How many ads do you think you see on a daily basis? Tens? Hundreds? Thousands? Digital marketing experts set out to answer that question. And the results are shocking. The average person is bombarded with 4,000 to 10,000 ads every single day. However, most of these will fade from our minds as soon as the ad ends.
For one to proclaim, “this is one of the best ads of all time”, is a hefty statement to make. There are innumerable factors that go into determining the quality of an ad: the impact the ad has on the growth of the company, the entertainment value, the conveyance of a universal message, and the ability to withstand the test of time, to name a few.
It is remarkable to think that a 1-3 minute long video can leave such a distinct impact. Some of the most effective and most memorable ad campaigns can stay with us for the rest of our lives. Thus, we set out to find the best ads and top ad campaigns. It took plenty of deliberation and there were many honorable mentions, but we have curated a list of the top 20 ads that we think are the best of all time.
Ranked in no particular order, keep reading to see which ads made the cut.
Starting off at #1 is P&G’s “Thank You, Mom” campaign (2016)
P&G ‘Thank You, Mom’ Campaign Ad: “Strong” (Rio 2016 Olympics)
Not only was this an emotional, tear-inducing masterpiece, it was also the most successful campaign in P&G’s 175-year history. Shown at the 2016 Olympics, P&G focused on the moms as heroes, as they should. This powerful message resonated with the masses so much so that it racked up 74 million global views and 370 million Twitter interactions.
At #2 we have Nike’s “Find Your Greatness” campaign (2012)
Nike: Find Your Greatness
In the 2012 campaign, Nike emphasizes the fact that greatness is not just for those we see on TV. They show us that greatness can be achieved by anyone, a message for the masses. Everyone has their own definition of greatness and that is key. It was the top ad campaign at the 2012 Olympics and increased Nike+ membership by 55%.
At #3 we have Coca Cola’s “Hey Brother” ad (2016)
Coca Cola – Brotherly Love | Coke / Avicii Hey Brother
A part of the 2016 “Taste the Feeling” campaign, the ad shows the heartwarming and comedic nature of the relationship between two brothers. Coca Cola shows us that they are more than just a soda company, they are a family company. And most importantly the ad defines the meaning of brotherly love: always being there when it matters.
At #4 we have the Doritos Superbowl ad (2016)
Super Bowl 50: Doritos Ad
This ad is indisputably laugh-out-loud funny. It creates a refreshingly funny scenario that packs a lot of punch in just 30 seconds. Clocking in as the most viewed ad during Superbowl 50, Doritos is known for its simple-yet-effective approach to their ads and this one is no exception.
At #5 we have the Reese’s Take-5 Superbowl ad (2016)
Reese’s Super Bowl Commercial 2020 Reese’s Take 5
This ad takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to introducing its product, Reese’s Take-5. The company takes advantage of the idea that the Reese’s Take 5 bar is not as well known. It plays off of classic idioms, “Living under a rock”, “born yesterday”, “raised by wolves”, one after the other in a highly comedic manner. This ad succeeds in enticing the viewer while also making them laugh.
At #6 we have Always’ “#LikeAGirl” ad (2014)
This ad brings me to tears every time. Such a simple concept and experiment executed masterfully. The emotional journey that Always takes us on in three minutes is incredible and no matter who you are you can take away the message that doing something “like a girl” shouldn’t be an insult, it should be a term of empowerment.
At #7 we have Google’s “A Year in Search” campaign (2014)
Google – Year in Search 2019
Every year Google releases an ad at the end of the year detailing the most popular searches during that year. And every year they manage to up the ante, the emotion, and the impact. Google acknowledges that we are living in trying times and communicates the importance of having heroes. Someone to look up to and put your faith in. With 150 million+ views on Youtube, the impact is widespread and universal.
At #8 we have Australian Metro’s Dumb Ways to Die ad (2012)
Dumb Ways to Die
This ad went viral back in 2012 and has since received almost 200 million views on Youtube. The whimsical and somewhat ridiculous animation draws the viewer in and tells an entertaining story. By adding in a perfectly timed punch line, this ad stands out as one of the best ads ever made. There’s something about watching those cute cartoon characters getting mutilated to folksy guitar music that gets me every time.
At #9 we have John West Salmon’s “Bear Fight” ad (2000)
John West Salmon “Bear Fight” ad
This ad’s use of tried and true comedy devices creates a very comedic ad. The unexpected change of pace, the bear, and the kick in the groin blend together to create an irreverent and memorable experience. This ad accrued more than 300 million views by 2006 and has resided at the top of many “Best Commercial” lists since.
At #10 we have the Snickers “Betty White” commercial (2010)
Snickers Betty White Commercial
Two words. Betty White. You can’t really go wrong with her involved, throw-in the biting punch lines and slapstick humor and you have a masterpiece. This ad was the birth of the “You’re not you when you’re hungry” campaign and topped many “Best commercials of the year” lists in 2010.
At #11 we have Honda’s “Paper” commercial (2015)
This commercial is one of my personal favorites. It is so intensely creative and conveys a story in a way that most ads don’t. The animation is so spectacular that I have watched this commercial over and over again. And I am not alone in this thinking as this ad was nominated for an Emmy in 2016.
At #12 we have Water is Life’s “Four Year Old Bucket List” ad (2013)
4 Year Olds Bucket List – Water is Life
This ad is heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. Seeing Nkaitole, this young Masaai boy experience his life dreams is one of the most touching and intimate approaches to an ad. It is equally as heartbreaking when the ad conveys its message that Nkaitole and thousands like him are in dire need of clean water. The message is clear and the storytelling is concise and beautiful which is why this is considered one of the best ads.
At #13 we have IAMS “A boy and his duck” ad (2015)
IAMS – A Boy and His Dog Duck
This ad concept does not reinvent the wheel by any means. But it doesn’t need to. It gives us a heartwarming narrative, and directly plays to the audience’s emotions. And this ad definitely made me teary.
At #14 we have Volkswagen’s “The Force” commercial (2011)
The Force Volkswagen Commercial
This ad works so well because it draws on a franchise that is universally recognized, features a cute kid in a Darth Vader costume, and a comedic payoff, what’s not to love? This commercial was made for the 2016 Super Bowl but was released 4 days earlier on Youtube. By the time that it had aired at the Superbowl it accrued 17 million views on Youtube and virtually already paid for itself.
At #15 we have Dos Equis “The Most Interesting Man in the World” ad campaign (2006)
THE MOST INTERESTING MAN IN THE WORLD – Dos Equis Commercial 2007
This ad was quite the cultural reset back when it aired in 2007 when the most interesting man in the world took the world by storm and has since become a universally recognized meme. Additionally, up until that commercial franchise Dos Equis hadn’t been a popular brand. After airing company sales increased by 22%.
At #16 we have Old Spice “The man your man could smell like” ad campaign (2010)
Old Spice – The Man Your Man Could Smell Like
This ad falls into a similar category as the previous one and also had a similar explosive impact when it first aired. Everyone loved the quotable lines and eccentric humor that this ad brought. It was instantly a viral hit and received over 55 million views that year making it one of the most memorable ad campaigns.
At #17 we have Dove’s “Evolution” commercial (2006)
This ad definitely made Dove seem a little more human. They lifted the magical veil surrounding beauty standards and how edited beauty commercials are which in turn create unachievable beauty standards. Ending with “No wonder our beauty standards are distorted” sends a very powerful message and is a precursor to greater discourse around the subject.
At #18 we have Chipotle’s “Back to the Start” ad (2011)
Chipotle – Back to the Start
The stop motion animation style works quite effectively here. Chipotle tells the story of industrialized farming and their desire to move away from such practices. And they do it beautifully. This ad was aired during the 2012 Grammys where it exploded in popularity.
At #19 we have Sony’s “Balls” commercial (2005)
Sony Bravia Bouncy Balls
One million bouncy balls. How? I don’t know. But it makes for a quirky and beautifully artful commercial. Sony created this ad for their new TV to highlight the color capabilities of their product. It makes for a whimsical creation and I can’t imagine how long that took to clean up.
At #20 we have Budweiser’s “Respect” ad (2002)
Budweiser – Respect (2002, USA)
This ad pays tribute to the victims of 9/11 in a truly elegant and respectful manner, as the name suggests. Seeing the majestic Clydesdales walking over the bridge to New York City and then kneeling in the snow, juxtaposed with the city skyline creates a hauntingly beautiful image. This ad was aired just once but it’s impact is still discussed to this day.
That concludes our list of the 20 best ad campaigns from 2000-2020. We hope that this curation was as entertaining and memorable for you as they are for us. It certainly is an admirable list of works.
More importantly, we want to hear your opinion. Leave a comment letting us know which ad was your favorite. And perhaps your fav didn’t show up on our list, if so, we would love to know which ad campaigns have stuck with you the most and are your favorite.