How to Advertise in 2021 – The Digital Ideas that are Shaping the Future


Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last decade you should be well aware that the advertising landscape has undergone a tectonic shift.

For what felt like centuries, TV and newspapers reigned supreme and it’s only just now looking like the floor has fallen out from under these traditional one directional media platforms.

To be advertising on TV and in print in this day and age is kind of being the last guy still riding his horse and cart into town while everyone else is cruising in a comfy, late model sedan with air conditioning and GPS.

Sure. They both get you to where you want to go, but one definitely comes more feature packed and feels more at home in the current social climate.

I guess what I’m trying to say is: TV and print have had their day.

They’re done and dusted.


Over she wrote.

The fat lady has sung.


Now it’s all about digital.

Digital. Digital. Digital.

We’ve got digital watches. Digital fridges. Digital radios. Digital houses. Digital pets. We’ve even got digital digits for God’s sakes. The shift of every aspect of our lives being digitised has been total and there’s no going back.

If you want to survive in this bold new world then you’re going to have to embrace it. It isn’t enough for a business or brand to be slinging out messages left, right and centre through all the usual suspects and the same tired channels.

Now audiences want to engage and react through their phones, computers and tablets.

They want to like and subscribe. To retweet, follow and comment.

The savvy business owner of the 21st century knows how to conjure and craft new and innovative experiences that leverage the innate interactivity of these digital platforms. They keep their audiences entertained and always guessing with the clever ways they push the boundaries of the medium.

And the possibilities are only growing and will only continue to grow as new products become available.

We’re now at the stage where we’ve got little talking pods that chill out in our living rooms and kitchens. Their sole purpose: to inform us what the weather is like outside, thus eliminating the need to ever look out a window.

The future is now people!

You can order a pizza with an emoji for God’s sake. If that’s not progress than I don’t know what is.

The world is going full digital. So should you.

In order to help you in that we’ve put together a list – this list – of all the best, emerging digital advertising ideas that have come out in recent months.

These ideas are fresh.

How fresh?

Fresher than a shimmering salmon jumping up a glacial stream into the waiting mouth of a brown bear in the early days of spring. Can you taste it?

That’s how fresh.

These ideas leverage and play with all aspects of the digital space. They push social engagement, show amazing technical achievement and rethink the very nature of what it is to advertise.

Take inspiration, guys and unpack your brain from its little box. It’s time to think big.


1. THE RIDERLESS BIKE | Steve Waugh Foundation

The Steve Waugh foundation is a charity foundation set up by former Australian cricket captain and all round legend, Steven Waugh.

The foundation aims to provide assistance and support for children living in Australia suffering from some of the world’s rarest diseases. To aid in this effort, every year the foundation runs an event called The Captain’s Ride.

This six day cycle though NSW was made all the more special last year thanks to the inclusion of one very special entrant.

We’re not talking about some high profile celebrity swooping in to add a little star power and flex their influence.

Nope. What makes this stunt so interesting is that the hype and talk that surrounded this event was all about who wasn’t riding.

blue riderless bike example

Representing all the children who couldn’t take part in the event because of the health battles they are facing, was the cute as a button Riderless Bike.

This feat of engineering and creativity is powder blue and comes complete with training wheels and a bell.

Outfitted with 3D camera and inbuilt electric motor, people could live stream footage of the event from the perspective of the tiny bike as it raced along with the event participants.

The bike broke down the barrier between user and the event, giving them the chance to participate in the action and get on board with a great cause.

People could even sponsor the bike.

The idea was a triumph and won over the hearts and minds of people all across the country. It’s taken out countless awards for creativity and has done wonders to grow awareness of the event!

2. HUMAN DRONE | Samsung

Technology is great. Plain and simple.

It’s made our lives easier and more convenient. Connected us in innumerable ways and forwarded human progress like nothing else before it.

But as spectacular as it is having all this convenience and progress there’s still one glaring misstep that can’t be overlooked.

October 21, 2015, the date that The Doc and Marty travel to in Back to the Future II, has been and gone and yet still we’re skating around on boards with wheels and trucks like neanderthals.

Hollywood. You promised me. Where the hell is it? Where the hell’s my hoverboard?

Attempts have been made, but come on. This is not what we agreed on.

man on hoverboard

Not even close, guys.

At least someone is tackling the issue and making some good strides in getting us closer to what was originally envisioned.

To mark the release of their Gear 360, a 360° camera that connects to your smartphone Samsung went ahead and did the only logical available to them.

360 photo of digital world

They partnered with YouTube behemoth and 360 enthusiast Casey Neistat to produce a winter holiday themed stunt that leveraged his massive online cult celebrity while showcasing the creative potential of the new product.

The results are spectacular.

Just watch the video.

If you don’t have the time to sit through the video, here’s the long and short of it.

The team built their own super powered drone. One powerful enough to lift a man clear off the ground several metres into the air.

Now all you need to do is attach a tether for someone strapped to a snowboard to hold onto and you’ve got a kind of drone-snowboard-chariot hybrid that probably comes closer to acting like a fully function hoverboard than anything we’ve seen before it.

Now just throw your rider in a red Santa suit and you’ve got viral gold!

To those of you who look at the stunt and say it’s perhaps a tad overkill for such a little camera, I say… yeah probably. But you can’t argue with those results.

The jaw-dropping 360 video of Casey being pulled by the drone was released in conjunction with a behind-the-scenes 360 video that immersed the viewer while perfectly showcasing the potential of the product.

The campaign made an immediate and massive impact, garnering digital and broadcast coverage from outlets including ABC, Fox News, Adweek, AdAge, Yahoo, Mashable, The Verge, and The Huffington Post. To date, the content has earned over 66 million video views, 151 million impressions, and over 3 million direct engagements.

impression stats

3. GAME CHANGER | Under Armour

You can’t talk digital without talking about gaming. They kind of go hand in hand.

Gaming is no longer just the realm of the basement dwelling geeks and garden variety social pariah.

Nope. The world has gone video game mad.

With a more genres than you can shake a controller at and a title to suit any taste, gaming has firmly made its way into the mainstream.

If you were to jump online today you’d be greeted by an army of sports obsessed man-children, slamming down their pre-workout, while their match of FIFA or NBA 2k18 struggles to load on their overworked, overheating consoles.

Games like these are connecting a massive, sport obsessed audience who are as hopelessly passionate about their digital team’s performance as they are about their real world counterpart’s.

In 2017 the gaming industry recorded earnings to the tune of $108.9 billion and it’s expected that this number will break the $120 billion mark by 2020.

That’s a huge chunk of change.

It doesn’t take a genius to realise that if you’re pulling in that kind of bank and have an audience absolutely transfixed by everything going on around their passion – in this case their sport – that there is massive potential to create a mountain of hype for your brand.

The platform and the people are there. All you need is an idea.

That’s where Under Armour comes in.

Flash back to 2016.

It’s the end of the NBA season.

Stephen Curry has had a stellar season and done the impossible.

He statistically played better than his videogame self in the NBA 2k franchise. The first and only person to ever pull off such a feat.

So to celebrate this achievement, as well as winning the award for being the 2016 NBA Most Valuable Player, Under Armour approached 2k Games and the NBA with a simple idea.

underarmour ad steph curry

Because Curry upped his game so much in the real world that year, his video game rating needed to be boosted to keep up.

For 30 hours only, Under Armour and 2k Games gave the fans and players their chance to play like the real Steve Curry.They maxed out his stats and made him the greatest shooter in NBA 2k history.

The fans ate it up.

The event was launched with a broadcast spot airing live during Curry’s MVP acceptance speech. Then gamers everywhere logged on to play.
Fans played the Under Armour edition of Curry 156 percent more than the regular version during the duration of the promotion. This drove the game’s biggest ever spike in gameplay with more than 7 million users flooding to play that week.

Meanwhile, mentions linking Under Armour with Curry doubled.

This is a great example of a brand, one knowing their audience and two, knowing how to move them. You could say they “played” on their passions.

See what I did there.

Under Armour saw the potential of a medium that has barely been considered before and absolutely blew the lid on its potential to drive a conversation.


4. SOUPTUBE | Campbell’s Soup

Soup. What can you say about soup?

It’s filling, humble and adequate. These are all good things to be.

Soup is the food equivalent of that one friend we all have. You know the one.

They’re always there for you. Perfectly polite and fine to be around but you’d be hard pressed to think of time that they did something so outrageously brilliant that it’s burnt its way into your long term memory.

Soup is the vanilla of the food world. That’s to say, it would be if it wasn’t for vanilla already being the vanilla of the food world.

Public good will and commercial exposure of canned soup has until recently been in a state of decline and degradation.

After a brief but meteoric rise to prominence in the 1960s, as the subject of a series of prints for the artist Andy Warhol, this once staple food product has struggled to capture imaginations of the consumer audience and has steadily slid into obscurity.

campbell's soup ad

Great stuff, Andy.

That is until a Campbell’s Australia decided to do something about it and turn the ship around.

Their plan. An all out offensive targeting YouTube’s 1.3 billion content hungry active users using video pre roll ads. You know, those little ads that you have to sit through while you wait for your video to start. They’re how YouTube makes their money and keeps their content free.

A pre roll campaign in itself is nothing new. Plenty of brands leverage the platform to reach their audience across all their devices.

What makes Campbell’s campaign so exceptional isn’t that it thought big. It’s that it thought small. Down to the user’s individual video small.

Most pre roll campaigns run as a straight massage. Every audience member has the same message broadcast out to them and brands best hope that that message resonates with at least some of the people who catch a glimpse of it.

In what can only be described as a move of mad brilliance, Campbells decided to turn this approach on its head and in doing so unlocked the undiscovered potential of the YouTube platform.

They made a series of small ads. A series of over 1700 small ads to be precise. Each of which had its contents intuitively informed by the content of the video that the targeted user was about to view.

campbell's soup youtube ads

The core message simple. No matter what you’re into Campbell’s has a soup suit your tastes. It’s kind of like Apple’s old slogan: “There’s an App for That.” Except… You know. For soup.

Just have a look. It works!

Only through a digital platform like YouTube could you ever hope to have a chance of pulling a stunt like this off.

The sheer ambition to write over 1700 unique headlines all relating to the subject of soup is crazy in itself and deserves an honourable mention. But it’s when you take into account the amazing technical element that went into making the idea run so simply and seamlessly do you start to appreciate the work involved.

It was an amazing advertising campaign and the numbers speak for themselves.

Over 2.5 million impressions and a 55.6% increase in sales of Campbell’s Simply Soup.

That’s a lot of soup.


It’s something that we can all remember. Laying on a grassy hill and making pictures out of the fluffy, formless clouds that lazily rolled and morphed their way across the blue sky.

Some of us never stopped playing this game.

In fact, there are whole communities that exist for people to come together and share photos of stuff that they’ve come across in their everyday life that reminds them of other stuff.

It’s so beautiful. So pure.

metal plate that looks like a face

Check it out.

Now you might be asking yourself: when you consider how satisfying and universally enjoyed this pastime is, why hasn’t anyone tried to somehow leverage it to promote their brand?

And to you, smart reader, I say “Fear not!” If there’s a way for an advertiser to tap into and exploit your childhood memories and feed off your nostalgia they’ll find a way to do it. It’s just a matter of time.

That said. Not all attempts by advertisers to play on our sense of collective nostalgia are successful. It’s a gambit at the best of times and if it’s not done juuuuuust right a hapless brand will find themselves being smashed by a wave of jaded cynicism coming out of the comment section.

I think I’d rather go through puberty again then go back to Explorer. Not everything about the past is worth digging back up.

Case and point.

The modern audience sniffs out insincerity in the same way a Great White tracks a drop of blood through a vast ocean. And for both it’s instinct to close the distance and go in for the kill.

Enter Cheetos.

In 2016 their brand was going strong and there was plenty of good will attached to it.

Where they were struggling was in trying to find new ways to connect with their audience and enter in new and meaningful conversations with them about their product.

How much can you say about Cheetos, really? They’re tasty, sure. But they don’t really look much like anything, or do all that much. They’re just puffy. And yellow. Like cheese clouds.

Little, puffy, yellow, cheese clouds.


If you start looking at Cheetos the same way you used to look at clouds, suddenly they transcend their snack status. What they are is limited purely by your imagination.

A dog. The Sydney Opera House. The Virgin Mary.

Whatever the hell you want.

Cheetos opened this idea up to the public. If you found a Cheeto that reminded you of Obama then Cheetos wanted you to let the world know.

They set up a “Cheetos Museum” online that gave the world a space to upload and share their cheesy discoveries.

From there their rapt audience could virtually stroll through the museum’s collection, marvelling at the endless variety of shapes on show and the mad connections that people had dreamt up for them.

Cheetos Museum from Kristin Graham on Vimeo.

In their own brilliant, tongue in cheek way they elevated their humble snack item to the level of art. While doing very little of the work.

Cheeto’s own, excited customers were the ones generating all the content that went into the museum. Whenever they made a new discovery, up it went onto the site for the wider world to marvel at.

That’s the beauty of digital advertising. If you can get people excited about an idea and present them an outlet to express their opinion then all you have to do is sit back relax while your campaign drives itself.

Why this idea sp is that it couldn’t have really worked

Now, when pop open a pack of Cheetos you’re a kid again. Laying on the grassy hill making things out of the plump, fluffy clouds.