The time-honoured mantra dictating that ‘you’ve got to speculate to accumulate’ has long guided marketing professionals who believe their marketing campaign needs to be bigger, better and more expensive to succeed. Here we have a look at seven of the most ridiculously expensive marketing campaigns of all time – some of which proved to be huge successes, some not so much.

Chanel No.5 – 2004

With an advert directed by Baz Luhrmann and starring Nicole Kidman, the 2004 marketing campaign for perfume Chanel No.5 cost over £20m to produce. Kidman was apparently paid a cool £1.9m for her part in the two minute reel in which she hardly had to stretch to play a famous actress hounded by the press.

Approaching its 100th birthday, Chanel No.5 is perhaps the most iconic perfume the world has ever known and its bosses clearly believe it’s still worthy of expensive and extensive marketing.

New Coke – 1985

In 1985, Coca Cola’s market share had slipped below that of rivals Pepsi and the company’s bosses decided to take drastic action. Commissioning ‘New Coke’, a soft drink with a different taste to replace the classic coke formula – the company faced huge backlash from the public. Coca Cola were forced to withdraw the new formula and reintroduce the classic coke taste, just 77 days after the initial launch.

It isn’t entirely sure how much was invested and wasted by Coca Cola into this wasted venture but it is thought to be in the many, many millions.

Guinness – 2007

Irish stout beer, Guinness, has long been known for its unique and creative advertising campaign – including the widely-celebrated Surfer advert of 1998. However, Guinness’ most ambitious and expensive campaign came almost ten years later with the £10m Tipping Point campaign filmed in Argentina. A visually-pleasing advert thanks to the large-scale domino rally created with a selection of props and everyday items.

Aviva – 2008

When Norwich Union decided they needed a less location-specific name in 2008 to demonstrate their wider appeal – bosses realised they’d need to invest heavily to get the message across. One of the few successful re-branding and renaming ventures in history (Consignia for example), Aviva spent £8.5m, and sought the help of Ringo Starr, Bruce Willis, Alice Cooper and Elle MacPherson to inform the public of the company’s new name.

Pepsi – 2002

Aired during the world’s most expensive advertising slot, one of the many breaks in the Super Bowl, the 2002 Pepsi advert cost more than £5m to send Britney Spears travelling through time. At the height of her fame, Spears was perhaps the world’s biggest star, the singer danced, jived, surfed and strutted her way through the decades sipping on Pepsi.

Honda – 2003

Perhaps providing a little inspiration for the aforementioned Guinness advert, the 2003 advert for the Honda Accord showcased all parts of the car creating a truly unique domino rally. This advert took 606 attempts and cost almost £4m to produce. It is unclear how much it would have cost if they just got it right on the first take.

Citi Bank – 2001-2006

Between 2001 and 2006, Citi Bank’s Live Richly marketing campaign cost the company an estimated one billion dollars (£640m), and seldom even mentioned the products and services provided. The half decade-long campaign was devised to help potential customers feel as though they could trust the bank. Although the campaign was initially successful, the banking group lost huge sums during the global financial crisis of 2008 – unfortunate.

Even if you can’t afford tens of millions for a marketing campaign, Leighmans Promotional Gifts can help you spread brand awareness with our high quality promotional and branded products. Visit our homepage, or call our dedicated team on 0800 169 0898 for our full range of promotional gifts and marketing ideas.


Image sourced via Wikimedia Commons. Credit: Jetijonez,

Book a Discovery Call

Schedule a 15-minute discovery call to discuss your workwear or merchandising needs, and discover how Leighmans can champion your brand.