7 of the most successful adverts UK start-ups have used to get more eyeballs on their brand

Witty, eye-catching and powerful, these adverts range from the sublime to the ridiculous, but they all have one thing in common – they work

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Just one eye-catching advertising campaign can change everything for a burgeoning start-up.

But in this day and age, advertising is inescapable. It’s on the tube, it’s on buses, it’s all over our phones and it’s in our ears.

It’s a tough world out there and the most successful adverts are designed to cut through the noise and really stand out.

But advertising a new business presents a particular challenge when you can’t trade off a familiar logo or branding like established companies. Consumers won’t respond to the same old stuff. That’s why you need to get creative.

Take a look at these clever, funny, and powerful recent adverts from a few of the UK’s most notable start-ups.

If they don’t inspire you, we don’t know what will.


elvie ad

The more eagle eyed amongst you might have noticed an unusual sight in East London on April 1, taking advantage of the Mother’s Day spirit.

Women’s tech start-up Elvie, which has launched a silent, wearable breast pump and a pelvic floor trainer, placed giant inflatable breasts on several rooftops in honour of its #FreetheFeed campaign, launched to help more British women feel comfortable breastfeeding in public.

Though only there for the day, this ingenious campaign used humour to raise awareness of a sensitive social issue, and promote its revolutionary product.

The Elvie website stated: “Every woman has the right to decide how and where they feed their children without feeling guilty or embarrassed about their parenting choices.

“#FreeTheFeed is an invitation to stand with all those women that have felt shamed or confined when breastfeeding or pumping.

“We want to empower women to feel safe and comfortable breastfeeding or pumping in public and encourage the British public to support them breastfeeding in public.

“Each boob is different to represent the diversity of women’s bodies, from skin tone and size to stretch marks and nipple hairs.”


sportpursuit ad

SportPursuit’s ‘Have a cake and eat it too’ campaign showed how a brand can use the power of data to tailor every aspect of an advert to a target audience.

The company, which offers exclusive week-long deals on a range of high-end sports brands to its four million members, worked with growth marketing partner DCMN for creation and production, TV media buying and planning, and optimisation using DCMN’s in-house attribution technology DC Analytics.

This data-driven approach was used to cast an actor that most resonated with SportPursuit’s target age group. DCMN surveyed 250 representative consumers and asked them to choose between photos of three male models. This meant that SportPursuit could create the advert with absolute confidence it would appeal to the right customers.

Speaking to DCMN, SportPursuit CEO Adam Pikett, says: “DCMN was the perfect partner for SportPursuit as we push into the German market and run our first major campaign outside of the UK. Their international expertise and data-led approach meant we felt in safe hands as we tested TV in Germany for the first time.”


muzmatch lionel

You might have seen these amusing adverts on buses across London from Muslim dating service muzmatch – backed by venture firm Hambro Perks.

Here, they’re relying on the familiarity of two hugely popular global artists – Lionel Richie and Adelle for those who aren’t so pop-culture-savvy – to catch people’s attention and then subvert expectations.

Created in-house, the ads were designed to appeal to non-Muslim’s, and counter the prevailing depiction of Muslim life in the media.

Shahzad Younas, CEO of muzmatch, explains:

“Key to our campaign was appreciating that many non-Muslims would see these ads, hence something that showed this particular aspect of Muslim life in a positive light with a dose of humour and originality was critical for our ad to stand out for the right reasons.

“Sadly, a lot of media exposure of Muslims tends to be negative, so anything we can do to counter that in a way that equally appeals to young Muslims is important to us. We’re proud to say that all our ads are created in-house; it is always great recognition when leading marketing agencies reach out to us asking which agency came up with the idea and design!”

Jimmy’s Iced Coffee

jimmy's iced coffee

This eye-catching campaign was run across the capital ahead of London Coffee Week, featuring Jimmy’s Iced Coffee co-founder Jim Cregan wearing nothing but his pants “and a coffee-infused grin.”

Daring humour isn’t going to work for every brand. Founders of law firms should almost always keep their clothes on in the spirit of professionalism, but the approach is a perfect match with Jimmy’s tongue-in-cheek marketing.

The brand built on this awareness by getting out on the streets to hand out free cartons of coffee.

Cregan, co-founder of Jimmy’s Iced Coffee, comments: “It’s crowded out there and we wanted to turn heads. Literally. I am so proud of my body and my iced coffee that I thought I’d get them both out for the people of London. They are both truly works of art and as summer is fast approaching, I thought it made sense to get in the ‘sun’s out gun’s out mood’. I truly believe that if we all walked round in our pants with an iced coffee, the world would be a better place.”

“The idea came from a chat about the most ridiculous thing we could do. So, we did it. The idea came quite quickly but we have spent a bit of time planning the finer details. Shoreditch has such a fantastic coffee scene and what better time to give people a taste of Jimmy’s Iced Coffee than during one of the best coffee weeks of the year?”

Starling Bank

starling ad

Starling Bank’s witty advert says exactly what you wouldn’t want a bank to say, but it works.

With trust in the banking sector still not fully recovered after last decade’s crash, Starling pitches itself in direct opposition to the more unscrupulous players in finance by sending it up.

Instead, the brand appeals to contemporary consumers by highlighting its mobile-only, transparent service, which offers much greater control to its users.


floom advert 1floom advert 7floom advert 3

Online flower delivery service Floom piggybacked on Mother’s Day at the end of March, one of the brand’s peak periods of the year, with this poignant and effective campaign.

Titled ‘Mum, for the time you…’, the campaign featured artwork as an open letter to Mum’s, encouraging people to respond to the blank message. For example, ‘Mum, for the time you… were always there for me’.

The campaign artwork was fly posted around key areas of the city of London, encouraging people to write their own messages after ‘Mum, for the time you…’, whilst acting as a fitting reminder for people to thank their Mum’s for all they do for them ahead of Mother’s Day.

Lana Elie, CEO, said: ” The artwork for the campaign was accompanied with an image of a Floom floral bouquet so the public could make the connection between the message and consider treating their Mum for Mother’s Day. This campaign aimed to inspire an emotional, thought-provoking reaction from the audience by asking a question.

“Floom wanted them to think about their Mother’s Day message, which ultimately resulted in a campaign that encouraged shareability and increased Floom’s brand awareness. The campaign managed to achieve some great emotional, engaging and also humorous responses so it was considered a great success! 

“Therefore, we decided to take the campaign online, specifically to social media. Floom took the text only artwork design onto Instagram so people could screenshot the template and then fill in their own ‘Mum, for the time you…’, before sharing.”


habito underground

Finally, there’s this bold campaign from online mortgage broker Habito. These ads on the London underground were released alongside two new 10 second TV ads aimed at further highlighting the plight of UK mortgage-holders and would-be homeowners.

The ads depict characters overwhelmed by the physical manifestations of anxiety and stress caused by the traditional mortgage process, who are saved from “death-by-mortgage” by using Habito.

Abba Newbery, chief marketing officer at Habito, said: “Our ads are deliberately colourful, playful and irreverent. But while the scenarios are heavily dramatised they reflect an all-too real truth: that people find the process of getting a mortgage utterly hellish. Our insights tell us that two thirds of people suffer from mortgage stress and £15.5bn is wasted on mortgages every year because homeowners are paying too much interest.

“Frankly that is unacceptable. For too long the odds have been stacked against customers. Baffling jargon and a lack of transparency when it comes to switching means they are completely disempowered. At Habito we’re turning the mortgage market on its head and putting customers back in the driving seat.” 

DCMN is a growth marketing partner for digital businesses and start-ups. It helps them to scale locally and internationally using a combination of creative, media planning, campaign strategies and its own technologies. To date, it has helped more than 230 brands including Secret Escapes, ASOS, eve sleep and muzmatch.

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