Brave’s Sophie Russell picks her Desert Island Ads

Sophie Russell is a senior planner at Brave.

Desert Island Ads

At Brave we are drawn to the braver ads. Not just brave through wacky creativity, but brave enough to challenge a category and comms status quo. Bravery is to take a step into the unknown where there is no smart case study to replicate, or brave enough to admit brand flaws rather than masking them. Bravery comes in many forms, and this is how we’ve benchmarked our favourite cosmetic ads in our Desert Island Ads.

1. Billie Project body hair

Billie demonstrated bravery by showing real body hair and hair clogged razors in advertising, with a defiantly joyful and empowering tone. No more razors gliding over strangely smooth, hairless legs!

2. H&M: Ladylike

H&M challenges the stereotype of being ‘ladylike’ in this empowering ad that encourages women to do what they want, dress how they want and be unconcerned with others’ opinions. What I particularly like about it is that it manages to do female empowerment in a playful, humorous way – something rare in advertising. It’s brave for a low-cost high-street retailer to actually take a stance on something and not simply show beautiful models in pretty clothes.

3. Superdrug

This creative platform is something we are proud of at Brave. When we received the brief, the brand was burdened with negative legacy perceptions of being cheap and tacky, a poor sister to Boots. We helped turn this on its head by repositioning the brand as fun, cool and packed with personality. Ultimately, challenging the client to take a braver approach in comms ensured a record year of sales.

4. Head & Shoulders with Claudia Winkleman


Although not the most exciting of ads creatively, what’s brave is how Head & Shoulders admits its faults. The brand acknowledges that people don’t see the product as hugely desirable and certainly not something your favourite influencers or celebrities would use. In this ad, they directly call that out with negative tweets. The result is bumper sales for P&G.

5. ASOS: My Style is Never Done

ASOS partner here with atypical model and influencer Jazzelle to promote limitless self-expression through fashion. They bravely hero the more ‘out-there’ looks that are probably only bought by 1% of their audience, instead seeking to build a brand attitude and spirit. Overall it’s fun and visually arresting.

6. John Frieda

It was brave for our client John Frieda to step away from their aspirational, black and white advertising packed with beautiful models, and instead use real women, in real settings. The change was part of a move to bring credibility to the products – as a business we knew they worked better than the competition, but the audience has learnt to be sceptical of hair ads. We had to strip away the marketing fluff in order to be believed. Bravery wins again.

7. Dove: Real Beauty Sketches

With 68m YouTube views, Dove is one of the true viral success stories. An innovative storytelling construct using a crime sketch artist, it takes us on a journey of emotions with the power to get us to question our own perceptions. Bravely they don’t even mention the category.

8. The Ordinary

One of the breakout skincare brands of recent years, The Ordinary were brave to completely disrupt an entire category, changing how we determine what makes a good product. Spurning marketing and fluffy claims, the products simply describe the ingredients in black and white and are sold at a ridiculously low price point. The result was that many of the products sold out as soon as they came to market.

9. L’Oreal Paris: The Non-Issue in collaboration with Vogue

L’Oreal Paris recently partnered with Vogue for a publication first – a celebration of women over-50. Based on a real insight that these women feel ignored by mainstream media and the beauty and fashion industries, it was brave to step away from the obsessive 18-35 focus of most make-up brands.

10. Libresse/Bodyform: Viva La Vulva

It’s certainly brave to make an ad about singing vulvas – taking the step to do something never before done in advertising, especially with something that could easily be cringeworthy or awkward, if not done right. But it’s also brave for a company to champion a cause, and work to break taboos rather than try to talk about product differentiators.

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