27 Most Persuasive TV Ads of All Time

By Susan Dorling | 2020 Guide

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, same goal: to persuade the audience into trusting the brand. How the creatives spin a concept around that intent is what makes all the difference.

Today, we will take a look at 27 most persuasive commercials of all time and find out what makes them so influential.

1. I Want to Buy the World a Coke

  • Brand: Coca Cola
  • Agency: McCann Erickson
  • Year: 1971

If we have to pick one brand that truly understands the art of advertisement, it has to be Coca Cola. The taste is only part of the reason Coke turned from a concoction sold at the pharmacy to the world’s highest-selling soft drink. They know how to persuade minds by touching the heart. And while every Coke ad has an appeal of its own, we will talk about the real game-changer – not just for the brand but for advertisement in general.

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 the 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 back in its days. 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 ad is almost as iconic as George Orwell’s literary masterpiece it refers. Instead of the dreadful dystopia predicted by Orwell, Steve promises a future that is better and brighter – a future everyone wanted. 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. Not to mention 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.

3. We All Win

  • Brand:  Microsoft
  • Agency: McCann NY
  • Year: 2019

One can credit Microsoft for giving us dozens of brilliant ads over the year, but none of them stands out as much as the relatively recent ‘We All Win’ for the Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller. Aired during the Superbowl, this ad touched millions of hearts by telling stories of differently-abled children playing video games just like any other kids.

The ad is all about inclusion and shows us how a little support can help any child unlock bigger achievements. What makes this commercial even more heartwarming is realizing that most of those kids accepted that their lives couldn’t change. With real people with real stories, Microsoft builds its narrative, not around the product, but it varies around the lives.  

Ending with a tagline, “when everyone plays, we all win,” this ad shows us the real power of technology and how it can transform the world for every individual.

4. Celebrate the Breakers

  • Brand:  KitKat
  • Agency: J. Walter Thompson
  • Year: 2015

It’s been more than 70 years since Nestlé’s KitKat came up with an idea of encouraging breaks. Sometimes, a break is all we need, and it feels good when someone tells you to have it. In 2015, the world’s most renowned candy brand took it to the next level by ‘celebrating’ those who take a break.

Celebrate the Breakers was a massive campaign that drew its 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.

In summary, these ads are persuasive 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

It’s been more than 30 years since Nike came up with its brand-defining slogan, ‘Just Do it.’ The slogan has been part of every ad created for the brand. Frankly, the brand has upped their advertisement game with every new campaign – but making it to our top 5 is the original Just Do It TV commercial from 1988.

Like most of the iconic ads that left their mark, narrative power comes from its focus on the consumer instead of the product. Nike’s slogan says nothing about the product but speaks to and about the consumers. They are the ‘doers’ – those who do not let anything stop them from doing what they want, without excuses. The ad conveys this message by featuring Walt Stack, the 80-year-old marathoner. The advertisement about Stack’s daily 17-mile run inspired the audience to get up and do what they always wanted to. Nike received hundreds of letters from people who wanted to share their stories.

6. When I Grow Up

  • Brand:  Monster
  • Agency: Wieden+Kennedy
  • Year: 1999

Back in 1999, when people were just starting to trust the internet for serious matters such as career, Monster.com asked a question every adult tries to avoid: are you living your childhood dream? But they did that in the most inspiring way possible. Instead of making the audience feel bad for their choices, this ad motivates them to make a move towards a better choice.

On the surface, the ad appears comical when kids say lines like “When I grow up, I want to file all day,” but as soon as the reality of this tongue-in-cheek humor dawns upon us, we realize that it is the kind of mundane job most of us have ended with. Monster.com provides a platform for change.

7. We Believe: The Best Men Can Be

  • Brand:  Gillette
  • Agency: Somesuch
  • Year: 2019

This may be one of the newest, and perhaps the most controversial entry on our list. However, it definitely deserves the spot because it’s not every day we see a significant brand going back on 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 huge 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. If you ask us, the ad is more about promoting positive masculinity – and that’s the way forward.

Interesting fact: Many women said they would switch to Gillett because they are the ones who buy razors for their men.

8. Like a Girl

  • Brand:  Always
  • Agency: Leo Burnett
  • Year: 2014

Puberty is a topic most would shy away from, even for brands that make sanitary products. 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 is actually like to be a girl, and discourages the use of this phrase as an insult.  

The most persuasive aspect of this ad is the absence of the product itself. The entire narrative is built around a mission – a message that resonates with every single consumer. Noting is more persuasive than a brand that genuinely cares for its customers.  

9. Ed Sheeran’s Heinz Ad

  • Brand:  Kraft Heinz
  • Agency: David the Agency
  • Year: 2019

With this ad, Heinz too 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. Ed 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 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 waiters’ dismay and audience’s amusement. The ad is persuasive because it is based on reality. There has to be something about a ketchup a celebrity chooses over fancy sauces they can enjoy.

10. The Surfer

  • Brand:  Guinness
  • Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers
  • Year: 1999

Another classic advertisement that braced our screen back in 1999 is the multiple award-winning ‘Surfer’ for Guinness. With this ad, the brand managed to change its perception as an old man’s drink and targeted a younger audience with a simple yet brilliant concept.

Featuring three surfers waiting for the right wave, this black and white ad is a visual treat. The surf later turns into white horses, depicting not just the power of water but also 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.

11. Wasted

  • Brand: E-Trade
  • Agency: Goodby Silverstein & Partners
  • Year: 2000

Early in 2000, during the Super Bowl XXXIV, when the Dot-com bubble hadn’t burst, and people were a lot more generous with high-risk high-return opportunities when it came to investment, this E-Trade ad was a gamechanger.

In this ad, a chimpanzee and two idiots clap and lip-sync to ‘La Cucaracha’ with the message that stated, “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 got so immensely popular, and the fact that it actually 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

Aloof and unorthodox in its endorsement, the character of Most Interesting Man in the World carries the brand Dos Equis rather gracefully and effortlessly. It features an elderly bearded man with a rather sophisticated charm adventuring around the world. Now after airing a large number of these ads, Dos Equis is finally retiring the campaign.  

The most meaningful measure of success for this campaign was the public’s willingness not just to tolerate this ad but also seek them out actively. Millions upon millions have loved, searched, cataloged, and meme-ified these videos that depict a vibrant spirit of adventure-in addition to being downright hilarious.

13. The Man Your Man Could Smell Like

  • Brand: Old Spice
  • Agency: Wieden+Kennedy
  • Year: 2010

It’s been over ten years since the Old Spice campaign revamps took the world by storm, by an over-the-top, charming, and shirtless Old Spice Man played by Isaiah Mustafa. The brand came up with interesting ideas on how they could rebrand, and the campaign “Man your man could smell like” was born.

This Ad has immense emotional appeal, which can further be categorized into sexual and endorsement appeal. By playing up the ridiculous element of each of their ads, they managed to capture the public’s eyes. They don’t try to sell the cause-effect relationship of using their products, but rather poke fun at it.

 14. 1 Story Away

  • Brand: Netflix
  • Agency: AKQA
  • Year: 2020

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.

 15. Whassup

  • 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 the 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.

 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.

17. Nobody’s Watching

  • Brand: HP
  • Agency: Fred & Farid
  • Year: 2019

Addressing consumers’ concerns and launching a product with specific features that tackle the said concerns is how HP chose to play their hand in their “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 USP that made this ad persuasive enough for this list.

 19. Cake

  • Brand: Skoda
  • Agency: Fallon Worldwide
  • Year: 2007

Next on our list 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

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

Winner of the USA Today’s Superbowl Ad Meter, this iconic showdown between Michael Jordon 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, 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, where a simple question sparked a meat-craving frenzy across the nation. Thirty-six years ago, 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

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 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 a 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 advertisment. 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 the storm and is responsible for its whopping 9.6% market share in the country.

Pringles ingrained itself into the popular culture with this ad, just like KitKat’s 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

Foster’s Good Call campaign was revived in 2019, but the original was aired around ten years ago. The ads featuring Brad and Dan were heavily criticized for casual sexism. However, that was after about five years of a successful run. Overall, the campaign managed to drive sales and win the IPA Effectiveness Awards Grand Prix for the brand.  

Despite all the issues, the ads connect to the brand’s target audience, i.e., men. Both stars, along with the creators, insist that the ad isn’t as problematic as critics make it seem. They maintain that the duo, acting as ‘uncle agony’, gives nothing but positive advice to men in need. For all we know, the ad was as persuasive as one can imagine – and that reflects in the higher sales and the recent revival. 

27. Man on The Moon

  • Brand: John Lewis
  • Agency: Adam&Eve DDB
  • Year: 2015

Didn’t we all grow up believing there is a man on the moon? But how many ever considered getting in touch with the man? John Lewis took the idea to a whole new level when they collaborated with Age UK for a loneliness awareness campaign.

From the soundtrack to cinematics, everything about this ad is brilliant and memorable. The ad depicting a little girl trying to cheer a lonely man on the moon was a show of solidarity with those alone on Christmas eve. It is also a message to everyone else to reach out to those who might be alone. And in doing that, the retailer establishes its image as a brand that genuinely cares.

These ads are creative for sure, but there are hundreds more we couldn’t include. We would definitely love to know which ads you would have liked on our list of most persuasive TV ads of all time. Meanwhile, dont forget to check our list of 100 Most Famous Paintings in the World and 25 Most Famous Statues in the World

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