A few months ago, I listed the 5 Worst Commercials in 2019. (You can read that post here.) I’ve followed that up with the Top 5 Best Commercials list below.
I took an informal survey on Facebook asking others what commercials they liked. 145 comments later, I learned that there was a vast assortment, old and new, of what many considered their faves. The usuals were there: Geico, Budweiser, Subaru, etc. Some even made my best of list. Overwhelmingly, if the commercial had a dog, cat, or any other animal, or it made us laugh, or pulled at our heartstrings, it was mentioned on the FB post. But since I didn’t limit it to present-day, there were some truly vintage commercials in the mix. (Oscar Meyers “b-o-l-o-g-n-a”, and Coke’s “I want to make the world sing…”)
If you’re wondering why I bother with the top 5 Best and Worst TV commercials, it’s because we writers can learn a lot about our craft from this medium. Commercials—the good ones—are a form of flash fiction. They have a beginning, middle and end. And if they’re successful, we don’t mind watching them. We might even tell others about how great it was. The latter, especially, means the ad is considered a success. That makes commercials worth analyzing. (Fun fact: Both Clive Cussler and James Patterson came from advertising backgrounds.)
I think we can all agree what makes a bad TV ad. But the best? This is (in my opinion) what the truly great commercials have in common:
1. They tell a complete story. (A good commercial is more than just a good jingle.)
2. They resonate. (Make us laugh, cry, tug at heart, etc.)
3. They’re memorable—in a good way. (From jingles to humor, sadly, many ad agencies are just clueless as to what is/isn’t annoying.)
Keeping that in mind, here are my top 7 commercials (because there were ties in the same brand):
(Should you want to see the actual ad, the titles of the commercial are links to the videos of each.)
7. VW’s “The Force” Super Bowl XLV: Definitely a vintage commercial. To this day, it remains the most watched Super Bowl ad ever. What makes it great is that you don’t have to be a fan of Star Wars to appreciate everything about this clever commercial advertising a VW Passat. (But for those of you who might’ve been sleeping during any of the films, Darth Vader is the quintessential villain who has just enough of “The Force” in him to torture his victims with a bit of telekinetic power.) (By the Deutsch Agency.)
6. Geico Insurance “If you’re a mom…”: While the gecko is cute (and received a lot of fan votes), from a writer’s perspective, this spoof of an action/adventure movie hooks you in, takes you for a ride, and tells such a good story that you don’t mind tuning in again and again. (By The Martin Agency. I don’t know who they are, but I want to work for them.)
5. Geico’s “When you’re in a horror movie…”: I absolutely love this ad. Probably the best spoof of the teen horror genre since the Scream franchise. (Also by The Martin Agency.)
4. Jack in the Box “Crickets Cravings.”: Whoever’s in charge of this ad campaign deserves an award. The majority of these commercials are funny, fresh, and clever. In this one, Jack’s pregnant wife wants brunch. What sends him into a late night frenzy is something a lot of us can identify with. (Struck Agency.)
3. Flo/Prudential’s “Maid for Us”: This is such a great homage to the sitcoms of the 70s, 80s, and 90s. It’s essentially a commercial disguised as the opening to a silly and no doubt heartwarming TV show. It has everything. A great jingle, a hook, and such a clever premise that every single time it’s on, I watch it. In fact, I want this to be a TV series. (Arnold Worldwide Agency)
And, in case you think the insurance companies have the market cornered on all the good ads, I present to you the top two commercials by Budweiser. Whether or not you think Bud’s the “king of beers,” their commercials definitely rule the market on tugging at emotions. Both of these are Super Bowl ads.
2. Budweiser’s “Brotherhood”: Starring one of the baby Clydesdales. What’s not to love? But get your hanky out for this one. (Anomaly Agency and FCB Chicago)
1. Budweiser’s “Puppy Love”: Puppies, beer, Clydesdales, it doesn’t get much better than this award winning ad. If Hallmark made beer, these commercials would fit right in. (Also by Anomaly and FCB Chicago)
What does this all mean if you’re not a penning a novel? The takeaway is that the next time you’re drinking your Budweiser, and trying to light your BBQ, and accidentally burn down your house, rest assured. Somewhere out there, an ad agency will turn your unfortunate set of circumstances into an award winning commercial.
How about you, Rogue Readers? What are your fave commercials?