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?
What an interesting list, Robin! I watched some of your favorites — liked the last puppy one the best — however, I have to admit I'm probably the ONLY one who would say this, but I have not seen ANY of those ads (or most any other ads) because I now DVR all the shows I want to watch (including news shows) to watch later so I can fast-forward through all the commercials. I wonder if the sponsors and ad agencies ever take this customer "behavior" into account when they spend their money (?)…Karna Bodman
I do love the Budweiser ads. However, you missed my favorite: the EDS cat herder ads. Putting up the You tube link for lovers of cats, cowboys, and humor. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SmgLtg1Izw
I loved the Budweiser commercials–expecially Puppy Love. I cried like a baby. Some of my favorite are the Mayhem Guy and the Farmer's Hall of Claim commericals–especially the Mer-Mutts. https://youtu.be/tq5mdez0hLs
We definitely fast forward. And Dish TV has the Hopper (or something) that will fast forward for you if you DVR. The smart ad agencies will make sure that the tail end of their ad at least has product placement so you might catch it. There are, however, times that we watch Live TV. News in the morning, a show we've been dying to see and can't wait to DVR, or just when the DVR plays on because I'm multi-tasking while watching TV.
The Cat Herder ads are my sister's faves, too. It didn't make my list, only because I've never seen it on the TV. Only as a recommendation from someone else on YouTube. (Must not have aired on the shows I watched?) But they are really, really clever! Kudos to that ad agency!
Mer-Mutts! I'd forgotten about them! Funny how the best commercials are either from insurance companies or beer!
These are all so clever! Spy is my favorite!Love the mother and the line "the squirrels are back…your dad says this time it's personal." Cracks me up every time.
I know! It's just such a great dichotomy between the payoff of mom calling/squirrels, and the whole action/adventure thing!
I'm still besotted by the old antacid commercial in which various fingers poke rounded tummies. Does anyone remember that???? What a wonderful blog … love the analysis of why we're attracted to some commercials. Makes a lot of sense!
I hardly ever watch anything I haven’t pre-recorded. It was bad enough when there were 3-4 commercials per break, but now I’ve counted up to 11!
I do love the Mom one. But my favorites are obscure ones that didn’t show much and would take too much typing to describe. However two of them were Kia, I can tell you that much!
I don't remember it… But I'll bet you could find an old copy on the internet!
I'll keep an eye out for the Kia commercials!
I like all the Geico ads. I was just laughing hysterically at the new one tonight. A woman won the chance to be on a commercial with characters from their best previous ads, including the mom, her squirrels and a sloth. I also cry at all of the Budweiser Ads with the clydesdales. I liked the most interesting man in the world, another beer commercial. His exploits were like a book series.
We have very similar tastes, Sherry! (I actually voted and entered that contest on the new Geico ad. Sadly, I didn't win, or I would've been on it!) Totally forgot the most interesting man in the world. Great set of commercials!
After reviewing all of the comments about favorite ads – I do have a question: did ANY of these ads influence you to actually BUY the product advertised? Just curious….Karna Bodman
That's hard to quantify, because you need to be in the market for the items in question. I'd say they cement name recognition, which is the next best thing. If I were in the market for insurance (and didn't have an agent who handles it), I wouldn't be adverse to considering Geico, Prudential, or Allstate, while I'd shy away from Liberty due to the annoyance of their past commercials. I eat at Jack in the box every now and then, but not the advertised products. And, once, when I was shopping for bottled water w/dispenser/delivery, I went with the company who had the funniest radio ads. So a very small example, I'd say, yes. (I don't like Budweiser.)
Great post Robin. My favorite commercials tend to be about or have children in them. (My bologna has a first name… and the kid that's learning to sign to impress the new girl. I never thought of them as mini short stories. I'll have to apply that to my writing. Thanks!
You're very welcome! (Who (our age) can forget "My bologna has a first name…"? And, yes, the learning to sign. Brilliant example of mini short stories!