Sometimes, a commercial stops you dead in your tracks. Whether it’s the beauty of its execution, a boldly stated message, or an innovative take on an old idea, there are moments when this industry shines with remarkable creativity. It’s what we live for in this business. Done well, an ad can be inspiring to behold. So, in the name of inspiration and kudos to our peers, we polled our team to discover some of the office favorites of this summer’s ads. Here’s what made the list….
Budweiser — For the Fathers Who Stepped Up
- What we love: It’s not easy to execute a tear-jerker without coming off hackneyed, ham-handed, or otherwise missing the mark. But Budweiser’s Father’s Day spot had us holding back tears at our desks. At nearly 4 minutes, it’s less of a commercial than a video unto itself, leaning more towards “branded content.” But the branding throughout is light. Less blatant than many product placements in TV, movies, and music videos. A series of stepfathers and their grown stepchildren share a beer and talk about their relationships before launching us into a full-blown emotional crescendo: the heartfelt request to be formally, legally adopted. The genius in this ad was the choice to capitalize on the same candid magic that has made reality TV blow up. The “reveal” that is hinted at is a total surprise to the stepdads in the ad. It’s unscripted. It’s off the cuff. It’s genuine. Not to mention, there’s a perfectly tight story arc built into the script, keeping you engaged for the entire length of the spot. And because stepdads don’t get a lot of attention, even though plenty of them are out there, makes the subject matter fresh and relevant. A win-win-win, all around.
Perrier — Mona Lisa
- What we love: Fizzy drinks are known to capitalize on the experience of drinking them, attempting to capture the essence of what it feels like to take that first sip — effervescent and uplifting. Coca-Cola has come at this from just about every angle possible. But not this one. What we love about Perrier’s commercial is that they’ve taken an iconic figure, put her into a new context, and pushed us to imagine what it might be like to walk out of a painting and rediscover the world centuries after our last memory IRL. Mona Lisa explores the world with all the curiosity and delight that Perrier hopes to connote with taking those first bubbly sips. It’s easy to find yourself exactly where they led you, in a headspace of inspiration, wonder, and invigoration.
Apple AirPods — Bounce
- What we love: Apple has these high-energy, music-driven TV spots on lock. You kind of can’t go wrong with a track that keeps the energy flowing combined with a relatable moment or setting the has been reimagined with a touch of magical realism to bring the concept to life. Of course, with commercials such as these, simplicity is key — but there is a thoughtfulness behind it, too. The feeling of freedom to bounce around in your world, unhindered by cords and accompanied by your favorite music, is exactly what Apple wanted to portray here. And that is exactly what they did.
Gillette — First Shave
- What we love: We’re big proponents of imbuing your brand with a larger purpose. Gillette made some big moves in that direction this year — headline-makers. In this ad, they branched out from the topic of toxic masculinity to create a platform of visibility and inclusion, encouraging acceptance and taking a stand on an issue that still faces a lot of debate. It’s a short story about a transgender man, documenting his father teaching him how to shave for the first time. Ads such as these often come under scrutiny for using hot-button issues to self-promote in a shallow way. But when it’s on a topic as divisive as this, coupled with a clear and consistent commitment to the brand’s new messaging, it’s kind hard to argue with. Beyond that, the spot was well executed. The key to making it work was the sense of authenticity and the relatively casual way they approach the subject. The feeling of near-nonchalance about the topic encourages acceptance. It’s not over the top. This is (or, in the future, perhaps, will become) everyday business — a simple story of a dad teaching his child to shave.
Volkswagen — Hello Light
- What we love: When a company faces as much of a PR nightmare as Volkswagen has over its emissions trickery, it can be hard to come back from. Often, the best move is to find a way to address the issue directly and do something about it. And in this ad, that’s exactly what VW did. They call themselves out and face the criticism of their emissions scandal head on. In a move to show that they’ve learned a lesson, VW is diving head first into electric car innovation with one of their most iconic vehicles (second only to the Beetle), with a new electric VW Bus. They also made the wise choice to use a song that tickles the nostalgia of the audience that put the original VW Bus on the map back in the 60’s and 70’s — coincidentally (or is it?), a demographic known for their environmentally conscious, hippie ways.