Image: Isaiah Mustafa
AP
Old Spice found out who is really making the decisions to purchse their product.
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updated 12/28/2010 7:30:42 AM ET 2010-12-28T12:30:42

Sometimes, all you need is a little creativity to turn something old and familiar into a fresh new hit.

That's exactly what did it for Old Spice. To revive a 72-year-old brand, Procter & Gamble tapped Isaiah Mustafa, the handsome former NFL wide receiver, to star in a campaign to appeal to women. Old Spice presented the chisel-chested Mustafa in ads as "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like," and the campaign went viral. P&G reaped 1.2 billion earned media impressions from the campaign, and Old Spice soared to the No. 1 spot in the U.S. male body wash and deodorant category. The insight that made it possible? Women, not men, do most male grooming purchasing.

Marketing smarts plus a little creativity can make a small idea go a long way. Consider Smart, the ultra-compact car. It doesn't have the advertising budget of titans like Nissan and Toyota, but it sparked attention with a social media movement that rallied against "dumb" mindless overconsumption. In other words, you don't have to drive a big car. A tiny, environmentally friendly one — like Smart — can be cool.

Forbes.com slideshow: The year's most creative ad ideas

Puma, a smaller athletic footwear company, did just the same to position itself against its larger rivals Nike and Adidas. Realizing that most Americans don't engage in serious competitive sports, the brand launched a campaign targeting the "after- hours" athlete. Those are folks who play foosball, Ping-Pong and other games just for the fun of it. In so doing, Puma carved out its own niche with a huge, untapped portion of the U.S. population.

And then there was Alicia Keys, with her "Digital Life Sacrifice" AIDS awareness campaign, and Jay-Z, with his Decoded book launch. They both put a creative twist on social media. Jay-Z promoted his new autobiography by sending fans on a virtual book hunt. Keys, together with other celebrities, helped raise $1 million in just six days by having Hollywood A-listers like Lady Gaga and Ryan Seacrest sign off their Twitter and Facebook accounts until the goal was reached. The most impressive aspect of that campaign, says Tor Myhren, chief creative officer at Grey, the advertising agency, was its "talk value." AIDS awareness has been around for a long time, but Keys and other stars used social media to get it "back into the cultural conversation," he says.

Forbes: The year's most memorable products

The best ideas are often quite simple. Realizing that consumers have luggage space on their minds when they travel, the luxury carmaker BMW Group launched a guerrilla marketing campaign for its Mini Clubman compact vehicles with ads at airport carousels that made it look like the luggage was emerging from the back of one of the cars. A clever way to suggest that the vehicle holds a lot more than you might think, and a smart way to grab the attention of a consumer standing around waiting for a suitcase, says Peter Viento, an executive creative director at Publicis Groupe-owned Saatchi & Saatchi X, the agency’s shopping marketing division.

Forbes: Old brands that made a comeback

A coalition of baby-carrot farmers took a more aggressive approach. Realizing that their little carrot pieces looked a lot like Frito-Lay's Cheetos, the growers reintroduced their healthy food in new packaging that mirrored Cheetos', and put up billboards that proclaimed, "The original orange doodle." Junk food addicts, needless to say, were amused. It was a far better strategy than, say, "lecturing people about the product's health benefits," says Andrew Essex, CEO of ad agency Droga5.

Forbes: The world's most valuable brands

This year's most creative ideas — as selected by a panel of advertising executives — spanned categories as diverse as toaster pastries, children's candy and even a beer brand in Argentina. The judges were — in addition to Myhren, Essex and Viento — Curt Detweiler, executive creative director at McCann Erickson, and Will Payovich, Euro RSCG's creative director.

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© 2012 Forbes.com

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