There's a big focus on digital these days, but the best print adverts can still pack a real punch, be it in a magazine or newspaper or on the street. Like digital ads, clever print ads have to compete for our limited attention. They have the added potential challenge of being static, and it's very easy for a reader to turn the page with barely a glance.
But while the best print ads may be less hi-tech than newer advertising channels, with a little ingenuity, they can be highly memorable. An arresting image and clever copy are usually the key, drawing us in long enough for us to process the message. Below, we've gathered a collection of some of the best print adverts from brands both big and small. Some are clever and creative, some made us laugh and others are hard-hitting or even controversial, but they also show how powerful clever pint ads can still be.
For more inspiration, take a look at our pick of the best billboard advertising. And if you want to work on your own designs, see our pick of the best Adobe Illustrator tutorials.
Click on the icon in the top-right of each advert to see the full-size image.
Spoiler alert: Ikea is going to crop up several times on this list of the best print adverts. This print campaign was one of its most recent, designed specifically for a store in the United Arab Emirates by DAVID Madrid and INGO Hamburg. It breaks one of the fundamental rules of advertising by recognising that its products are sometimes not the solution and actually get cast aside when children seek human contact.A passport to adventure (Image credit: Land Rover)
The best print ads often grab our attention by playing with our recognition of certain well-known products. That's best achieved through a simple, clear idea. This 2012 Land Rover print ad features two things we immediately recognise: a heavily stamped passport and the distinctive shape of a Land Rover. The ad was the work of RKCR/Y&R (now ). The collage cleverly communicates the Land Rover's all-terrain characteristics, suggesting that it's ready for the challenge of any destination you might visit next. Now if only Land Rover's could fly.Not everything is what it seems (Image credit: Burger King)
At first glance at Burger King's 2022 ad, you'd be forgiven for thinking you're staring at a macro close-up of some red meat. But no, those are peppers, beetroot and radicchio. This one is designed to make you double-take.
"Sorry for the confusion, meat lovers," reads the tagline – and indeed, you wouldn't know that's veg you're looking at. From the deep red colour to those thin fibres, the whole thing looks disconcertingly, well, meaty. This one was nominated for a CB at 10 Award as the best print ad of the decade.Tools for a draftsman (Image credit: Staedtler)
This campaign from a German pencil brand (by Leo Burnett Hong Kong) might just have left the sharpest impression yet. The poster for Staedtler pencils shows what looks, at first glance, like a bunch of bizarrely sharpened pencils. But look a little closer, and it becomes clear that you're looking at a series of impossibly intricate buildings carved into the lead. Find out more here.Have a break. Have a Kit-Kat. (Image credit: Sam Hennig)
Every now and again a concept ad comes along that's so brilliantly done, it fools people into thinking it's an official design. Sam Hennig recently created this Kit-Kat ad, which plays on lockdown life so cleverly it's gained massive amounts of attention across the internet.
Made for the One Minute Briefs Twitter account, the advert shows a daily schedule, totally consumed by Zoom meetings, with a Kit-Kat duo blocking out two slots in the middle, at 3pm. It's simple, relevant and completely on-brand. In fact, it's so clever, many are praising Kit-Kat itself for the genius, before realising it actually has nothing to do with the brand, officially (though KitKat and Zoom have responded to it via Twitter). Read more about it here.It's not a new ad but people have given it some recent internet love (Image credit: Norwegian Airlines)
This ad resurfaced recently on the internet, with folk going wild for the genius concept, so we thought it worth including in this roundup. Originally created in 2015 by Stockholm-based agency , the ad, titled Flag of Flags, highlights five hidden flags inside Norway's (including France, the Netherlands and Finland). The destinations (and, of course, prices) are listed inside the rectangles in a pleasingly clean sans-serif typeface.We're confused (Image credit: KFC Spain on Twitter)
When KFC opened a new restaurant in an area of Majorca known locally as "where Ikea is"), the fast food chain decided to lean in to the association. Madrid agency PS21 mimicked Ikea's colour scheme and typography for the ad, leading to some good old brand banter between the unlikely rivals.A utensil not to be messed with (Image credit: KNSK)
There's nothing worse than trying to cut, well, anything with a blunt knife. And so Hamburg-based design agency KNSK have nailed this print advert for the WMF Grand Gourmet knife. We're not sure why you'd ever need a knife that sharp, but this eye-catching ad leaves us in no doubt that this is one kitchen utensil you shouldn't mess about with.Not lemon (Image credit: Volkswagen)
In 1960, VW sold its trustworthy design to the world by labelling a car a lemon, the word commonly used to describe production defects. It had a minor default, not noticeable to the eye but even so it was taken off the market.
Well, fast forward almost 60 years and a Beetle is, once more, taken off the market. This time it's not for any default but simply because tastes have changed. And so it is a 'lime', and worthy of our print adverts roundup.Can you guess why the 'U's are missing? (Image credit: Yellow)
Ad agency Yellow uses a series of wide-eyed animals to highlight the very real problem animals face during Diwali celebrations. With super-bold imagery and bright colours, the campaign keeps the festival spirit. Juxtaposed against this, however, are the terrified eyes and shocking face masks of beloved pets and animals.
The images, strong enough to make this one of the best print adverts of all time, show how the animals could protect themselves against the different types of pollution were they able to, highlighting how it is down to the humans around them to protect them.
Or as the ad presents it: it's down to 'U': hence why the key letters are missing.We believe you (Image credit: DDB Mozambique)
The importance of safe sex can be a tricky topic to address, but DDB Mozambique took a humorous route with this print ad for Lirandzo condoms. The designs feature famously terrifying youngsters from well-known horror stories, including the creepy twins from The Shining, and The Ring's goosebump-inducing Samara. Would you want one of these guys living in your house?Get the Mac Pro look for less (Image credit: IKEA)
The previous model may have been likened to a trash can, but the when Apple unveiled its new Mac Pro in June 2019, the design drew unkind comparisons of its own: there was something decidedly cheese grater-ish about it. IKEA Bulgaria jumped into the discussion immediately, and within a few days it had released this killer ad. Created by advertising studio The Smarts, the design takes a bite out of Apple with its cheeky tagline and clever lower-case 'i' on the product name.Found your dream kitchen? (Image credit: Felipe Salazar)
We love a good optical illusion here at Creative Bloq, and we've seen them come in all forms, from still images that appear to move to images that appear to change colour but don't. They're great for insights into how our brains work, but sometimes an optical illusion can make a great print ad too. The designer Felipe Salazar created this ad to advertise the kitchen offerings of Colombia's Hiper Centro Corona chain. At first glance it looks like a page of classified ads, but it's been designed in such a way as to form the shape of a kitchen, complete with extractor fan and kitchen tops.One day we'll look back at this and laugh
Popular yeasty spreadable, Marmite, has carved out an admirable little niche for itself as shorthand for anything that polarises opinion. And over the last couple of years there's been nothing quite so Marmitey in the UK as the result of a certain referendum, so this recent ad, created by Oliver's in-house team at Unilever, feels kind of inevitable. Well played, Marmite. Too soon, but well played.Shout out to the words people
There's nothing particularly new about using pictograms to spell out a message in an advert, but we love the twist behind this one. It's a recruitment ad for a copywriter put out by RBH, and the illustrated pictograms spell out 'Copywriter needed', with the ad going on to state that, 'The pictures people have taken over. We need a words person.''You eat what they eat' print ad campaign from Ogilvy
The amount of plastic being dumped in the ocean is so far beyond what we can comprehend that it doesn't bear thinking about. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't, as the team at German advertising company Ogilvy highlight with this campaign for Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS), an international non-profit, marine wildlife conservation organisation. The print ad campaign depicts a number of different fish, misshapen by various plastic objects, with the tagline 'You eat what they eat'. The ad goes on to encourage viewers to help clean up our oceans by donating to Sea Shepherd.This print ad makes clever use of McDonald's iconic 'M'
Another great offering from McDonald's, this time from the team at Leo Burnett, who followed the modern and minimal aesthetics of McDonald's communication with this striking visual. In a clever use of illustration, the iconic 'M' becomes lights in the night, sending viewers the message that no matter what time they want to visit, even in the middle of the night, McDonald's is open for business.There's never just one
Boeker Public Health is a major pest management and food safety company based in the Middle East. JWT Dubai created these beautiful-but-gross print ads based on the idea that when it comes to pests, if there’s one, there will be more. The agency focused on replicated an authentic Russian Matryoshka doll aesthetic, first painting each design onto a wooden surface, then mapping these designs onto a 3D rendering of a doll. The project picked up multiple awards.Ethos painted real fruit for this campaign
This long-running print ad campaign can be found on the streets and subway stations of Montreal, promoting an all-day electronic music festival that is held every Sunday in a park throughout the summer. The adverts feature bright, poppy photography combining fruits with musical equipment; a simple concept that effectively captures the idea of ‘fresh sounds’. Ethos, the studio behind the campaign, created the images by photographing real objects that had been hand-painted in different colours.Have you been sat in your job too long?
Created by Joe Public United, this print campaign for a job portal aims to motivate people to stop slogging it out in a job they don’t like. Deftly retouched photos show bored workers at their desks, sat still for so long mould has started to grow on their bodies, or spiders have set up their webs on them.Kill it. Kill it with fire
If there's one thing we all know about KFC, it's that it's finger-lickin' good, and it's this irrefutable fact that's inspired this series of frankly unsettling print ads. In them, everyday objects suddenly sprout mouths wherever your fingers might touch them, in the hope of licking off a little of the Colonel's chickeny goodness. It's the work of Zane Zhou, along with LamanoStudio in Chile. Thanks for tonight's nightmares, guys.
It's been over 50 years since homosexuality was decriminalised in England and Wales, but today it's still illegal in 72 countries around the world – and punishable by death in eight. To highlight this, Absolut, in collaboration with LGBTQ charity Stonewall and BBH London, created this series featuring close-up shots of same-sex kisses, with many of the subjects coming from the countries where these kisses could land them in prison, or worse.Feeling a sense of déjà vu?
If these clever adverts for Heinz look kind of familiar, it's with good reason. They originally featured in an episode of Mad Men where Don Draper tried to pitch a series of ads showing food that goes great with ketchup, but without the ketchup itself visible. Draper argued that people would fill in the gaps for themselves and create a stronger association in their mind, but Heinz wasn't going for it. In real life, however, the company's on board with the idea, with DAVID Miami, rolling out these near-exact reproductions of Draper's pitch.
Burger King prides itself on flame-grilling its burgers rather than frying them, but we all know how fire can misbehave if you don't keep a close eye on it, right? Burger King holds the record for the most restaurants that have burned down since 1954, and that's the brilliant angle seized by DAVID Miami in one of its many innovative campaigns for the company, using genuine photos of blazing BKs to emphasise how it cooks its burgers.Coleslaw, anyone?
In spring 2018, the unthinkable happened. KFC ran out of chicken. Thanks to problems with a new distributors, the Colonel ended up temporarily closing most of its 900 UK restaurants. KFC handled it like a true pro, putting its hands up and accepting responsibility, and bringing in Mother London to create a print ad apology that instantly went viral. It even picked up a Wood D&AD Pencil in writing for advertising. Check out more companies that have mastered the art of saying sorry (or not) in our roundup of the good, the bad, and the WTF of brand apologies.This print ad doubles up as a pregnancy test
Usually, if someone wants to wee on your advert, it's not a good sign. However, Ikea actively encouraged it in this crib advert, which doubles up as a pregnancy test. If the result was positive, the retailer would offer the mum-to-be a half-price crib, shaving pounds off the several thousand they'll be shelling out for their upcoming bundle of joy. To create this ad, agency Åkestam Holst worked in partnership with material technology company Mercene Labs.
According to Delta, world travellers are more likely to attract right swipes on Tinder, but what if you can't afford to go away to snap that perfect profile pic? That's what Delta – along with Wieden+Kennedy New York and Colossal Media – addresses with the Delta Dating Wall, an epic print advert in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, featuring exotic backdrops that you can stand against for a selfie, instantly making you a lot more windswept and interesting.
Wieden+Kennedy London was tasked with raising the profile of Chambord among a target audience of women aged 24-35. It used the campaign to push back against the pressure on women to conform to certain rules with its 'Because No Reason' tagline that encourages people to do what they like, just because they like it. Chambord with cabbage? Why not?
You never know what you'll find when you go shopping in TK Maxx, and the spontaneous, surprising nature of the shopping experience in this designer discount shop is brought to the fore by this campaign emphasising the 'ridiculous possibilities' that lie inside. It's the work of Wieden+Kennedy, with other examples highlighted including smartly dressed women scaling the side of a building on a rope made of silk scarves, and a biker doing ballet.
This print ad campaign was created by Leo Burnett France, and plays on the idea that with Jeep, you can go wherever you like and 'see what you want to see'. Each ad features an image of an animal, which, when turned upside down, turns into another creature from the other side of the world: the giraffe becomes a penguin, the elephant a swan and the doe a sea-lion.The Miami Ad School saves paper with this clever print ad
It's a bold move for a company that has built itself on selling paper books. When Penguin needed to push its audiobook offering, Miami Ad School decided to tackle the eco issues of paper production head-on. The intricate illustration in the bark is a lovely touch.Feeling snuffly?
Ogilvy once again proves itself as a print advertisement master, this time in a campaign for allergy medicine. Simple yet effective colours and a smart illustration trick – using the silhouette of common allergens to 'block' the figure's nose – make this an ad that pops from the page.The monochrome colour scheme perfectly complements the output
Ogilvy is known for creating some of the best print advertisements around the world. This is just another example of its brilliant work. Created for Fevikwik Instant Adhesive, it's one of a three-part print advertisement series that uses clever illustration and a monochrome colour scheme to its fullest potential.Rock music meets Photoshop with this simple and sleek print ad
Created by DLV BBDO in Milan, Italy, the simple execution of this print advertisement works wonders for music magazine Rolling Stone. A cool image paired with a brilliant tag line ('We are made of rock') capture the brand's attitudes, product and ethos effortlessly. Using a signature-like handwriting font also ties in with the rock star aesthetic.This brilliantly inventive ad homes in on the benefits of yoga practice for your back
Created by Israel-based advertising agency McCann, this print ad for Ashtanga Yoga homes is on the benefits of yoga. In it, the bones of the spine are transformed into a snake; a concept that also deftly captures the idea that yoga will bring you a super-flexible back. The tagline 'Before your back attacks you, Ashtanga Yoga at the Garage fitness club', drives the point home.
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