Dane Bernbach is responsible for the 1959 slogan that popularized the small German car in the United States.
With the catchphrase, Volkswagen was able to market and sell its small Beetle model during a time when larger cars were much more popular. Through the advertising campaign, the car company highlighted the benefits of having a more compact vehicle. It made the concept of a smaller car a strength and not a weakness.
The campaign was ranked as the best advertising campaign of the 20th century by Ad Age.
Nike's slogan "Just Do It" is so famous and successful that it will likely never be retired.
The famous catchphrase was created in a 1988 meeting when folks from Nike's ad agency — Wieden+Kennedy — were in a meeting with Nike employees. It has been widely reported that Dan Weiden said "You Nike guys, you just do it," about the employees and from there the tagline was born.
Between the famous tagline, the swoosh logo and the company's partnerships with famous athletes, Nike was able to rake in the cash.
"With its 'Just Do It' campaign and strong product, Nike was able to increase its share of the domestic sport-shoe business from 18 percent to 43 percent, from $877 million in worldwide sales to $9.2 billion in the ten years between 1988 and 1998," according to researchers at the Center for Applied Research.
1. De Beers
Before weddings became a big business, diamonds weren't seen as a necessity for new brides. Following the Great Depression, the demand for diamonds was deficient, so De Beers hired an ad agency to rebrand the now-famous stone.
"The brilliant concept was to create an emotional link to diamonds, the sentiment being love, like diamonds, is eternal," the company says. And that's how "A Diamond is Forever," written by copywriter Frances Geraghty in 1947, was born.
The slogan was so successful that just a few years later, eight in 10 brides were receiving diamond engagement rings, according to De Beers. The tradition is still going strong today.