The Most Epic Commercial Ads of All Time
What makes a great TV commercial or video ad? Since the very first TV commercial ran — for US $9 — more than 75 years ago, television advertising has grown into a US $75 billion/ year industry.
Though TV’s market share has dropped as many viewers cut the cord, internet advertising has ensured that video ads are more popular than ever. Here we have a combination of both TV commercial ads and online ads that glued to the memory of millions viewers worldwide.
1. Evian’s “Roller Babies” (2009)
If you have been on YouTube since the early 2000s, you must have come across a video of babies rapping, doing break dances while roller skating (CGI, of course). This is the video that broke the internet because of its bizarre yet intriguing contents.
One of the first YouTube-exclusive ad campaigns, Evian’s record breaking viral video, Roller Babies, set the way for a new strategy of seeding content, testing creative, and building on a global brand. Launched as a web-centric ad campaign, Roller Babies quickly became a viral tour-de-force. It was so successful that in 2009 the Guinness Book of World Records officially declared Roller Babies as the most viewed online ad, Digital Training Academy reported.
The ad was once crowned the most-watched web commercial in the world with 65 million views (although, oddly, only a “mere” 43.5 million have seen it on YouTube. In addition to the vast audience it has generated, parent company Danone’s (DA) water sales were up 13.3% to US$718 million in the first quarter of 2011.
2. Sakeru Gummy's Long Long Man (2017)
You will never been more engaged to a candy commercial like you did to Sakeru Gummy's Long Long Man.
In 2018, The Verge described it as "The greatest romance ever told".
While the commercial mainly focuses on 2 main subjects, Tooru-san and Chi-chan; a third one, the stranger is repeatedly introduced for an engaging plotline. In a captivating video essay, the commercials centre on Chi-chan’s love for Sakeru candy by switching in between the regular Sakeru candy; Tooru-san and longer Sakeru candy; the stranger.
It’s almost like a TV show in itself. A drama with a strong story full of plot twists, interesting characters and themes of comedy, romance, drama, tragedy and more. It’s an advert that people would have delighted in watching, and, in fact, probably sought out to discover what was happening next in the series – making them actively look for future episodes.
3. Reebok's “Terry Tate, Office Linebacker” (2003)
Since the earliest days of comedy, Slapsticks (deliberately clumsy actions and humorously embarrassing events ) has been a foolproof way to make people laugh. Reebok’s Super Bowl XXXVII ad had plenty, along with an amusing premise (boosting office productivity), an element of surprise, and solid one-liners and delivery.
The spot was roundly praised by critics and viewers alike that year, though whether it actually succeeded in boosting Reebok’s brand is questionable. After it aired, just 55% of viewers recalled that the ad was affiliated with Reebok. Though Reebok considered it nonetheless a success, citing a 4-fold increase in online sales.
4. Snickers's “Hungry Betty White” (2010)
When Snickers launched their “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” campaign with Betty White (and Abe Vigoda) during the 2010 Super Bowl, it was a turning point for the brand and the Golden Girl herself.
That ad won the night — going viral and topping every best commercials list that year — and also kicked off a massively successful campaign that increased sales for the company by US$376 million in two years. It’s also credited with revitalizing White’s career, who followed up the spot with an appearance hosting Saturday Night Live and quickly landed other roles.
5. Metro Trains: “Dumb Ways to Die” (2012)
While there have been some memorable awareness campaigns over the years, few are as funny — or as popular — as Metro Trains Melbourne’s “Dumb Ways to Die.”
The video features a catchy song and cute animated characters being killed in a variety of absurd ways. The message is simple: Be safe around trains. The campaign was a massive hit, becoming the most awarded campaign in the history of Cannes and racking up more than 225 million views on YouTube to date. Popular spin-off content like a mobile game, toys, and a children’s book soon followed, extending the reach of the campaign.
Best of all, it seems to have been successful in its main goal of improving safety around trains — Metro credited the campaign with reducing the number of “near-miss” accidents by more than 30%.
6. John Lewis's “The Bear and the Hare” (2013)
UK retailer John Lewis’ annual Christmas campaign has become something of a tradition, signalling the start of the holiday season in Britain. Set to Lily Allen’s cover of Keane’s 2004 hit “Somewhere Only We Know.
The result is a heartwarming story of two unlikely animal friends sharing Christmas. The campaign won a number of awards, racked up millions of views, and was credited with boosting sales of alarm clocks by 55% in the week following its launch.
This two-minute advert from 2013 combines stop motion and traditional hand-drawn animation by Disney veterans.
7. Mountain Dew: “Puppy Monkey Baby” (2016)
What happened when you type three words Puppy, Monkey and Baby on to the search bar on Youtube? You get a Mountain Dew ad! The soda company’s 2016 ad for its Kickstarter drink generated a massive response when it aired, earning 2.2 million online views and 300,000 social media interactions in one night.
Viewers were split. Some found the ad and its CGI mascot to be hilarious, while others thought it was creepy, annoying, or stupid. But the overall consensus? It definitely grabbed your attention.
8. Thai Life Insurance's "Unsung Hero" (2014)
In parts of Asia, Thailand in particular, advertisers seem to be all about making viewers cry. One company, Thai Life Insurance, is known for producing massively popular, touching commercials.
That spot depicts a turbulent relationship between a schoolgirl and her deaf-mute father, whom the girl can't seem to forgive for not being able to speak like the other girls' fathers. But when the girl is rushed to the hospital in an emergency, the man's actions speak louder than words.
“Unsung Hero,” created by Ogilvy & Mather Bangkok, is just one example, and it’s one of the less depressing ads the brand has put out. The agency says that making people cry isn’t their “main objective.” The purpose is to inspire people to “appreciate the value of life, which is a core value of the brand.” Tears, it seems, are just a common side effect.
9. Apple's "1984" (1984)
Every year in US football season people talk about the most famous Super Bowl ad of them all, Apple's 1984 commercial that was based on George Orwell's grimly predictive novel, also named "1984."
Directed by Ridley Scott, this Apple’s ad portrayed the company’s soon-to-launch personal computer as the hero that would free us from “Big Brother” (possibly a jab at Apple’s rival, IBM.)
The full 60-second spot aired just once, during Super Bowl XVIII in January 1984, but its influence has extended far beyond. It’s been credited with being the ad that made Super Bowl commercials “a thing” in the first place.
The Silo Awards (the Oscars of advertising) put it to their Hall of Fame while Ad Age named it the No.1 Super Bowl commercial of all time.
Honorable mention: Questionable Ad
Pepsi's "Live For Now - Moments" (2017)
PepsiCo’s protest-themed commercial for its carbonated soft drink Pepsi and the consequent decline in millennial purchase consideration and brand perception. Pepsi’s campaign – titled “Live for Now – Moments” – was launched on April 4, 2017, in the ambitious attempt to showcase Pepsi as a millennial-friendly brand with a socially relevant and unifying message.
The ad showed supermodel Kendall Jenner partaking in a photo shoot and then “jumping in” with protestors marching along the road. In the end, Jenner approaches a cop with a can of Pepsi soda. Due to crushing condemnation from critics and social media users claiming that the ad was co-opting protest movements – such as Black Lives Matter – for commercial gain, Pepsi had to pull the advertisement off the air and off the internet less than 48 hours after the initial release.
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