TV advertising remains one of the most powerful tools a marketer can wield. Throughout the years, some of those TV ads were so iconic that they remain embedded in people’s minds, decades after their first broadcast! These commercials tickled our funny bones; they made us cry; they made us think. Afterwards? They made us want, turning viewers into customers.
Before we get into our list of the best TV advertisement examples in history, we should briefly dive into what makes a great TV ad… well, great! So let’s take a look at the secret sauce of what makes these commercials as effective as they are:
There are many factors that go into creating a great TV commercial. To boil it down, the most important thing to keep in mind is that you need to realise a short, simple story that reflects your company values. The best TV commercial examples have utilised this to lead to a call-to-action (CTA) that actually works, and companies have been able to enjoy brand loyalty for years after they’ve broadcasted that successful commercial. A crucial step to first creating a great TV ad is to first understand the different types of TV commercials out there and figuring out which is the best for your company and current marketing campaign goals.
A 30-second time window isn’t very much, and although you may extend that to 60-seconds, you still need to be able to entice and hook audiences into the meat of your advert. This doesn’t only help with converting viewership into sales, it also helps retain your commercial within their minds, leading to a positive outlook and longer brand loyalty. It’s part and parcel of why TV advertising still works today.
A great and effective TV advert is one that sticks with you for years to come. But with the ever-increasing clamour of the attention economy, it’s a tough balance to make. Ultimately, hiring the right TV ad agency really is the key to creating a successful TV ad campaign that actually works.
So, we’ve discussed briefly about how makes a great TV commercial. While it may seem rather straightforward, balancing the few factors of a great TV ad can be really tricky. Out of the millions of TV advertisement examples that have been made and broadcasted over the years, there have only been a small number of them that succeeded in pulling it off.
Armed with the help of an amazing TV ad agency, these companies have made television ads that live on for decades after it’s first airing. With that said, here are some of the most famous ads on TV that have made an impact on the industry:
Before broadcasting their 2010 commercial, the brand Old Spice used to be associated with something only your granddad would use. The absurdity of what is now a series of advertisements featuring the “ideal man” Isaiah Mustafa became one of the most viral TV ads of the 2010s. Although the commercial definitely holds itself up today, over 12 years later, as proven by its ever-increasing view count on YouTube.
What we believe to be the most interesting about the advertisement is the audience they were actually targeting. This 2010 ad for Old Spice targeted women rather than male customers, who appeared to be their primary demographic. Why? They did some research and discovered that it wasn’t actually males who were making direct purchases of men’s deodorant after all. Instead, it was women. It turned out that the ladies in their lives were responsible.
Despite its seemingly strange tactics, the company and its ad found themselves to be massively successful rather quickly. In the first three months of the campaign, Old Spice had an impressive 55 per cent increase in sales, and in the fourth month, that number increased to 107 per cent, as reported by AdWeek. Banking on this success, Old Spice went on to make further commercials featuring the former American football player, leading to its rejuvenation within the younger generation.
Although Always is a feminine product brand, it decided to take a big risk in 2014. The company bought one of the most expensive advertising slots in the world to launch its #LikeAGirl campaign – the Super Bowl. In spite of the fact that the general audience of the massive annual American football event is predominantly male, Always’ campaign met with incredible success.
The campaign was built upon the fact that studies have found that confidence has been shown to plummet when girls hit puberty. Always decided to turn the “…like a girl” stereotype on its head and show that doing anything “like a girl” isn’t a bad thing. First, the commercial asked a number of young boys and teenaged girls what it was like to “run like a girl” or “box like a girl”. The response was met with giggles and them performing those actions in a weak manner.
But then the commercial posed the same questions to prepubecent girls – whose responses were quite shocking. They “ran” the way a person would normally run; they “boxed” the way a regular person would. These little girls showed no prejudice and were perhaps even a little surprised to be asked the question in the first place. To them, doing anything “like a girl” was doing it normally – as it should be with all of us.
It’s a relatively simple ad, utilising a simple story and although their tagline was “True. True”, that wasn’t the star of the show. This incredibly famous TV advertisement example featured four men, with half of them living in one household and the other two living in a different one. One friend calls up the other household, asking what he’s up to and, as it turns out, they’re both “Watching the game. Having a Bud.” before they and their respective housemates pick up the phone too and the four of them get into a cycle of yelling “Whassup?”.
Budweiser may be an American staple brand, but their 1999 commercial is world-renown. Aired during Monday Night Football, this great TV advertisement example found an incredible increase in not just local sales, but internationally, too. Beer Marketer’s Insights, a trade newsletter based in New York, reports that the company’s global sales increased by 2.4 million barrels to 99.2 million barrels during the same year the commercial was broadcasted.
Mac vs PC – a feud to last the ages. The consumer electronics company Apple kicked off a three-year advertising campaign that is still remembered by the tech community to this day. The “Mac vs PC” ad series remains one of the best television advertising examples to date. Apple personified their Macs and Macbooks within the young, hip Justin Long who, within a whopping 66 short commercials, kindly goes up against the laggy, buggy, not-as-sophisticated personification of PCs in John Hodgman.
While the exact data isn’t available to directly link those highly popular slew of commercials to an increase in sales, one could imagine that to run 65 more adverts over a period of three years that it must have helped somewhat. If not for sales, then it’s definitely become a part of the tech world’s “meta”. Apple even brought John Hodgman back as a special treat during the Apple’s 2020 Macbook Event, much to the delight of techheads everywhere. This becomes even more hilarious when you realise that it happened just a few months after Intel hired Justin Long for their own commercials firing back at Apple!
Possibly one of the classic staples of British TV advertising is the “‘Ology” commercial by British Telecom (now simply “BT”). Back in the day when landlines were prominent, and people actually spoke to each other on phones rather than text messages, this 1988 BT quickly became one of the telecom company’s most famous ads of all time.
Starring Dame Maureen Lipman, who plays an enthusiastic grandmother who rings up her grandson who’s just got his GCSE results. She starts off by congratulating him, before he cuts her off and says that he’s failed “everything” before listing off a number of subjects he didn’t do well on. Lipman looks sadly at a cake she’s got for him and asks if he’s passed anything, and her grandson, with a scrunched-up face, says “Pottery”, – which she gets excited for because “people will always need plates”.
But the best part is when she asks for more information, and it’s revealed that her grandson, Anthony, had passed “Sociology”. Grandma lights up even more, exclaiming, “You get an ‘ology, you’re a scientist!” before a voiceover hits home about the importance of phone calls in keeping up relationships (or whenever you need a cheer-up). While it’s definitely not in the slightest true at the GCSE level, it’s definitely the thought that counts, Grandma!
Ever considered the possibility of cats having thumbs? Sure, polydactyl cats are most definitely a thing that exists, but their extra digits aren’t usable the way thumbs are. So, then the milk brand Cravendale poses the question – “What if cats evolved into ones with opposable thumbs?”. That is what this commercial brings to the table, and it’s an absolute delight that has lived for more than a decade after its first broadcast.
Not many people might know this, but one 2011 Cravendale milk commercial was responsible for one of the most popular cat GIFs of the decade that followed. The “Cats With Thumbs” commercial was met with absolutely great commercial success, solidifying Cravendale as the UK’s top-selling branded milk. Apparently, Cravendale saw a 9 per cent increase in year-over-year sales, despite the world still reeling from a recession just 3 years prior.
Have you ever thought you’d associate chocolate with a gorilla playing drums to Phil Collins? Well, back in 2007, Cadbury’s did just that with this TV advertisement example! After coming out of a Salmonella outbreak, Cadbury’s needed to ”get back the love” and re-engage with its audience, young and old. And this is exactly what they did.
Apparently, this ad drove a 7 per cent increase in sales. In the first week, the advert was shared half a million times on YouTube. As one of the nation’s all-time favourite TV advert, the iconic 2007 90-second Cadbury Dairy Milk ad features a gorilla in an empty rehearsal studio, playing the drums to Phil Collins’ classic “In the Air Tonight”. This just goes to show that sometimes an ad can be out of the ordinary and not related to the product, and connecting to the audience on an emotional level can be just as effective. Hitting just the right notes with your ad could even make it one of the most famous ads on TV!
Even as far back as 1988, TV commercials have had a way into our hearts and minds, with impressions that have lasted decades. The imprint that TV advertising places upon us is something that doesn’t seem to be easily replicated by any other form of advertising, making TV ads an incredible instrument to use within anyone’s marketing campaign. This is especially true when combined with other marketing avenues like online advertising and social.
Ready to utilise the incredible benefits of TV advertising? Want to create the next famous ads on TV? Make sure you get in touch with a professional TV ad agency. Engaging with the right agency will definitely help you in realising the fullest potential of a TV commercial for your next marketing campaign.
Do you want to know more about how we can help with your TV advertising? If so, give us a call on 01582 881144, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or through our web form on our Contact Page. We’d love to chat.