Business Insider's 10 Best Ads of 2012

Cartier

Photo: Cartier

Choosing the 10 best ads of 2012 is a tough task. The line between “the great” and “the absolute best” is thin indeed.Skip straight to the list >

As usual, there’s a broad mix of comedy, drama and eye-popping special effects. Overall, it reaffirms our faith that the ad business holds some of the most talented creative people on the planet. Most of these ads are way more interesting than anything you’ll see on TV or at the movies. (See last year’s for an appetizer.)

This ranking is entirely subjective: we looked at originality, entertainment value, and success stories. These were the brands and the campaigns that stood out. Congratulations to everyone who made the list. 

Some of the winners will be familiar. But seven of them are more obscure and you’ll see them for the first time here, because broadcast TV in the U.S. is no longer the premier showcase for the world’s best work. (Following the Top 10 list is a compilation of runners up that nearly made the cut but were ultimately rejected.)

The surprise at No.1? Well, if you haven’t seen it — and most people have not — you’re in for a treat.

You can also check out the 10 worst ads of 2012 here. But first …

Beautifully crafted. Exquisitely shot. Epic in scale. Incredible attention to detail. And wonderfully silly. This story of a snow leopard's quest -- via golden dragon, giant Dali elephant, and 19th Century flying machine -- to meet the bejeweled Parisian babe of its dreams is completely entertaining.

This was the ad that perfectly positioned Samsung as the anti-Apple with the introduction of the Galaxy S III. The big, flat phone made iPhone 5 look small and dated, and this ad infuriated Apple fanboys worldwide.

Old Mil' never bought a Super Bowl ad, and aired this Ferrell skit only on local TV in the middle of nowhere. Yet it's been seen by millions on YouTube and elsewhere. The climax of an hilarious hidden-in-plain site media strategy by the brewer.

Chrysler won the Super Bowl in 2012 with this halftime ad that cleverly played off three themes: 'Detroit in recession' from last year's Eminem ad; the presidential election campaign; and the Big Game itself. Republicans hated it. The fact that Clint eventually turned out for Mitt Romney -- and looked weird and crazy in the process -- proved that W+K successfully harnessed Eastwood's special brand of insanity in way that others could not.

This was the ad that had the planet wiping away its tears during the Olympic games.

It's the viral video of the year: 38 million people have viewed this candid camera epic in which innocent bystanders in a small Belgian town are subjected to an onslaught of American action movie cliches, simply because they pressed a button marked 'Push to add drama.'

This spot was massive on Twitter in the days after it launched because it combined a social media strategy -- the war on self-indulgent Twitter jerks -- with a guilt-inducing message about real life in our Third World neighbour. And it didn't use the usual cliches (skeletal kids surrounded by flies) to do it. Instead, the spot credits the people it's trying to help with a level of ironic media literacy necessary to talk directly to the American cynic.

Nike wasn't an Olympic sponsor but it ambushed the games with this brilliant but simple commercial. We said when it launched that 'this thoughtful, unexpectedly moving video of an overweight pre-teenager, Nathan, forcing himself to run down a lonely road in London, Ohio, is fantastic. Note that it's filmed in a single, unedited take.'

It's rare that an ad can start by making you laugh and then, by the end, have you choking back the tears, but this one comes pretty close. It starts with an adorable tot describing her worldview -- 'Rabbits are scary!' -- and then it's too late. You've been lulled into watching the most disturbing anti-child abuse ad since last year's Irish epic from Ogilvy. Note how wonderful the acting is.

What would happen if the fairy tale of the Three Little Pigs was a real, modern day event? Blown out of proportion by the media, and then fact-checked by bloggers and social media, it turns out that the 'blow your house in' scandal has its origins in the mortgage crisis. Easily the most original idea of the year. Bravo.

Our top 10 was difficult to judge ...

NOW SEE WHO DIDN'T MAKE THE CUT!
Click here to continue >

A finely crafted gem from Argentina. The comic payoff at the end speaks directly to the new product attribute. We won't spoil it for you.

Much talked about, and that's the point. Using Kiefer Sutherland to suggest that he too was once a tongue-tied teen who couldn't talk to girls was a casting stroke of genius. But is this comedy or pathos?

Completely charming, but it doesn't bear repeat viewing.

Beautifully observed. Fantastically detailed (just imagine how much work went into this). And strategically spot-on, in the sense that this German home improvement company totally gets the mindset of the do-it-yourselfer.

If it weren't for Cartier's leopard/dragon/elephant masterpiece, this equally luxurious spot might have earned a place in the top 10.

A delightful hidden camera stunt for football blokes that asks, what happens if you check into your hotel room only to find that someone has 'accidentally' left the European Champions League cup in your room? Doesn't speak much to women, however.

Carlton's problem is that the brand has been responsible for some of the world's best ads for so long that when it produces a spot that's merely good, you feel deflated.

A moving documentary about a homophobic father who must deal with his daughter's engagement to another woman. But at three-plus minutes ... we get it already!.

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