Back to Alea | Simple Campaign Ideas That Have Kept Their Fizz

Rob Wilson . News . 03 March 2021 Read Time3 min

Simple Campaign Ideas That Have Kept Their Fizz

Rob Wilson

Rob Wilson

Creative Director

One of the many lessons I’ve learnt over the years is that behind every good campaign there always lies a simple idea. The simpler the idea, the more powerful the campaign.

A good campaign is one that won’t need constantly reviving after the first execution; it has strength, depth and energy. The idea is the heartbeat, lifeblood and soul of any campaign.

I’ve singled out three campaigns from the soft drinks market that have been successful in not only producing a memorable ad, but have also gained market share in an extremely competitive market – the true benchmark of a great campaign.


The Pepsi Challenge undoubtedly made an impact on the cola landscape. In 1975, Coke was already a well-established brand with a sleek marketing machine, and had enjoyed years of unrivalled brand loyalty that generated countless happy customers.

Pepsi was the new kid in town and was looking to get a foothold in the market. A bright exec at Pepsi came up with a bold and brave campaign to do just that. That idea was the Pepsi Challenge. Pepsi went inside malls around the country and invited people to do a blind taste test between Coke and Pepsi. The results were remarkable; people picked Pepsi over Coke by a significant margin.

Pepsi was only too happy to show the results in a TV campaign, incorporating footage of people picking Pepsi, much to their own surprise.

Watch the ad.


Trevor Robinson OBE was behind this masterpiece. Without the huge marketing budgets of Coke, and with no social media at the time, he realised that Tango had to generate its own momentum. Word of mouth was essentially its media spend.

The campaign features a fat orange genie who runs up and gives the Tango drinker a huge slap on the face. The idea bucked the trend of slick, big budget productions around at that time. This simple idea had kids talking in playgrounds up and down the country, and they lapped it up.

Eventually the slap got a bit out of hand, as doctors complained that kids were ‘Tangoing’ each other at the cost of perforated ear drums. Naturally, it got banned and the fat orange genie had to revert to a kiss. Even with this slight tweak, the success of the campaign never wavered; the controversy possibly even helped it.

Take a look at the ads.


Who doesn’t like humour, especially when it’s concerning cringeworthy moments for teenagers; such fertile territory for any creative.

Introduced in the 1980s, the ‘What’s the Worst That Could Happen?’ ad campaign was a great success for the soft drink, Dr Pepper. These words were used in a catchy song that helped make the ad memorable and effective.

Dr Pepper knew its brand; it also knew its worldwide audience. The campaign worked particularly well here in the UK, playing on the fact that many UK consumers didn’t know what the drink tasted like and were in many instances suspicious of trying it.

This award-winning creative has been repeated time and time again in different guises and is an example of a simple idea having the potential to create some memorable ads such as Mother’s ‘Emergency’.

Watch the ad here.


I love everything about the delivery of these campaigns for many reasons, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find they all had strong foundations:

  1. They all had a simple idea central to the campaign.
  2. They were bold, brave and innovative.
  3. They were perfectly targeted at their audiences.

Don’t be surprised to see these campaigns resurface again in some form; good ideas don’t go flat.

I acknowledge soft drinks aren’t exactly healthy, but what valuable marketing lessons, if any, can pharma brands draw from these campaigns? The answer is plenty; the principles of marketing are still the same. 

If you’re the underdog with smaller pockets, be brave, think big, and above all, have a good idea that will transform your brand and live long in the memory.

And in any case, what’s the worst that could happen?