An advertising campaign can make or break a brand. Some campaigns, like Godaddy’s superbowl launch and E*Trade’s dancing monkey spot, put unknown companies on the map. Other great initiatives, like Apple’s Think Different campaign, can change the public’s perception of a company forever.
We set out to find the best television advertisements ever made by polling communications majors at top universities, scouring Advertising Age, and searching Cannes Lions and CLIO advertising award winners.
The best ads seem to be a mix of humour, intrigue, and immense creativity.
Agency: McCann-Erickson, New York (1979)
Awards/Recognition: Winner of the 1979 CLIO award. The ad was so popular, it was turned into made-for-tv movie in 1981.
The gist: A kid finds Joe Green after a football game. Green is bummed out and not interested in speaking to his fan... until the kid offers him his Coke. Greene finally accepts and then chugs the soda. As the fan walks away, Green yells after him and tosses him his jersey.
Agency: TBWA/Chiat/Day, Los Angeles (1984)
Awards/Recognition: Arguably the most famous commercial of all time, '1984' introduced Apple's Macintosh computer to the world. The ad only aired once in the United States during the 1984 Super Bowl. Directed by Nicolai Fuglsig, from MJZ, it won a Gold Lion in the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival and Grand Prix at the Midsummer Awards in 2006. The clip has received 6,134,657 plays on YouTube.
The gist: A play on George Orwell's book, the Macintosh is portrayed as a means of saving humanity from 'conformity.' The ad opens with a line of people marching in unison; they are interrupted by a woman (the heroine) dressed in athletic gear. She is chased by guards while carrying a hammer and a picture of the Mac.
She proclaims,'Our Unification of Thoughts is more powerful a weapon than any fleet or army on earth...We shall prevail!'
The commercial concludes: 'On January 24th, Apple Inc. will introduce Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like 'Nineteen 80-Four.'
Agency: Leo Burnett, Chicago (1993)
Awards/Recognition: The spot won a bronze at the 1993 Cannes Lions. There are 3,945,751views on YouTube.
The gist: Larry Bird plays Michael Jordan in shoot-til-you-miss basketball for his Big Mac. They start out taking easy shots and gradually get more elaborate. Finally, the pair are shown shooting the basketball off the top of a nearby building. Neither player misses -- McDonald's is just that motivating.
Agency: DMB&B/St. Louis (1995)
Awards/Recognition: Winner of numerous awards including several Clio Awards and a Silver Lion Award at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival.
The gist: A frog that says 'Bud' hears two other frogs reply 'Weis' and 'Er.' He jumps around until he finds the other frogs and the three complete the beer company's name: 'Bud-weis-er.'
Agency: Mullen, Boston (1999)
Awards/Recognition: Winner of bronze at the 1999 Cannes film festival.
The gist: Multiple children say what they want to be when they grow up. Their responses aren't typical for kids; instead they list mundane office roles such as, 'I want to file papers!' or 'When I grow up, I want to be a yes man!' and 'I want to be underappreciated and underpaid.''
Agency: Goodby, Silverstein & Partners (2001)
The gist: Two old guys and a monkey wearing an E*Trade shirt clap off beat to music. A few seconds later, a message pops up, 'Well, we just blew $2 million bucks. What are you doing with your money?'
Agency: Arnell Group, New York (2003)
Awards/Recognition: Winner of Gold Cannes Lion and AICP Awards in 2003 and some of the clips have more than 8,000,000 YouTube plays.
The gist: From Inspiration Room: 'Terry Tate, Gridiron footballer, is recruited by Felcher and Sons to keep the staff on task. The moment someone is distracted by idle conversation or computer games, Terry Tate appears out of left field and knocks them over with a message to remember.'
Agency: Wieden & Kennedy (2004)
Awards/Recognition: This spot was named one of the best tv ads of the decade by Advertising Age.
The gist: In a Dr. Seuss-like cartoon, Honda promotes its diesel engine via song. Cute animals cough and weeze at a noisy old engine that causes pollution. But when a new, improved, eco-friendly engine comes along, the creatures live happily ever after.
Agency: Fallon London (2005)
Awards/Recognition: Directed by Nicolai Fuglsig, from MJZ, it won a Gold Lion in the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival and Grand Prix at the Midsummer Awards in 2006. This spot was also named one of the best tv ads of the decade by Advertising Age.
The gist: 250,000 brightly coloured bouncy balls are released at the top of Filbert and Leavenworth streets in San Francisco. They are filmed from different angles as they roll down and collect at the bottom. The balls symbolise 'Colour, like no other' for the LCD television.
Agency: Fitzgerald + Co. (2009)
Awards/Recognition: Created by animation company Superfad, it won a 2009 gold CLIO award for Viral Marketing and a silver Clio for animation. The clip has 2,598,226 hits on YouTube.
The gist: Condoms are blown up and shaped like balloon animals. The animals assume multiple sexual positions, showing the durability of Durex. No words are spoken throughout the clip, but there are a lot of squeaky balloon noises.
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