Brands spend millions on 30-second ads because they know the return could be in billions. That’s the power of persuasion.
Almost every ad is created with the same intent and goal: to persuade the audience to trust the brand. And how the creatives spin a concept around that intent makes all the difference.
Today, we will take a look at the 27 most persuasive TV ads of all time and find out what makes them so influential.
The Top 27 Most Persuasive TV Ads of All Time
1. I Want to Buy the World a Coke
- Brand: Coca-Cola
- Agency: McCann Erickson
- Year: 1971
In our opinion, one of the best persuasive commercials is Coca-Cola’s “I Want to Buy the World a Coke”. Aside from the New Seekers’ catchy jingle, the ad is powerful because it focuses on the consumer rather than the product. This undoubtedly set a precedent for all future Coca-Cola campaigns.
Another factor that makes this one of the most influential TV commercials is the diversity of actors in the ad. This ad indeed established Coke as a universally beloved brand of soft drink.
With a budget of $250,000, it was the most expensive ad in its day. Initially released in Europe, the ad received a lukewarm response – but became a global phenomenon after massive success in the US.
2. 1984 Macintosh Computer
- Brand: Apple
- Agency: Fairbanks Films
- Year: 1984
Mac’s 1984 is an excellent example of ads that are persuasive. It’s almost as iconic as George Orwell’s literary masterpiece that it refers to. But, instead of the terrifying dystopia predicted by Orwell, Steve Jobs promises a better and brighter future – a future everyone wants. And this is how they created a commercial that touched the right chords with the audience obsessed with the Sci-Fi genre.
It won’t be wrong to say that the ad was as innovative as you’d expect any Apple product to be. Despite taking inspiration from someone else’s work, the concept is the epitome of sheer creativity. The ad is credited for redefining the art of corporate storytelling. Pay attention, and you will realize that there is a subtle dig on IBM, Apple’s biggest competitor at the time.
This 30-second ad, costing $1.5 million at the time, was directed by Ridley Scott and was watched by 97 million Americans during Superbowl. And that is how the Mac was born.
Related reading, “100 Most Famous Paintings Of All Time“.
3. We All Win
- Brand: Microsoft
- Agency: McCann NY
- Year: 2019
Another great example of ads that are persuasive is Microsoft’s “We All Win”. One can credit Microsoft for giving us dozens of brilliant ads over the years. Still, none of them stand out as much as the “We All Win” ad for Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller.
Aired during the Super Bowl, it had a powerful impact on millions of people due to its depiction of differently-abled children playing video games just like any other kid.
The ad is a testament to the power of inclusion, emphasizing how even the smallest amount of support can help a child reach greater heights.
Microsoft did an incredible job tugging at our heartstrings with real people using their product. The powerful conclusion, “when everyone plays, we all win,” demonstrates the profound impact technology can have on our lives and the lives of those around us.
4. Celebrate the Breakers
- Brand: KitKat
- Agency: J. Walter Thompson
- Year: 2015
Next on the list of the most persuasive TV ads is KitKat’s “Celebrate the Breakers” ad. KitKat’s mission to remind us to take a break has been around for over 70 years, and it’s easy to see why. Taking a break isn’t just a good idea; it feels good to be given permission to do something for yourself.
In 2015, they took it to the next level by celebrating those who take a break. “Celebrate the Breakers” was a massive campaign that drew power from its audience. It is one of the finest examples of brands using TV ads to drive a global social media campaign.
Different ads were created in other countries, each following a similar format and encouraging people to share their breaks with the world.
This is one of the best commercials that persuade because not only do they encourage us to do something we all want to do, but they also tell us that it’s something to cherish and celebrate instead of feeling guilty about it.
5. Nike: Just Do It
- Brand: Nike
- Agency: Wieden+Kennedy
- Year: 1988
Nike’s famous slogan, “Just Do It,” first burst onto the scene more than 30 years ago and has since been integral in defining the brand. With each new campaign, Nike has consistently raised the bar for its advertisements; however, the original “Just Do It” television commercial from 1988 still stands out as one of its best.
Like most iconic ads that have made history, the power of the narrative lies in its ability to focus on the consumer instead of the product. Nike’s slogan, for instance, speaks to and about the people who use their products. These are the ‘doers’ who refuse to be stopped or hindered by any excuses. They have the courage and tenacity to do whatever they put their minds to.
The ad conveys this message by featuring Walt Stack, the 80-year-old marathoner. The passionate story of Stack’s daily 17-mile run stirs us and motivates us to step out and pursue our dreams. It’s one of the best commercials that persuade.
6. When I Grow Up
- Brand: Monster
- Agency: Wieden+Kennedy
- Year: 1999
“When I Grow Up” is truly one of the best ads that are persuasive. Back in 1999, when people were taking their first tentative steps into a brave new world of trusting the internet with their careers, Monster.com posed a question that strikes fear into the heart of every adult: are you living your childhood dream?
But they did so in the most inspiring way imaginable. Rather than making anyone feel bad for their decisions, this ad motivated people to make a change and strive for something better.
On the surface, the ad is humorous when kids say lines like “When I grow up, I want to file all day.” But as soon as the bittersweet irony of this joke hits us, we realize that it is the kind of dreary job many of us have been forced to accept. That is why Monster.com provides a platform for people to break free from the monotony and take control of their own destinies.
7. We Believe: The Best Men Can Be
- Brand: Gillette
- Agency: Somesuch
- Year: 2019
This may be one of the most persuasive TV ads and also one of the most controversial entries on our list. However, it definitely deserves the spot because it’s not every day we see a significant brand returning to its decades-old slogan.
With “The Best Man Can Be,” Gillette changes the idea of masculinity it has been promoting with its iconic “The Best a Man Can Get” ads.
The ad was a massive gamble on the brand’s part. While it hit the right chords with the woke generation, it also upset millions by challenging the traditional masculine traits now considered toxic. But if you ask us, the ad is more about promoting positive masculinity – and that’s the way forward.
Interesting fact: Many women who buy razors for their men said they would be switching to Gillette after seeing this ad.
8. Like a Girl
- Brand: Always
- Agency: Leo Burnett
- Year: 2014
Puberty is a topic most would shy away from, even brands that make sanitary products. However, in 2014, Always, the leading brand in the sanitary napkin industry, came up with a campaign that focused on the problems faced by young girls during this phase.
The ad attempts to change the perception behind the phrase “Like a Girl.” It explores what it’s like to actually be a girl and discourages using this phrase as an insult.
The most persuasive aspect of this ad is the absence of the product itself. Instead, the entire narrative is built around a mission – a message that resonates with every single consumer. Nothing is more persuasive than a brand that genuinely cares for its customers, which is why “Like a Girl” is one of the best ads that are persuasive of all time.
9. Ed Sheeran’s Heinz Ad
- Brand: Kraft Heinz
- Agency: David the Agency
- Year: 2019
With this ad, Heinz took celebrity endorsement to a whole new level – or was it the other way around? Ed Sheeran’s love for Heinz is no secret; he even has a bottle tattooed on his arm.
Sheeran loves his ketchup so much that he actually reached out to the brand with an ad he wrote himself, featuring himself. And we have to admit, Ed’s scriptwriting is at par with his songwriting.
The ad simply follows Ed as he goes around his day with a bottle of his favorite ketchup at hand. We follow him to a posh restaurant where he complements his seemingly exotic, expensive meal with his favorite sauce, much to the waiter’s dismay and the audience’s amusement. Ed Sheeran’s Heinz ad is definitely one of the most notable ads that are persuasive, so marketers take note!
10. The Surfer
- Brand: Guinness
- Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers
- Year: 1999
The iconic ad “Surfer” for Guinness gave us all something to remember when it hit our screens in 1999. This multi-award-winning ad shifted the perception of the brand from being an older man’s drink to a younger audience’s delight. It was a beautiful and brilliant concept, and it truly touched our hearts.
This black-and-white visual treat features three surfers waiting for the right wave. The surf later turns into white horses, depicting the power of water and the adventure of riding that wave. The inspiration behind horses was Neptune’s horses in Roman Mythology.
In essence, the ad shows that waiting for the right wave is the key to a gratifying experience, just like the time it takes to pour a pint of Guinness. The entire concept was built around that one moment.
- Brand: E-Trade
- Agency: Goodby Silverstein & Partners
- Year: 2000
Early in 2000, at the time of the Super Bowl XXXIV, when the Dot-com bubble was still blooming, and people were eager to take risks and reap rewards when it came to investment, this E-Trade ad was a revolutionary moment. It was a time of great optimism and enthusiasm, and this commercial captured those feelings perfectly.
In this ad, a chimpanzee and two idiots clap and lip-sync to “La Cucaracha” with the message, “Well, we just wasted 2 million bucks. What are you doing with your money?”
It was an ad that perfectly portrayed both the client and the event simultaneously. This ad became immensely popular, and the fact that it cost 2 million dollars to air left a crisp and clear message for the audience that we spend your money liberally yet speculatively. Trust us with your money!
12. The Most Interesting Man in The World
- Brand: Dos Equis
- Agency: Havas Worldwide
- Year: 2006
The Dos Equis “Most Interesting Man in the World” commercial is one of the most persuasive TV ads due to its memorable and relatable message. The commercial features a sophisticated, distinguished older man who is described as the “Most Interesting Man in the World.”
Throughout the commercial, the narrator explains why he is the most interesting man, listing his various adventures and accomplishments. This creates a sense of admiration and envy, as viewers are encouraged to strive to be as interesting and accomplished as the “Most Interesting Man.”
The commercial also successfully conveys its message entertainingly and humorously. The narrator’s exaggerated and humorous descriptions of the most interesting man’s actions create a lighthearted tone and keep viewers engaged.
Additionally, the commercial’s catchy tagline, “Stay thirsty, my friends,” creates a sense of camaraderie and encourages viewers to join the “Most Interesting Man” on his journey. If this is not one of the best TV commercials that persuade, then we don’t know what is!
13. The Man Your Man Could Smell Like
- Brand: Old Spice
- Agency: Wieden+Kennedy
- Year: 2010
The “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” TV ad by Old Spice is one of the most successful ads that are persuasive of all time. It features a charming man, Isaiah Mustafa, who confidently speaks directly to the viewer while delivering a humorous and compelling message. The ad stands out due to its clever use of humor, product placement, and memorable catchphrase, “The man your man could smell like.”
The ad utilizes humor to draw the viewer’s attention and keep them engaged. Mustafa’s delivery is light-hearted and humorous, making it entertaining to watch. Additionally, the ad is structured in a way that makes it easy to remember, with a catchy jingle and Mustafa’s iconic catchphrase.
The ad also does an effective job of illustrating the product’s benefits. Mustafa speaks directly to the viewer, emphasizing how Old Spice will make them smell and feel attractive. He also encourages viewers to use Old Spice to show they are confident and take pride in their appearance. This message is further reinforced by the product placement, which makes it clear to viewers that Old Spice is the product they should be using.
14. One Story Away
- Brand: Netflix
- Agency: AKQA
- Year: 2020
Next on the list of the most persuasive TV ads is “One Story Away” by Netflix. Stories are a powerful tool that helps us understand each other better; they unite us as a species. Netflix unveiled a new branding campaign across 27 countries bearing the “One Story Away” tagline. Capitalizing on their ability to give life to unique narratives that fuel imagination and give people perspectives they yearn for.
This marvelous ad by Netflix perfectly portrays that journey every Netflix subscriber goes through by streaming 100s of hours of content across numerous genres. It was a perfect way to capture and depict their viewers’ experiences in a unifying message.
- Brand: Budweiser
- Agency: DDB Worldwide
- Year: 1999
One of the sure-shot ways for a brand to become immensely popular is for its ad to seamlessly work its way into popular culture. This is precisely what Budweiser managed to accomplish in its “Whassup” campaign in 1999. At the time, “Whassup!” was something used by everyone everywhere. It was the catchphrase.
By thoroughly ingraining themselves into the prevalent culture at the time that spanned across cultural barriers, they turned their brand into a global phenomenon, even becoming famous in countries where Budweiser wasn’t even sold. That’s why “Whassup” is on our list of the top ads that are persuasive.
16. Designated Driver
- Brand: Budweiser
- Agency: Downtown Partners
- Year: 2005
Another way for a brand to catch on with the crowd is to show that it cares about the customers. This is exactly what Budweiser did in 2005 with their designated driver campaign, a far cry from their previous campaigns.
When marketing alcohol to young consumers, it is only ethical to ensure you squeeze in a message about responsible drinking, or in this case, being responsible enough to skip drinking for a night for the sake of your friends. This commercial managed to get the message across effectively using Cedric the Entertainer’s humor, a party scene with some catchy music, and a cool set of designated driver dance moves.
Related reading, “The Top 20 Best Electric Guitar Players In The World“.
17. Nobody’s Watching
- Brand: HP
- Agency: Fred & Farid
- Year: 2019
Number 17 on our list of most persuasive TV ads is “Nobody’s Watching” by HP. Now addressing consumers’ concerns and launching a product with specific features that tackle those said concerns is how HP chose to play their hand in its “Keep it Human” campaign. The trouble that comes with going digital cannot be underscored, considering the looming threat of being hacked at any time.
With this angle, the ad campaign specifically targets anyone who spends their time online very cautiously with a manual camera kill switch for HP’s new range of laptops. Giving this sense of added security offers people an added sense of security, allowing them to be themselves around their digital devices. Offering this utility to their customers is what made this campaign a successful one.
18. Find Your Place
- Brand: StreetEasy
- Agency: Office of Baby
- Year: 2018
StreetEasy’s “Find Your Place” campaign showcases the genuine aspects of finding a place in the city of New York. The ad perfectly portrays the chaotic thought process of home-hunting to find someplace equidistant from your work, play, friends, and family.
It captures the fast-paced life of New York with a series of back-to-back shots of the city’s most popular residential locations brimming with life and luster. The concept revolves around every neighborhood’s unique qualities and the preferences of people who either wish to rent or purchase a home. A unique selling point that made this one of the greatest commercials that persuade.
- Brand: Skoda
- Agency: Fallon Worldwide
- Year: 2007
Next on our list of ads that are persuasive is the immensely popular ad from 2007 that unveils the new Skoda Fabia in the form of a cake baked by 15 people in a one-minute ad. The car is made from scratch entirely out of cake and other lovely edible things. Featuring jelly brake lights, chocolate fondant tires, and other internal features like the engine made out of licorice with golden syrup as an engine lubricant, this ad is a treat for the senses.
The cake model took ten days to build and reportedly cost nearly £500,000 to make. This was a successful and impressive stunt that earned the brand millions of eyeballs. Also, the cake didn’t go to waste as it was distributed to many local bakeries where people got to taste the most expensive cake ever made.
20. The Cog
- Brand: Honda
- Agency: Wieden+Kennedy
- Year: 2003
“The Cog” by Honda is next on the list of most persuasive TV ads of all time. In response to declining sales in 2002, Honda greenlit the Cog campaign with a budget of £1 million. To create this amazing chain-reaction video, the agency wasted no time recruiting a team of engineers, car designers, technicians, and even a sculptor to hash out the logistics in detail. The ad is a metaphor that depicts the brand’s commitment to brilliant design and engineering.
The team spent more than a month with disassembled Honda Accord parts to figure out how the video would flow from start to finish. Honda insisted that they wished to focus on several features that the new Accord was offering, such as their rain-sensitive windscreen and a wing-mirror indicator.
21. The Showdown
- Brand: McDonald’s
- Agency: Leo Burnett
- Year: 1993
Number 21 on our list of the best ads that are persuasive, and the winner of the USA Today’s Superbowl Ad Meter, this iconic showdown between Michael Jordan and Larry Bird for a Big Mac went as viral as viral could get in 1993. A great Super Bowl ad can stick to your mind for hours or perhaps days, but there are a select few ads that can withstand the test of time.
Ideally, a Superbowl commercial features football athletes, but McDonald’s went with basketball stars. This 1.5-minute spot became so popular that it was featured again in the movie “Space Jam” where Jordan went at it again with Marvin the Martian shooting nothing but net!
22. Where’s The Beef
- Brand: Wendy’s
- Agency: Dancer Fitzgerald Sample
- Year: 1984
Let’s travel back to 1984 when a simple question sparked a meat-craving frenzy across the nation. It was in this year that Wendy’s debuted their iconic “Where’s the Beef?” campaign starring Clara Peller. A brainchild of a top-tier agency of its time, the ad was an instant sensation that contributed to a 31% increase in Wendy’s annual revenue.
The ad shows three grannies examining a burger from another brand. Two grannies admire the fluffy new burger with a tiny patty, while Clara goes over the rails demanding a healthy serving of meat from that fictional fast-food competitor. In the process, the ad gave birth to the classic 80’s catchphrase. The competitors inferred in this ad were the big-name brands at the time, namely Burger King and McDonald’s!
23. The Cindy Crawford Ad
- Brand: Pepsi
- Agency: BBDO
- Year: 1992
Pepsi’s ad featuring supermodel Cindy Crawford is next on the list of the most persuasive TV ads, and here’s why. In 1992, Cindy Crawford changed everything one day when she got a wee bit thirsty. On that fateful day, wearing high-waisted denim cutoffs and a white tank top, she made a trip to a Pepsi vending machine, and all else was history. Talk about star power. That’s a classic Pepsi Co. success strategy.
To this day, this commercial remains one of the most iconic for the brand. It was so successful that Pepsi decided to create a remake of the ad in 2016. Despite the well-known fact that Cindy hasn’t aged a day, Pepsi decided the remake would be in the form of an emoji.
24. Doritos: Live the Flavor
- Brand: Doritos
- Agency: The Marketing Arm
- Year: 2007
This Doritos marketing campaign was so successful that not only was it the most liked ad of Superbowl 2007, it paved the path for other companies to emulate.
By turning to customers for ad inspiration, Doritos changed the game. They asked fans to submit self-produced commercials for their brand. The first winner was the ad, “Live the Flavor” created by Wes Phillips and Dale Backus, who were in their early 20s at the time.
This was the most successful, if not the first, example of crowdsourced advertisement. The buzz created by that campaign played a major role in its success.
25. Once You Pop, You Can’t Stop
- Brand: Pringles
- Agency: Wells Rich Greene
- Year: 1996
A brand can work its way into your mind and stay there to come up with a catchy phrase that sticks. The “Once you pop, you can’t stop” slogan for Pringles took the USA by storm and is responsible for its whopping 9.6% market share in the country.
Pringles ingrained itself into popular culture with this ad, just like KitKat’s take-a-break ads. This paid off for the company in more ways than one and has managed to solidify the company’s standing among a slew of competitors that are just waiting to take each other’s space.
26. Good Call
- Brand: Foster’s
- Agency: Adam & Eve DDB
- Year: 2010
The Foster’s “Good Call” TV ad is widely considered to be one of the most persuasive commercials ever created. It was released in 2005 and was an instant hit, with many viewers finding it to be an entertaining and memorable ad.
It uses humor to get its point across. It follows a man who is drinking a Foster’s beer and is trying to get a group of people to join him in the pub. He keeps trying to persuade them in different ways, such as offering them his beer, but they keep turning him down. Finally, he says, “It’s a good call,” and they all immediately agree to come.
The ad effectively conveys the message that Foster’s is a great beer, and that it’s a “good call” to drink it. At the same time, it uses humor to make it enjoyable and memorable. The use of humor is a powerful persuasive technique, as it helps to create an emotional connection with the audience and makes it more likely that they will remember the ad.
27. Man on The Moon
- Brand: John Lewis
- Agency: Adam&Eve DDB
- Year: 2015
The last on our list of the most persuasive TV ads and certainly not the least is the “Man on the Moon” ad by John Lewis. It is widely considered one of the most persuasive TV ads of all time due to its powerful message and vibrant visuals. The ad follows a young girl who, on Christmas Eve, spots a man on the moon through her telescope. So she packs a few gifts and sets off to deliver them, leading to a heartwarming ending.
The ad was successful because it captured the essence of the holiday season while also conveying the message of kindness and generosity. The visuals were also compelling, with the imagery of a lonely man on the moon being particularly striking. Additionally, the ad evoked strong emotions in the viewer, with the combination of the visuals and the accompanying music creating an atmosphere that was both memorable and touching.
Related reading, “Top 10 Fun Facts About Christmas That Will Make You Smile“.
27 Most Persuasive TV Ads of All Time – In Conclusion
As you can see, TV ads are more than just a way to sell a product. They can also convey a powerful message and influence how viewers think and act.
While the ads listed here are some of the most persuasive, countless other creative and effective ads are out there. So the next time you watch TV, be sure to pay attention to the ads and the messages they’re trying to convey.