5 TV ads you need to see before you go into the industry (and one you need to forget)

The cinematic: Apple - 1984

This ad wrote the rulebook for the Super Bowl advert. Directed by Hollywood’s Ridley Scott, it got people thinking about how ads could be elaborate and plot-driven, rather than a simple 30-second jingle. It played on universal fears by comparing its rival IBM to the dystopian Big Brother character from the Orwellian novel, 1984. Also, with a female heroine, it spoke to younger people with liberal views on gender roles.

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The one on everyone’s lips: Budweiser - Whassup!

“Yo, where’s Dookie?” Even people who weren’t alive to see it know about this pillar of pop culture. You can’t help but smile every time you see it - it’s got the humour and the authenticity, plus it’s easy to remember. It showed African-American buddies kicking back watching TV and drinking beer, a beer which was considered a classic American brew. Older distributors of Budweiser were worried that it was ‘too urban’ for the brand. Of course, nobody could hear them over the incessant “Whaassssssuuuupp???”’s.

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The digital approach to an old idea: Burger King - Subservient Chicken

Burger King was always known for its, “Have it your way” slogan, but their approach with this ad took the idea of burger customisation to an entirely new level. SubservientChicken.com was a website set up where visitors could see a live video of a submissive chicken mascot who would do whatever users told it to do, including the Moonwalk. It was meant to create the vibe of a seedy sex-site, and the best part: people thought it was real. Naturally, it went viral.

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The cause for positive change: Dove - Campaign for Real Beauty

We usually see ads playing on women’s insecurities - the lesson of most beauty ads is ‘buy this, and you’ll be more attractive’. Dove took the bold step in doing the exact opposite when their ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’ asked women to look at the things that already made them attractive, encouraging a healthy debate on body confidence. As a result, big brands like Nike started to use women with more everyday looks in their ads - all of a sudden, maybe it wasn’t Maybelline.

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The world record live event: Red Bull - Space Jump

This isn’t a conventional ‘advert’ per say, but maybe it offers a new way to think about what an advert can be. Shouldn’t an advert embody the values of the brand and find a way to crowbar those values into the viewer's mind permanently? And if Red Bull is all about living to the extreme, try and find a better way to embody that idea beyond televising a live event in which a stuntman breaks a world record by… falling from space. Yeh, exactly, someone actually did that, and someone else probably wrote up a hefty risk assessment form, too. Let that soak in for a moment.

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The one we should never speak of again

And whatever you do in your advertising career, please, don’t ever suggest that sugar water is the answer to social inequality.

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