Video is still the best way to tell stories, not just for writers but also for marketers.

Within a few minutes, you can convey big ideas about your brands in simple but meaningful packages.

Use an appropriate background music track, throw in relatable characters, select the most suitable cast, and hold it all together with a thoughtful script that conveys your message in an unexpected manner.

If you get the basics right, you may tell a story that will stay with your audience for a lifetime. Its actually simple – most videos go viral because they’re hilarious, shocking, emotional, deep, relatable, or visually awe-inspiring.

Where can you find good references for such cuts? Right here!

This continuously updated ad collection below pays homage to some of the best video advertisements in recent history.

Keep tissues ready because you’ll either be crying your hearts out or laughing through your nose (is that even possible?)

For Everyone ~ Coca Cola

  • Agency: McCann-Erickson
  • Year: 2002 for Coca Cola

You might think you need a huge budget to shoot a cool beverage commercial. But this short ad completely defies that norm, using just a bunch of Coca Cola bottles to show the emotional value behind their product.

It’s a brilliant example of being resourceful. By using the power of inspirational copy to strike a chord, it turns these bottles into contextual representations of life & real people.

Such ads are timeless (and it was rightly revamped with a fresher look decades later).


Ghar Ka Khana ~ Fortune Foods

  • Agency: Ogilvy & Mather India
  • Year: 2014 for Fortune Oils

Oh dear, this is such a tear-jerker, and I love the daadi played by veteran Kamlesh Gill because she captures the adamant yet warm persona so beautifully.

Vivek Kakkad of Curious films directed this masterpiece, and I think it makes for a wonderful case study on branded storytelling for 3 simple reasons:

  • Leverages the mother-son bond to create an emotional connection with the audience
  • Uses nostalgia to bring back childhood memories of eating at home
  • Seamlessly & naturally integrates its product into the center of the script (joy of healthy food)

According to a report by AFaqs, “The background score, which plays an important role, was created by Abhishek Arora (the music director for Vicky Donor) while Nitin Pradhan, former creative director at JWT, penned the lyrics.

Swaroop Khan, a contestant on Indian Idol 5 and a folk singer from Rajasthan has sung the emotional song.”

Honestly, I just want to go hug our old folks now. What’s your take on this video? Did it tug at your heartstrings, too?


Fueled by Love ~ British Airways

  • Agency: SapientNitro
  • Year: 2016 for British Airways (Indian market)

This one has set new sky-high standards for brand storytelling with this emotional ad. Apart from the cute daadi (granny) who steals the show, what I love about the script from a marketing lens is that:

  • It humanizes its service employees & shares the brand experience through their eyes … which is very rare!
  • It takes the effort to research & understand the Indian target audience’s culture, values, heritage, and family relationships … most brands never bother to do this research
  • It zooms in on an intimate friendship rather than displaying big numbers and statistics, which wouldn’t have made an emotional impact on anyone

Also what is it with grandparents and lovely ads haha, is that the magical ingredient or something?


Unsung Hero ~ Thai Life Insurance

  • Year: 2014
  • Agencies: Ogilvy & Mather, Phenomena

Most life insurance commercials go the usual route of showing family-centered stories to promote their products. But this tear-jerking ad takes the principle of being there for others beyond blood relationships.

  • It keeps the storyline quite simple, focusing on one man and his day-to-day journey, showing how one can practice a little kindness every day despite busy schedules.
  • There is no mention of the product because all the focus is on the value/ethics that the company believes in. This bold move makes this look like a nice short film instead of an ad, thus hooking more people in. Currently, it has 1M+ likes.
  • There is a massively impactful conclusion that hits the spot hard. Whoever wrote the script knew just how to build up the tiny moments to an epic crescendo.

It’s the simple writing and visual direction that makes this a brilliant case study of how telling a good story can have more impact on your sales than lazily promoting your product. We want to see more warm fuzzy ads, please!


Wedding Speech ~ Paisabazaar

  • Agency: Enormous Brands
  • Year: 2019 for Paisabazaar India

This is such an emotional coaster ride. I’m impressed with the soulful dialogue & classy acting by all the characters. But there’s a deeper reason why I love it so much.

Technically, you’d expect Paisabazaar to push customers to buy loans that they aggregate on the site. But this story does exactly the opposite, encouraging people to build their dreams bit by bit without ‘depending’ on another person. So the message is that PB wants to empower its customers & not just make the cut from their banking partners.

This humanizes the brand and clearly establishes its broader vision. The technique is called ‘anti-selling,’ in which you show people that your brand goes beyond the physical utility of your product. The idea is to create an emotional connection around your core offering so that customers don’t feel like they’re being sold to.

Does your brand really care about making an impact on their lives?

Much like the elder brother in this ad, who loved his sibling silently, do you have your audience’s best interest at heart?

Try conveying and practicing empathy in your marketing- it’s an underrated but effective trick!


Men will be Men ~ Imperial Blue

  • Agency: Ogilvy & Mather India
  • Year: 1999 for Seagram’s Imperial Blue

No marketing discussion is complete without a mention of the iconic Seagram’s Imperial Blue campaign that had men (and women) around the world in splits, and that, too, without using many words!

The whiskey marker wanted a “surrogate ad” campaign to push its music CDs since advertising alcohol was (and still is) banned on television by the Indian government.

FYI, surrogate advertising means using another secondary product to create awareness of your brand’s name, probably because your product is mature, taboo, illegal, or discouraged for promotion towards underage viewers (e.g. alcohol, condoms, porn, etc.).

To capture the office-going male audience, Ogilvy & Mather India originally conceptualized a series of relatable & evergreen ads. They poke fun at the subtle ways in which men will try to impress or court the fairer gender.

Without being too sexist or cringey, the witty storylines pack a light comedic punch, accompanied by the catchy tune, “Pyaar ki Raah me Chalna Sikh…”

BTW, that tune was written by Ajay Gahlaut, who was then the Executive Creative Director of Ogilvy’s Delhi chapter. As of 2021, he’s currently leading Dentsu Creative.

Sharan Sanil from MensXP makes a great observation.

He says, “Here, the humor doesn’t really arise from objectifying the woman that the man comes across – it comes from the subversion of his expectations, and how the world is indifferent to the loss of his fantasy – a theme that, in more recent ad films, [often] play out without any women even being part of the frame [or being actively involved in the script].”

I’m a huge fan of this whole concept because it finds a way to touch the target audience (predominantly men) without taking them too seriously. This is classic tongue-in-cheek humor at its finest!


Powerpoint Finance ~ Bank on Fi

  • Creators: In-house
  • Year: 2021 for “Bank on Fi” India

Other ads in the series:

  • Save Smart with Fi – Meet Fi Jars for the dreams of today!
  • Save Smart with Fi – The Smartest Financial Assistant in Town

Fi is a neobank startup (operating without physical branches) that wants to help young Indian millennials & Gen-Zs save money through automated savings every time they shop online.

In a bid to show their no-bullshit young personality, they created video ads with a funny “low-effort” PowerPoint theme, as if mocking the software’s blatant use in the wake of work-from-home culture since the COVID-19 lockdowns in India.

This played well with their brand’s persona of being prudent with your money. Because the series doesn’t go for any expensive photo shoots or celebrity endorsements.

Instead, it completely relies on memes, common internet lingo, and an honest anti-jargon script, delivered by a friendly young voice.

The execution looks entirely done on MS PowerPoint Slides to the layman. But looking at the cute animations, this was probably executed in After Effects/Premiere Pro.

The ads were reportedly run as paid performance campaigns on social media and OTT platforms like Hotstar during the IPL season.


Worth Killing ~ Ladder Life Insurance

  • Agency: Fred & Farid
  • Year: 2021 (October) for Ladder Life Insurance (USA)

This is another life insurance commercial that decides to take a unique approach, although this time it’s a really, really dark comedic tone (unlike the emotional Thai life spot we saw earlier).

I love that the creators decided to meddle with the whole idea of getting life insurance (protecting your loved ones) and then turned it on its head (this stuff is so good, your loved ones will want to kill you). That’s just genius thinking!

The element that sealed the deal for me was the last bit of voice over which clarifies that attempting to commit insurance fraud will almost certainly land you in jail.

Overall, the execution is brilliant because it keeps you guessing about the product until the end. What a masterpiece!


Quit Smoking for your Kids ~ Orient Electric

  • Year: 2017
  • Agency: DigitasLBi for Orient Electric

Most anti-smoking ads are filled with gory visuals that have little to no impact. This short, copy-less video takes a different approach. It triggers emotion by bringing a kid into the picture.

The story starts out on an innocent note, with the son trying to imitate his father by wearing the same office clothes.

But we get gut-punched out of nowhere, as the kid is seen holding up a cigarette in his hand. The father sees this and realizes the impact of his habit on the next generation, which ultimately convinces him to put down his habit.

No heavy words. No uncomfortable images of cancer patients. Just simple & impactful storytelling at its finest. We love it so much!


Don’t Try This at Home ~ Livspace

  • Year: 2021
  • Agency: Tilt Brand Solutions for Livspace

Usually, when it comes to interior decor companies, their ads are always focused on beauty & aesthetics but rarely on the functionalities of new homes.

This series of hilarious TVCs shows the troubles of living in a badly designed space, with Livspace being positioned as the expert problem solver.

The acting is brilliant, each subplot is funnier than the last, and the overall execution is a pure fucking masterpiece.

Whoever conceptualized these videos, I would like to fuck your brains out.


Love the Way you Live ~ Livspace

  • Year: 2022
  • Agency: Tilt Brand Solutions for Livspace

In just a few months, the Livspace brand was back with another set of rib-tickling, wordless ad spots, and this one is arguably cheekier than the previous #DontTryThisAtHome campaign.

I love this set because it uses Virat Kohli & Anushka Sharma’s chemistry so elegantly.

The script is witty like always and doesn’t even contain a single word. The entire comedy rests on the expressions & shenanigans that ensue. Virat is a natural actor, but he probably picked up some lessons from his effervescent wife. Bloody brilliant.


Parisian Love ~ Google

  • Year: 2010
  • Creators: Google Creative Lab

How often have we heard advertisers saying they don’t have enough budget to make a good ad? This beautiful short video from Google illustrates that all you really need is creativity.

The entire spot, released during the Super Bowl 2010, is just a series of Google Searches that tell a beautiful story.

It was created in-house by Google’s team of newly recruiter, bright-eyed advertising professionals. Read the full story behind this campaign here.


Born to Create Drama ~ YDA

Year: 2010
Creators: TBWA

This is the cheekiest short ad I’ve seen in a long while. It was created to promote the Young Directors Awards of 2010. And my research tells me it’s part of a series, which contains other equally hilarious episodes that follow similar premises.

What I like about the concept is that it’s such a creative take with the brand’s tagline “Born to Create Drama.” By showing youngsters being as natural actors who use their talent for mischief, it cuts to the heart of the point directly.

I also like how it addresses the TG directly in a way (although I’m sure the receivers of the YDA award are a bit older than the cast used in these ads).

As the British say, “Bloody brilliant!”


If Only For A Second ~ Mimi Foundation

  • Agency: Leo Burnett
  • Year: 2013 for Mimi Foundation

This one gets me sappy every time. It brings real humans to the forefront and gives them the experience of a lifetime.

Cancer is one of the harshest struggles one can face in their lifetime; the way this ad addresses it is warming beyond measure.

Sometimes a good technique to write ad concepts is to write them for specific people instead of trying to capture everyone. As this example proves, there’s a power in making things up, close, and personal.


The Sauna ~ Specsavers

Perhaps the cheekiest, most hilarious ad on this list!

I love how they’ve built the suspense until the very punchline. And the addition of Gordon slicing the block of meat/vegetable (alluding to the man’s visible privates) is refreshingly original. Not to mention how the man awkwardly crosses his legs to hide his shame.

All done without a single word.

They also seamlessly incorporate the name of their product into the script by using a sticky note that is used to track new orders in big kitchens.

And to top it all off, the tagline is cocky, too, “Should’ve gone to Specsavers.”

Humor at its finest!


Icelandverse ~ Inspired by Iceland

  • Agency: SS+K
  • Year: 2021 for Visit Iceland (Tourism Dept.)

2021 was all about Mark Zuckerberg’s grand Metaverse announcement story.

To many, though, the prospect of poorly animated avatars & VR headsets felt uncomfortable, if not downright creepy or bizarre. It didn’t help that Mark is already the internet’s favorite target because of his rather odd look that many say looks alien-like.

To mock his announcement video, Icelandic tourism authorities created a parody ad, mocking Mark’s delivery style, and promoting Iceland as a real, more authentic, and more exciting alternative to the dystopian Metaverse.

The best part is it was pitched, produced, and published by the agency SS+K in a matter of five days.

Any later & the people would’ve missed the context, given the pace at which news stories rise & die nowadays.

For topical ads like this one, it’s all about getting the timing right. So the complete turnaround is certainly worth appreciating.

Moreover, the actor’s deadpan performance is on fleek, the costume mirrors Zuckerberg’s outfit, and the script is deftly written at every beat.

So I give this hilarious spoof a solid 10/10.

CNBC‘s Monica Pitrelli notes it’s not the first time the Tourism board has used humor to promote the country’s beauty to international tourists.

“Inspired by Iceland used comedy to explain why not to wear jeans or high heels to Iceland. Its 2017 video entitled ‘The Hardest Karaoke Song in the World’ has garnered nearly 14.5 million views on YouTube,” she said.


Closed Conversations ~ Twitter

  • Agency: David Madrid
  • Year: 2020 for Twitter

Influencer marketing is usually obvious & boring for fans.

Brands lazily put their products in a celebrity’s hands, and expect the fandom to go gaga over it, just because the person is endorsing it – as if nobody knows its a paid collab.

But this video by Twitter is an excellent example of how to get it right.

First, the ad uses the context of the Robert E Kelly meme correctly.

His BBC interview went viral precisely because his room was unlocked, allowing his toddler & their caretaker nanny to slip in during the live conversation.

Twitter users also face the same inconvenience when their tweets are hijacked, trolled, or debated by strangers on the internet. So the connection & relevance is right on cue.

Second, the ad recreates the funny scenario beat by beat, and because it’s what got people talking in the first place, the recall is high.

People immediately got the joke even though the original video surfaced in 2017, three years before this ad brought the man back.

And last, they deliver the punchline by positioning their new “inner circles” feature as the solution to the problem.

I like how they used simple animation to show how to activate it IRL, so users can actually try it out themselves.

Overall, they’ve used the unexpected influencer to the best of his abilities, and stayed authentic to his personality/story, much like how the previous Icelandverse ad replicated the nuances of Zucky’s style effectively.


Rang Tan ~ Iceland Supermarket

  • Agency: Mother (original concept created for Greenpeace)
  • Year: 2018 for Iceland Foods UK Supermarket

This brave animated ad was banned for being “too political” after Clearcast, the agency responsible for approving ad content said it would be in breach of the Broadcast Code of Advertising Practice.

After the ban, the supermarket brand ended up organically posting it on their own YouTube channel, and their tweet went viral with 6M+ hits in a short time, making the video one of the most viewed pieces on the platform in 2018.

It uses powerful poetry & adorable characters to communicate an extremely serious & touchy issue in a heartwarming, personal way.

This is a masterclass in the technique of making a social issue personal through relatable characters that have problems at a granular level.

Most of the content opposing palm oil production & use is serious, dark, and unfit for wide sharing on socials.

But the ad in question breaks through the clutter & hits the right spot. It was able to do it because it focused on the direct emotional & physical impact both animals & humans have to bear because of environmental destruction.

So if you want to convey a big complex issue, start by making it personal & relatable.

If you want to know the riveting story behind the ad, John Freeman has penned a great post on Down the Tubes.

He says, “But Iceland didn’t make it, originally. It’s a version of a Greenpeace animation created by  London-based agency Mother, narrated by Emma Thompson, directed by by Lip Comarella and Simon Griesser for Passion Pictures, with initial character development by Therese Larsson, Thibault Leclerq and Marceline Tanguay.”


Never Say No ~ Panda Cheese

  • Agency: Elephant Cairo
  • Year: 2010 for Panda Cheese

This idea would never get approved in today’s times, given that brands are becoming more & more cautious of trying something that’s so outrageous & original.

Well, at least we got to see such kind of blazing creativity in the old days.

The series of commercials, which were launched in Egypt (and then worldwide), feature a terrorizing Panda who suddenly appears whenever someone says no to “Panda Cheese.”

He then proceeds to raise havoc for the unsuspecting victims. It clearly has that “WTF” element, and clearly everyone loved it.

Sleepy Owl Coffee attempted to replicate it in 2022 with their “Your Loss” campaign but it felt flat, because the direction in the Panda campaign is just too bold & creative that no other brand will be able to top it.

Also I can’t get the song out of my head now!

Just you know why…

Read more about the campaign here.


5000 Biscuit Rally ~ Yorkshire Tea

  • Creator: Mathias Ritter (domino expert) + internal marketing team
  • Year: 2010 for Yorkshire tea

This is masterful camerawork, no doubt, but I’m including the video in this list because of its concept.

It takes something as boring & dry as biscuits (pardon the pun) & converts it into a piping hot video that had me hooked right until the very last moment.

Only after finishing did I realize that I spent 3 minutes simply watching 5000 biscuits & Yorkshire Tea boxes tumble one after the other at their brewing factory in Harrogate, UK.

For marketing students, this is a good example of how any product can be made interesting by using tried & tested video frameworks that are bound to go viral on social media.

People love to watch such visually satisfying videos, and the 1M+ views along with the positive comments under the upload prove that point.

Next time you complain about having a boring Tea client, take a cue from how the marketing team at Yorkshire created an internet sensation using nothing but their breakfast.

Record-breaking PR Stunt, done right.


BONUS: Best Short Indian TV Ads

Done binging on my favorite video ads? Time for some micro-ads (< 1 min).

Over the years, I’ve compiled some iconic television spots in one long binge-friendly video. You’ll find a mix of charming, funny, emotional, and inspiring ads in this compilation.

They’ve been selected on the basis of their storytelling, overall concept, art direction, script writing & dialogue, and message delivery.

Enjoy!


Conclusion

So that concludes our list of the best video ads ever! Which one is your favorite? Did we miss out on any good picks?

Let me know your thoughts & personal recommendations in the comments.

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