50 Genius Print Ads With Brilliant Design Techniques

Break through the advertising clutter with a solid concept and creative design.

We are constantly exposed to advertising in our daily lives, be it online, in print, on billboards or through our television screens. In fact, research suggests we are exposed to, on average, 362 ads per day (not including brand exposures) but only 3 per cent of these will make an impression. That’s just twelve ads a day that actually engage us.

So how do you break through the advertising clutter and make a memorable advertisement for your audience or target market? First come up with a solid concept and then consider your design. Attention to layout and presentation will help your ad get noticed; but attention to concept and creativity will help your ad be remembered.

Here are fifty print ads that are creatively brilliant. They have a solid concept topped off with great design.

01. Use the fold

This double page spread for Adidas: Forever Sport uses the fold as part of its design. Open and close the pages and the athlete crunches, lift weights and stretches.

01. Adidas_ Forever Sport
Adidas: Forever Sport

02. Make your audience look twice

Nobody likes bumper-to-bumper traffic – except perhaps motorcyclists who can dodge and weave through trucks, cars and buses like a maze. Honda Motorcycles captures this idea in a series of print ads that feature a variety of vehicles distorted and laid out like a maze.

02. Honda
Honda

03. Use animals to send an important message

A dog taking a selfie? Not quite. This ad by Ogilvy Istanbul is for Ford’s Rear View Camera and it features a dog staring straight into the camera – in effect, straight out to the audience – to bring feeling and emotion to an important message.

03. Ford Rear View Camera
Ford Rear View Camera

04. Remind your audience of what other people live with

Alzheimer is a debilitating disease that causes disruptive memory loss and those living with Alzheimer need to be constantly reminded of things in order to get through the day. This print ad by Simone Mascagni plays on that repetition, promoting World Alzheimer’s Day and reminding audiences of the challenges of Alzheimer.

04. World Alzheimer's Day
World Alzheimer’s Day

Create a buzz and design your own public awareness ad with these Canva templates: posters for campaigns against homelessness and poverty. Bring your posters to life and have them delivered to your doorstep with Canva Print!

05. Play with the magazine format

This ad for Alzheimer’s Day by Publicis in Belgian also has a concept based on memory loss. Using the format of the magazine medium, the ad shows ink dissolving or being brushed away, much like the memory of those living with Alzheimer.

05. Belgian League of Alzheimer's
Belgian League of Alzheimer

06. Make use of newspaper columns

Likewise, Ogilvy & Mather in Columbia used the columns of the classified ads to promote Carulla Knives. A series of ads show images of fish and vegetables sliced and diced between the columns in the newspaper.

06. Carulla Knives
Carulla Knives

07. Transform objects into parts of the body

Bike machinery becomes body machinery in this ad by Argentenian studio La Comunidad promoting the health benefits of cycling. Concept, design and consistency makes for an aesthetically appealing and easy to understand campaign.

07. Better by Bike
Better by Bike

Using templates from Canva Print Flyers, you can share your next biking adventure with other cycling enthusiasts. Templates here include: Illustrated Cycling Flyer, Cyclist Club Flyer, and Bike Cycling Club Flyer.

08. Turn the brand name into an adjective

Claire Heppner turned the brand name of everyone’s favourite spread into an adjective and showed some of the ways Nutella becomes ‘nutellable.’

08. Nutella
Nutella

09. Use storytelling

Who doesn’t love a good story? Marketing agency Lola Madrid used anagrams in a series of ads for Scrabble to tell a love story for word lovers. Lola executive creative director Pancho Cassis told Adweek the primary goal was “to convey that words are magical and powerful, and that they connect us with people.”

09. Scrabble
Scrabble

10. Reinterpret a famous image

To promote Faber-Castell’s range of “Artist Color Pencils” Ogilvy & Mather Singapore recreated famous paintings using thousands of color pencils – not to draw the paintings but as the actual medium. Look closely and you’ll see a sea of pencils meticulously planned and glued to reinterpret Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.”

10. Faber Castell
Faber Castell

11. Have fun with famous logos

Designed by Miami Ad School, these Sharpie print ads have fun with well-known logos. With the tagline “It all started with a Sharpie,” the ads playfully show how the logos for The Rolling Stones, Apple and Playboy may have come about.

11. Sharpie
Sharpie

12. Depict a feeling people can relate to

This campaign called “Work Ache” for painkillers Aspirina Bayer features a stapler painted with a man face down holding the sides of his head. It cleverly depicts how a headache can feel like you’re hammering your head on the desk.

12. Aspirina Bayer
Aspirina Bayer

13. Make color part of your message

Pearly white teeth are one of the goals of oral hygiene and beauty and as such these print ads for a teeth-whitening office simply state, “We don’t like yellow.” It demonstrates this tagline by turning typically yellow objects – lemons, bananas, egg yolks and a yellow duckie – white because, as they say, “we don’t like yellow.”

13. Dentiste Paris Loft
Dentiste Paris Loft

14. Be literal

This ad for the London Marathon by Reflex Spray has a shoe with a miniature re-creation of London on its sole. The shoe has literally run all over the city.

14. Reflex Spray
Reflex Spray for the London Marathon

Communicate the details of your upcoming marathon fundraising event with flyer templates from Canva. Templates here include: Fun Run Fundraising Flyer and Pink Fun Run Event Flyer.

15. Appeal to people’s tastebuds

Heinz appeals to its audiences’ tastebuds in this ad for tomato ketchup. According to the ad, your steak and French fries are going to taste like cardboard without their world famous sauce.  

15. Heinz
Heinz

16. Depict inspiration

“In every pencil there is an idea waiting to be discovered” states this series of ads for Faber Castell. It turns the lead of the pencil into a spotlight to depict a musician, writer and scientist having their light bulb moment of realization or inspiration.

16. Faber Castell
Faber Castell

17. Act on a once-in-a-lifetime moment

For the momentous occasion when Remembrance Day fell on the 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th year, DDB Canada paid tribute to the serving men and women with this simple but highly effective ad. They created a visual representation of the historic 11/11/11 day with veterans to in place of the numbers.

17. The Memory Project
The Memory Project

18. Use humour

This fun series of print ads for StaSoft by Ogilvy & Mather Johannesburg depicts tough guys Sylvester Stallone, Hulk Hogan and Chuck Norris as cloth caricatures. With the tagline “Softens even the toughest” the fabric portraits are humorous and above all engaging and memorable.

18. StaSoft
StaSoft

19. Be thought-provoking

Bulgarian designer Alexander Nedelev used retro game designs to highlight environmental gradation. He used the iconic designs of Space Invaders, Pac-Man and Arkanoid to represent diminishing numbers of whales, trees, plants and animal species. Cleverly, the tagline “It’s not a game anymore” uses grey and black text. The black text reading “It’s not me” is thought-provoking and possibly a commentary on a lack of responsibility or ability to affect to change.

19. Its not a game anymore
Its not a game anymore

Encourage people to join your cause by using a stunning poster that will turn their heads. Try these templates from Canva: Whale Marine Environmental Conservation Poster, Coral Reef Photo Environmental Protection Poster, and No Straw Movement Campaign Poster  

20. Transform a recognizable icon

These ads for Capacítate styles the recognizable ‘pin’ icon into a variety of businesses – a café, flower shop and restaurant. Promoting courses in entrepreneurship, it’s all about “plac[ing] your business on the map.”

20. Capacitate
Capacitate

21. Show don’t tell

Photographer Mikkel Jul Hvilshøj meticulously laid out food and cooking utensils and equipment for Eva Solo. The series of ads showcase the cookware product and ingredients in minimalist visual recipes.

21. Eva Solo
Eva Solo

22. Give letters life

Ultimately, this ad for Nescafé is just a lot of zig-zags laid out in rows and columns on a page. However, with the tagline “Nothing wakes you up as Nescafé,” these zig-zags become Z’s – for sleeping – and they eventually ‘wake up’ and become N’s – for Nescafë.

22. Nescafe
Nescafé

23. Use a visual metaphor

Ogilvy & Mather Columbia’s series of ads for Mercedes Benz’s Distronic Plus – an ‘automatic safe distance’ device – uses a series of images in which an animal or human is trying to connect two body parts. But look closer at the image and you’ll see the connection could prove to be deadly.

23. Mercedes Benz
Mercedes Benz Distronic Plus

24. Use bold colors

“Cut a Tree. Kill a Life.” The tagline is to-the-point, the graphics are simple and the colors are bold in this series of print ads that draws attention to the devastating effects of deforestation. The trunks of chopped-down trees take the shape of endangered animals dripping in blood.

24. Deforestation
Deforestation

Let your statement be heard with customizable posters from our collection of templates in Canva. Templates here include: Environmental Protection Poster and Plastic Bottle Environmental Protection Poster.

25. Exaggerate the product’s ability

This ad for Foxy Asso Ultra paper towels utilizes the product in an exaggerated display of its use in order to emphasize its ability to do the job.

25. Foxy Asso Ultra
Foxy Asso Ultra

26. Play on words

Viktor Kolodiazhnyi is rocking it with this oh-so-simple concept for Marshall Headphones and oh-so-effective series of print ads. Taking a rock and a metal ball, he adds earphones and transforms them into ‘hard rock’ and ‘hard metal.’

26. Marshall
Marshall Headphones

27. Arouse the taste buds

This minimalist ad for Japanese knives Miyabi looks good enough to eat. It’s clean, crisp and almost mouth watering – just like the watermelon it depicts.

27. Miyabi
Miyabi

28. Draw attention to imperfections

Food advertisements typically feature perfect looking food – the ‘supermodels’ of food, so to speak. But what of the imperfect and flawed? Agency Marcel Paris created a beautiful series of print ads for French supermarket chain Intermarché that makes ‘differently-shaped’ fruit and vegetables attractive in order to bring attention to food waste.

28. Intermarche
Intermarché

29. Highlight dangerous behaviour

This print advertisement for TopGear Magazine warns of the dangers of using social media while driving. It is a very simple concept that takes little interpretation with the tagline “Thames. Paul Johnson just checked in @ the bottom of the river Thames. Driving and social media just don’t mix.”

29. TopGear Magazine
TopGear Magazine

Have a go with these Canva posters and use them to promote safe driving practices. Templates here include: Drunk Driving Campaign Poster and Safety Driving Campaign Poster.

30. Amplify the product’s ingredients

A mountain of cheese might be to some people’s desire. For Pringles Galaxy, Chris Labrooy used 3D technology to transform a stack of cheese into, well, “Cheese with extra cheese and a side order of cheese.” Cheesy enough?

30. Pringles Galaxy
Pringles Galaxy

31. Trick the eye

This ad for VW Das Auto is a masterpiece of visual trickery. It appears three-dimensional on a two-dimensional surface, plays with perspective and tests physics.

31. VW Das Auto
VW Das Auto

32. Go for an extreme close up

Fanta Strawberry will leave your tongue feeling like a strawberry according to this print advertisement. The extreme close-up is eye-catching and well executed.

32. Fanta Strawberry
Fanta Strawberry

33. Be inspired by music

Inspired by Rimsky-Korsakov’s famous “The Flight of the Bumblebee,” Draft FCB created an ad that shows the power of Raid. With notes and musical symbols piled at the bottom of the page, Raid has, in effect, killed the bumblebee mid-flight.

33. Raid
Raid

34. Create a sense of taste and aroma

Fruits have very recognizable smells and tastes that are refreshing and satiating. This ad for tea brand Curtis takes advantage of the sensation of smell and taste that can come with looking at a piece of fruit. Add a little steam and your mouth starts water.

34. Curtis
Curtis

35. Unearth some fun facts

Here’s a fun fact: apparently 10 per cent of Europeans were conceived on Ikea beds. Ikea used that titbit of knowledge for this print campaign that inserts pictures of different Ikea beds in between generations of ancestors on a family tree. You’ll also find a washing machine, a kitchen sink and kitchen table in there because why keep things in the bedroom!

35. Ikea
Ikea

36. Make comparisons

This ad for World No Tobacco Day compares two sides of a woman’s face to demonstrate the ravaging effects of smoking. One side is young, fresh and bright; the other is aged, wrinkled and dull.

36. Ugly Truth
Ugly Truth

Edit your own ‘No Tobacco Day’ posters with these Canva templates: World No Tobacco Day Poster, Black and White No Tobacco Day Poster, and Grey Gradient No Tobacco Day Poster.

37. Create a sense of movement

Shanghai J&J Advertising cleverly uses a transparent page as part of this double page spread for DHL couriers. The courier moves from sender to receiver as you turn the page in order to demonstrate how fast DHL’s service is.

37. DHL 1
DHL
37. DHL 2
DHL

38. Create a sense of loss

Likewise, this double page spread for Greenpeace uses a smaller transitional page to show the effects of tree clearance. On one page you see a luscious tree in growth. Turn the page and only the stump remains.

38. Greenpeace 1
Greenpeace
38. Greenpeace 2
Greenpeace

39. Play with perception

Is that a balding man’s head? Or the top of a hamburger bun? Well, it’s both in this McDonald’s ad for Father’s Day. The ad cleverly plays with perception emphasised but its elongated dimensions.

39. McDonalds
McDonald’s

40. Acknowledge audience opinion

Not everyone loves marmite and not everyone loves George W. Bush (perhaps somewhat of an understatement). Marmite acknowledges audience opinion in this print ad, which aligns marmite with a portrait of Bush and the tagline “You either love it hate it.” True words.

40. Marmite
Marmite

41. Connect the tagline and image

A little honey will draw a crowd of bees while a little JD’s will draw a crowd of people. Accordingly, the tagline “Draws a Crowd” for Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey is bang on the mark and visually represented by a bottle swarming with people.

41. Jack Daniels
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey

42. Take advantage of a white page

You need to look closely at this McDonald’s ad promoting extra large coffee. Coffee stains around the corners of the page make for a subtle and effective ad that really uses a white page to its advantage.

42. McDonalds Coffee
McDonald’s Extra Large Coffee

43. Look to nature for inspiration

Advertising agency Legas Delaney created this series of print ads for Plant for the Planet. Each features a leaf cut with an image of industry or transport to represent nature’s ability to trap CO2.

43. Plant for the planet
Plant for the Planet

Plant the seeds of environmental awareness with these Canva poster templates: Tree Planting Student Council Poster, Environmental Protection Poster, and Nature Protection Poster.   

44. Create a mood

This ad for Oliver Brown uses relaxing imagery and colors to create a mood. Two cups of coffee have chocolate sprinkled in the shape of heavily tired eyes. And suitably so as Oliver Brown is “Open Late.”

44. Oliver Brown
Oliver Brown

45. Appeal to fans

This print ad by Publicis appeals to tv show CSI’s huge fan base by tapping into the show’s investigative genre. A giant footprint is a maze of evidence that leads to a corpse.

45. CSI
CSI

46. Animate inanimate objects

This series of ads by Juliano de Almeida use bright and playful images to promote University Cruzeiro do Sol. Pencils are animated with faces, clothing and jewellery and pencil shavings for hair.

46. University Cruzeiro do Sul
University Cruzeiro do Sol

47. Use optical illusions

This ad for Sanccob draws attention to the rapid decline in African penguins and is inspired by the artwork of Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher. Clever optical illusions are used to draw the viewer in and emphasize the message “See the reality before it’s too late.”

47. Sanccob
Sanccob

Campaign against one of the most pressing issues of today with these Canva posters: Penguin Island Global Warming Poster and White and Red Mountains Global Warming PosterGet your designs printed and encourage everyone to protect the environment!

48. Contrast technology

This Sony ad illustrates the capabilities of a USB drive by stacking CDs in place of the micro storage unit. It also cleverly demonstrates why and how new technology is making old technology obsolete.

48. Sony
Sony

49. Create an image with the product

Ariadne Colliard explored the origins of tea for this Tazo print campaign. Each tea bag features an image of architecture to represent the tealeaves’ origins.

49. Tazo
Tazo

50. Break a pattern

Our eyes quickly become accustomed to looking at patterns and visual systems so when you break that pattern or system the unordered element will stand out like a sore thumb. Indeed, this is the simple and effective concept behind VW’s ad campaign, “A bad part affects the entire system.”

50. Volkswagen
Volkswagen

Where to start with print ads?

Did you notice that the taglines and images are intimately connected in nearly all of these print ads? It demonstrates the importance of starting any print ad or campaign with a strong concept. So to make an impression think concept first, design second, and you’ll be on your way to making an ad that audiences notice, remember, engage with and, most importantly of all, act on.

Have you made your way around the Canva Design School yet? For another great article about Print check out Graphic Design for Print vs The Web: 15 Vital Differences You Need To Know About or to learn more about Advertising sink your teeth into 30 Advertisement Design Tips That Turn Heads: Brilliant Case Studies.

Rebecca is a freelance writer, researcher, and design historian. She has a Masters in the History of Decorative Arts and Design from Parsons The New School for Design, New York, and studies cultural history through the lens of architecture, design, and decorative arts.