The first ever television commercial aired on July 1, 1941 — exactly 80 years ago — promoting watches made by the company Bulova. What was the cost of the ad? A cool $9 was all it took to produce the ad and show it before the match between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Philadelphia Phillies.
Ever since the first commercial ran, the advertising industry has evolved a lot. In fact, it became a $647 billion industry in 2020. Although people have been cutting the cord now more than ever before, the internet and online advertising technology have saved the industry from collapsing.
Namely, it is a known fact that people are spending less time in front of their TV screens. In fact, one recent survey revealed that 46% of respondents stated that on average they spent five or six hours on their smartphones. This basically means that advertisers aren’t only focused on making commercials for TV — they want to reach their customers anywhere, anytime. And as you know, this is possible thanks to online video ads.
Commercials are still one of the most effective ways to reach and engage potential and existing customers. From what we’ve seen, brands are usually aware of this fact. That is why many of them are rushing to impress viewers with a video ad they won’t soon forget.
While we’re talking about making unforgettable video ads, we thought it would be easier for you to see which commercials have stuck in people’s minds for so many years. Perhaps you will be able to determine what makes these ads so unique that people won’t stop talking about them still. You can use the conclusions to make your own successful video ad!
So, here is a breakdown of the best commercials of all time. It’s time you start learning from the pros!
Some of the most memorable video ads have the ability to make people laugh no matter how many times they watch them. Many advertisers would agree that humor is a great way to engage and connect with your audience, enabling you to leave a good impression on them.
However, what people tend to forget is that humor is hard. Not everyone has the same sense of humor nor do they perceive the same topics as funny. But when a funny ad is effective, it can grab attention and bring customers closer to your brand.
Here are some best commercials that struck a balance between being hilarious and effective.
What is more relatable than a couple of friends calling each other while watching a match over chilled beers? Budweiser’s team sure did know how to get people to pay attention! In the short video ad, we see the characters talking to each other and saying “whassup” in a comical way. This seemingly simple commercial was a massive hit among customers.
After it aired, talk show hosts began referencing it, parodies started to appear on the internet, and the catchphrase heard in the commercial spread like wildfire among people. It was so effective, in fact, that the ad became popular even in countries where Budweiser wasn’t sold at the time!
The UK’s leading canned fish brand, John West, also knows a thing or two about putting a smile on a customer’s face. The company successfully made many households laugh due to one of the best commercials ever made — “Bear Fight” from 2000.
What’s more, the ad begins with an almost documentary-like style where we see a shot of bears fishing. A voiceover draws our attention from the scene unfolding in front of us and makes us wonder whether David Attenbourgh himself participated in the filming of “Bear Fight.”
Although beginning as a usual video ad, “Bear Fight” quickly reveals its goal is to ensure no one forgets about John West. The commercial effectively used various comedy traditions and each one of them made the ad more memorable. It was so memorable that it was viewed 300 million times by 2006.
Years ago, Old Spice decided it was time to reinvent the brand and bring something new to the market. Its decision was based on a research the company conducted which revealed that women made 60% of all body wash purchases and had sufficient influence over what men would buy. As a result, the company came up with “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like,” a targeted campaign that was shown on channels couples liked watching together.
The ad received 5.9 million views on YouTube on the first day alone, becoming one of the most successful and best commercials in the world. We see ex-American football star, Isaiah Mustafa, deliver a snappy dialogue that engages the audience from start to finish. Many advertisers have been influenced by this commercial, embracing a meme-able humor that could turn their ads into a viral hit.
Back in 2013, Kmart introduced a new service to its customers — the option to ship goods unavailable in stores free of charge. Now, the department store chain could have taken a conventional approach and announced that they now offered a free shipping service. But the magic of advertising is that brands have the liberty to communicate new things in any way they want (just as long it doesn’t offend anyone, of course). In this case, Kmart came up with a slogan — “Ship My Pants” — to promote the new service.
“Ship My Pants” is a great example of how wordplay and humor can be used together without creating something that is offensive. The commercial shows customers who say they are going to “ship their pants” through Kmart’s delivery program. That wordplay makes it sound like they are using a vulgar word, when in fact they aren’t. This is what makes it one of the best commercials ever aired!
The ad was so popular that it received 12 million views in the span of a week.
Animated ads are nothing new. Indeed, they have been a part of advertising for as long as anyone can remember. Over the years, animated commercials have become way cheaper to produce than their live action counterparts. However, this isn’t the only reason advertisers make them.
As you’ll see in the best commercials we selected below, animated characters are irresistible and endearing. They appeal to people of all ages, ensuring viewers feel good and are connected to the brand.
Another animated ad worth mentioning is “Back to the Start,” created by Chipotle. When the company began thinking about ways to promote improvements to the country’s food supply, it decided to skip the graphic photos that might unsettle viewers and go with this animated masterpiece.
Willie Nelson’s rendition of Coldplay’s “The Scientist” is one of the first things people notice when watching this commercial. Then, the storyline grabs their attention. The ad follows a farmer’s journey from industrialized farming to adopting a more sustainable approach of turning animals out of pasture.
The two-minute ad was released online and in movie theaters. However, it garnered a lot of attention when it aired during the Grammy Awards. As you can see, some of the best commercials of all time become that because of the message they spread!
“Dumb Ways to Die” is an Australian public service announcement campaign. Its goal was to change people’s behavior, inspire action, and promote railway safety. And all of that it did! Although there have been some memorable PSA campaigns over the years, few are as funny or viral as Metro Trains “Dumb Ways to Die.”
The ad features a catch song and endearing animated characters being killed in various, absurd ways. This gets one message across: Be safe while you wait for your train. The campaign became an instant hit, amassing more than 300 million views on YouTube to date. Following its success, customers received spin-off content, including a mobile game and toys! See how influential the best commercials can be?
Perhaps most importantly, Metro Trains was able to achieve its main goal. According to the company, there are more than 120 million pledges to be safe around trains.
Got a new, limited edition product to promote? You can advertise it through animated commercials — just like Cadbury, a British confectionery company, did for its 2012 product called Scream Eggs, a zombie-inspired spin-off of its classic Creme Eggs.
In this short commercial, Cadbury happily jumps on the zombie apocalypse bandwagon to engage their audience and catch their attention. Using a storyline already popular with millions around the world can be quite helpful to market a limited edition product. It is no wonder that “They’re Here” collected millions of views shortly after it was released.
This amusing (and spooky) commercial convinces the audience they should try the spooky-looking Creme Eggs in time for Halloween.
In case you didn’t know, UK retailer John Lewis’ annual Christmas campaigns are a big thing in this country. They have become a tradition, with people expecting to see something new from John Lewis during Christmas time. This was the case in 2013 as well, when the company released “The Bear and the Hare.”
With Lily Allen’s cover of Keane’s song “Somewhere Only We Know” playing in the background, the commercial combines stop motion and traditional hand-drawn animation. It introduces an unlikely friendship between a hare and a bear. The hare buys her bear friend an alarm clock so he would wake up in time for Christmas.
The 2013 ad was the most heart-warming of all John Lewis’ Christmas campaigns, according to research. Almost half of the viewing audience had an intense emotional reaction to the content. If you want to appeal to the emotional side of your viewers, then you are likely to create the best commercials!
According to estimates, 18-to-30-year-olds prefer Super Bowl commercials to the actual game. The annual championship game attracts millions of viewers around the world, who tune in for the halftime performances, catchy commercials, and good football. This number of consumers encourages brands to spend millions of dollars in order to secure a spot during breaks from the game. In fact, a 30-second commercial for the Super Bowl cost more than $5 million in 2020.
Of course, not every ad becomes a viral hit, regardless of how much money is spent to get it aired. However, some do go on to become a cultural phenomenon people can’t forget. Here are some of the best commercials that ran during the Super Bowl.
You don’t need eye-catching effects, hundreds of extras, and luxury locations to create the best commercials. Sometimes all you need is a simple setting to stage a storyline that catches everyone’s attention. Case in point, Coca-Cola’s “Hey Kid, Catch!” commercial.
This video ad seems to be the quintessential Super Bowl Ad. Although it debuted in 1979, it became a hit while it aired during Super Bowl XIV in 1980. Featuring a cute kid, a sports legend, and a shared sweet moment, the commercial is one of the best of its kind.
Starring NFL Legend “Mean” Joe Greene, the commercial received various awards. And it left a lasting impression on viewers because of one fact. Namely, Joe Green was one of the first black males to appear in a commercial for a national brand. This has a profound effect at that time, cementing its status as one of the best commercials of all time.
Apple introduced the Apple Macintosh personal computer through a video ad called “1984.” Now, if the title sounds familiar, it is because the whole commercial was inspired by George Orwell’s eponymous novel. Directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Ridley Scott, the ad has a dystopian tone to it, which was and is an unusual choice for this kind of promotion.
“1984” features an unnamed heroine who wants to put a stop to a speech delivered by a Big Brother-like figure. The ad positions Apple as the hero that would free us from any kind of Big Brother. So, it’s no wonder the company sold 90% more Macs than projected in the first 90 days following the ad’s airing.
If done right, the best commercials can help companies achieve their marketing goals!
Beloved comedian and American treasure Betty White starred in a 2010 Super Bowl commercial for Snickers. When the company launched its “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” campaign with White, it became a turning point for the brand.
Shortly after it was aired, the commercial became a hit. It went viral and marketers included it in their list of best commercials of 2010. Of course, such success led to some amazing achievements. For one, Snickers increased sales by more than $370 million in two years. Then, the ad is also credited with revitalizing White’s career.
After this commercial aired, Snickers took a global approach to the campaign. It featured celebrities popular in each global market to appeal to its customers. However, no one should forget that it all started with Betty White.
Here is the last ad on our list of the best commercials!
Volkswagen had not aired a commercial during the Super Bowl in more than ten years. But the company decided to change that in 2011 when it ran two ads — the most popular of them called “The Force.”
The ad features a young boy dressed in full Darth Vader clothing attempting to use the Force to start a washing machine and a clothes dryer. However, his attempts fail. Yet, the boy soon discovers he can, in fact, start the car. Well, his father actually does that using a remote control, but no one is there to rain down the boy’s parade!
Departing from convention, Volkswagen released a full-length version of the commercial days before the Super Bowl. The company made the right decision. In just one day, the ad had more than 1.5 million views on YouTube. It went on to amass 17 million views before the Super Bowl even aired. The gamble paid off!
We hope that the best commercials we mention in our article have been inspiring! Perhaps they can help you create ads that engage and hook your customers. Don’t worry, though, you don’t need to have a Super Bowl budget to create a successful ad!