Amy McCulloch of eight&four picks her Desert Island Ads

Amy McCulloch co-founded eight&four in 2008. Eight&four is a creative and media agency in London which has grown up alongside the launch of Instagram, the death of organic and the shrinking of consumer attention spans. Quality over quantity, audience focus and cutting through in a culture of meaningless messaging is high on its agenda. The agency works for clients in the FMCG and charity sectors.


Desert Island Ads

You don’t need a huge budget to create a great ad.

It’s the ads that ignite discussion, create culture and impress on the mind that truly succeed. As long as the creative is emotionally connective, thought-provoking, and packs a clear message, you’re onto a winner. It doesn’t matter if the budget was Infinity War or infinitely poor. A good ad’s a good ad.

I’ve chosen a number of ads that I feel deliver on these measures.

KFC’s ‘Chicken Town’

Wendy’s and Burger King have been having disruptive fun with their marketing for years, but this spring saw a new arrival to the party, fashionably late and spitting feathers: KFC. Its Chicken Town TV ad playfully highlights the concerning number of fried chicken shops throughout the UK, positioning itself as the original and best.

In a world of forgettable, often purpose-less content, this was a refreshing, entertaining and memorable campaign. And it made me want to re-watch The Godfather.

McDonald’s ‘We Could’ Coffee Ad

Keeping with the fast food theme, this wryly satirical McDonald’s ad is a great example of how the right messaging can turn a brand’s weakness into a strength. It tapped into audience truths about the overwhelming choice at independent, laptop-ridden, hipster-infested independent coffee shops, and celebrated the straightforward, simple and, dare I say, boring coffee options at McDonalds. A more subtle take on the issue than, say, Carling’s recent move.

Big Issue & Monzo’s ‘Pay It Forward’ Partnership

Partnerships between brands and charities are always risk. They can sometimes come off as superficial, opportunistic or just downright strange. But when done well, they can be brilliant – Big Issue and Monzo’s ‘Pay it Forward’ partnership this year being case in point. The campaign helped Big Issue buyers pass their copy onto a friend using a scannable QR code on the magazine, tapping into the cultural observation that we’re edging towards a cashless society. This generated more money for Big Issue sellers and was a nice dose of positive PR coverage for Monzo. An all-round perfect campaign. Some might call it a cockle-warmer.

Nike’s ‘Nothing Beats a Londoner’

Aside from being a brilliant, high-energy advert in itself, the use of well-known celebrities to resonate with the brand’s target audience, and the seeding strategy, which placed the creative in the hands of social influencers before turning on pay, was a stroke of genius.

Effectiveness trophies aside, a true test of an ad campaign’s worth is its ability to engage with and, in some cases, create culture. Shortly after the campaign went live, a ‘Nothing Beats A Brummy’ parody version went live on BBC Radio One’s YouTube channel, and quickly totted up tens of thousands of views.

Starbucks’ Long-term Social Media Campaign

Not strictly an ‘ad’, but Starbucks’ long-term social media strategy stresses the benefits of getting your digital and social media marketing right.

While Lush very publicly decided to cancel its social media entirely, Starbucks has time and time again used social to bring people in-store, generate significant earned reach and deliver brand loyalty. Plus, it helps that they’re really funny.

Nike’s Caster Semenya ‘Just Do It’

Nike’s Colin Kaepernick ad rightfully made headlines and got the ad industry talking back in September, but one of the brand’s less-celebrated efforts is this evocative ad with controversial track star Semenya Caster. In my opinion, this is advertising and creative strategy at its best – it found the elusive sweet spot between proposition and spirit, engaged its target audience and nailed Nike’s position as an industry disruptor.

Adidas’s Dark Social and Tango Squad FC Activities

The variety of activities Adidas has been trialling to navigate dark social – conversations and sharing in private messaging apps and groups – is really admirable, the 2018 Dark Social and Tango Squad FC Activities being notable examples. The brand engaged its target audience on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, launching an app that gave footballers the chance to show off their skills, compete with friends and unlock rewards. In a world of horrible stuff surrounding social, it’s nice to see brands going back to what it was actually created for: bringing people together.

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