Using creativity as a force for good: 10 clever campaigning ideas that made waves

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Wikipedia describes advertising as an audio or visual form of marketing communication that employs an openly sponsored, non-personal message to promote or sell a product, service or idea. Advertising is about making a lasting impression on your target audience, it’s about getting into their heads. NGO and social justice campaigning has many overlaps with advertising – only instead of getting people to visit your business or buy your product you are trying to initiate change – whether it’s changing people’s minds or changing the way corporations operate.

Our projects for Greenpeace and other “forces for good” are always well received by our global creative community, so we used the opportunity of working with Greenpeace for the 7th time to collectively compile a list of clever campaigning ideas that inspire and impress.


“Nobody counts the number of ads you run; they just remember the impression you make.” – Bill Bernbach


#1 UN Women: The Autocomplete Truth

Memac Ogilvy & Mather Dubai developed a series of ads for UN Women using genuine Google search results to highlight the widespread prevalence of sexism and discrimination against women around the world. Based on searches dated 9 March 2013 the ads exposed negative sentiments ranging from offensive stereotypes to outright denial of women’s rights. The placement of the search bar visuals – covering up the mouths of the women pictured – ads an extra layer meaning – that these negative sentiments are keeping women quiet and holding them back.


The ads were a massive viral hit and sparked a global discussion on gender equality. What’s changed since 2013? – Why not give it a go: what does your search show about gender stereotypes and the lack of equality for women’s rights in your country?


#2 Nazis against Nazis – Germany’s most involuntary walkathon

On November 15th 2014, neo-Nazis walked through the streets of Wunsiedel, Germany. They could not be stopped, but EXIT-Deutschland – a programme that supports people to leave the Nazi scene – decided to make them march for something meaningful: and that is how, for the first time, a right-wing march became a charity walk – without the participants knowing! For every meter they walked, €10 was donated to EXIT-Deutschland.

The Greenpeace campaign team commented: “This was a very successful campaign; smart, cheeky and unusual! It was a clever idea and really well thought out – the “opponent” ends up unwittingly marching against themselves. The strong, yet playful visual identity was carried through multiple mediums. A powerful modern and innovative form of protest and a new fundraising concept.”

“If Hilter only knew!”

“Final sprint/push instead of ultimate victory!”

The result: lots of surprised right-wing extremists, €10.000 raised for EXIT-Deutschland and worldwide attention for the campaign and the cause.


“Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at” – Leo Burnett


#3 London Needs You Alive

The London Needs You Alive campaign, created by AMV BBDO for the Mayor of London was launched just recently in November and aims to combat knife crime in the UK capital: “There are 653,626 teenagers in London – every one of them is important. Knives aren’t keeping us safe. Help carry a new message”

The simple, yet striking campaign targets 13- to 16-year-old Londoners, asking them to share with family and friends, why London needs them alive. The creative process was influencer-led and a collaborative effort between the agency and the teenagers themselves.




#4 25.000 Euro Reward

The goal of the 25.000 Euro Reward campaign from The Center for Political Beauty was to stop the biggest arms deal in recent German history. They were offering a reward of €25,000 for any evidence that could put one of the owners of arms manufacturer Krauss-Maffei Wegmann behind bars. Large-format posters throughout Germany advertised the reward in exchange for information related to tax evasion, money laundering or investment fraud.

The intended side effects: The arms dealers are exposed, acquiring involuntary fame across the country. The media reported on the main beneficiaries of the billion euros arms deal with Saudi-Arabia and the export of 270 Leopard II tanks.

The Greenpeace campaign team commented: “The business of weapons is murder. The approach of this campaign was totally new and extremely radical because it was not the weapons and the harm they cause that were in the foreground, but rather the individuals that fund the production and export of them. Potentially bordering on “immoral” but fitting for an immoral business.”


Result: Within just three months, more than 2,500 articles were published on The Center for Political Beauty’s “social choking sculpture”. Even confidants, employers and friends distanced themselves from the owners exposed in the campaign. The arms deal with Saudi-Arabia – one of the world’s harshest dictatorships – failed.


#5 Africa For Norway: Heat the World

Flipping the script on catchy musical fundraising projects packed full of celebrities, The Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund (SAIH) collaborated with a group of South African students on Africa For Norway. The aim was to encourage a more nuanced narrative on Africa; challenging simplistic explanations of almost buzz word problems like hunger, poverty, crime or AIDS and highlighting how western countries actually often have a negative impact on Africa’s development.

The Africa For Norway project paved the way for the Radi-Aid Awards – an annual event organised by SAIH that awards the best – and the worst – of development charity fundraising videos.  Their goal is to change the way fundraising campaigns communicate, and to engage people in issues of poverty and development.


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#6 Haunted Landlord – The return of the evicted tenants

“The current campaign from PengKollektiv also stands out for us – a campaign against gentrification, profiteering landlords and evictions.” – Greenpeace campaign team

This campaign imagines what it would be like to give profiteering landlords a taste of their own medicine – with the evicted tenants getting their revenge – a compelling premise, executed with a committed tongue in cheek approach.


“Activism is the rent I pay for living on this planet.” – Alice Walker


#7 I’m Not a Joke

Venezuelan artivist (artist + activist) Daniel Arzola started the No Soy Tu Chiste / I’m Not a Joke campaign to combat prevailing negative stereotypes about the LGBTQI community. The combination of striking visuals and to-the-point statements make for a strong series of images.

“Arzola created the series in his native Venezuela in 2013, where he encountered several instances of intolerance and hate crimes toward himself and other gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people in his country and around the world.

He said the main goal of his work is to ‘use art as a method of nonviolent action to change mentalities, to empathize, to create visibility…It’s a different way of confronting social issues ‘” – mashable

  Im Not a Joke Daniel Arzola 3     

The images were popular on social media and have landed their creator with exhibitions and a number of other opportunities.


#8 He will never abandon you

Lui ne vous abandonnera jamais / He will never abandon you was the 2016 campaign clip from 30 Million Friends / 30 Millions d’Amis – which is a TV show,a monthly magazine, and a foundation, working to combat all forms of animal suffering. “This is a very powerful animal protection video: emotional, good story & surprising.” – Greenpeace campaign team.

The element of surprise is definitely the strength of this concept – with the story unfolding backwards to reveal the sad truth that the dog was abandoned. The clip received the Creative Award at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.


 “By definition, remarkable things get remarked upon” – Seth Godin


#9 We’re The Superhumans

The UK Channel 4’s trailer for the coverage of the Rio Paralympics 2016 is a riotous three-minute long celebration of ability despite “disability”. Conceived by 4Creative, the broadcaster’s in-house agency, it raised the bar even higher than their 2012 campaign of the same name. Yes We Can:

“Within weeks of its launch, ‘We’re the superhumans’ became the second-most-shared Olympics-themed ad on social media of all time – behind Procter & Gamble’s “Best job” in 2012.

The film was a celebratory affair involving more than 140 people – with just as many non-athletes as Paralympic stars – showcasing people flying planes, playing in bands, raising children, tap-dancing, rock-climbing and even driving a wheelchair through a wall. It exudes confidence and joy.” – Campaign Live, who awarded the clip their Campaign of the Year Award in 2016.


#10 LEGO: Everything is NOT awesome.

And last but not least – a Greenpeace campaign – by Don’t Panic London calling on LEGO to end its partnership with Shell to Save the Arctic: “We love LEGO. You love LEGO. Everyone loves LEGO. But when LEGO’s halo effect is being used to sell propaganda to children, especially by an unethical corporation who are busy destroying the natural world our children will inherit, we have to do something.”

Eerie, relevant, cinematic – an extremely well-executed idea!

Result: LEGO announced it will not renew its contract with Shell – a massive victory for over 1 million Greenpeace supporters and Arctic Defenders globally. But Shell is still trying to drill for oil in the Arctic, do the fight continues:


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Helen Gimber

Helen is into creativity, collaboration & collectivity! She joined jovoto in 2015 as a guide for Textile Design projects and has been a regular fixture of the community marketing and management team since.


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