What is it about a video or TV ad that makes you forget it’s a promotion for a product?
Is it so funny that you just have to share it with friends? Or, does it make you cry every time you see it – even though you already know how it ends?
Regardless of how you feel when you see an ad, you remember the message because the brand has told you a riveting story.
“Storytelling touches their (consumers’) hearts. It moves them emotionally. It gets people to re-think [what they know] about you in completely different terms… And once you [the brand] become a meaningful product or service [to consumers], they will search you out. They will even forego a cheaper price, or a more convenient location of a competitor, in order to buy your product.”
So, which video ads made an impact on us in 2015?
I’ve scoured the Internet, and asked people on the Shopify Plus content team, plus via social media to help me build this not-so-scientific list for you.
Best Super Bowl Ad
Let’s start with the Grand Poobah event of advertising.
Of course, I’m talking about Super Bowl ads. And with all of that money invested into writing and producing those ads, you’d think they would all be AM-AZ-ING. Right?
Unfortunately, just as in the outcome of the Super Bowl, there are always winners and losers. The reality is that some stories just resonate with people more than others.
The word around the Internet (and in my humble opinion) is that the title of “best Super Bowl XLIX ad” goes to Budweiser for its Lost Dog commercial. But why does this ad deserve to take home the championship ring?
Simply put, this story is about companionship and the lengths people (or animals who think they’re people) will go to take care of loved ones.
As a brand, Budweiser is building awareness and familiarity with its customers as a beer with a heart and soul – the kinda beer you’d want to share with your good pals #BestBuds.
Best Ad For Game of Thrones Fans
Whether you’ve been on #HairWatch for the past few months, or are anxiously awaiting the release of George R.R. Martin’s next book – which everyone suspects will go on sale just before the next season of Game of Thrones begins (or will it?) – there’s a place where you can go to satisfy your craving for more #GoT content.
That place is YouTube and the Game of Thrones, The Musical ad.
With over 14.5 million views and counting this 12-minute documentary style ad does a tremendous job raising awareness for Red Nose Day which is “a campaign dedicated to raising money for children and young people living in poverty by simply having fun and making people laugh.”
What really sells this parody video is the commitment on the part of the British band Coldplay and the cast of the GoT TV series to poke fun of themselves and the show. It’s kind of a meta story sandwich and I love it. Well done ladies and lords!
Most Heart-Wrenching Ad
I have to admit, I’ve been known to cry at cell phone commercials A LOT.
And maybe not everyone does. But I don’t know who wouldn’t be moved by this ad entitled The Man & The Dog by agency DDB Argentina.
The reason this ad works so well is because it’s such a beautiful and simple story about the relationship between a man and his dog. And if you loved the 3D animated movie UP (which also made me cry BTW), the musical score in this video will bring back some fond memories of the film.
But what the ad wants you to remember is to sign your organ donor card – a message that they reveal at the very end in an emotional way.
I don’t want to spoil the ending. So, please see for yourself. Warning: You may want to have a box of tissues close at hand.
Funniest Ad (Or Best Ad Featuring a Unicorn That Poops Rainbows)
What can I say about this video that doesn’t already speak for itself? This is an actual ad for an actual product to help you defecate happily.
Just watch and enjoy the magic and freedom of expression (or dare I say expulsion) that this ad promises to deliver.
Thank you Tommy Walker, Editor-in-Chief of the Shopify Plus blog, for introducing me to this ad and thank you Internet for allowing something like this to have a place to be viewed without any restrictions!
Best Holiday 2015 Ad
Maybe it’s because I grew up watching Seinfeld?
Or, perhaps it’s because my friends and I danced to “Who Am I? (What’s My Name?)” and “Gin and Juice” [those are Snoop Dogg songs – in case you were too young to remember] at our high school dances?
Either way, I chose this Old Navy video for the best holiday 2015 ad because I was thoroughly entertained. Old Navy did a great job tapping into my feelings of nostalgia for some of my favourite 1990s pop culture moments.
Well done Old Navy! You certainly know how to build a connection with your target demographic. And apparently, I am that person. Send me a promo code and I’ll see you online very soon ;)
Best Virtual Reality Ad(s)
2015 ushered in the launch of new 360 degree video content and ad units on YouTube and Facebook.
While only a few companies have tested out the platform so far, virtual reality ads are going to be serious business in 2016 and in the years to come.
Although Gatorade’s Bryce Harper Virtual Reality ad appeals to baseball fans, I preferred Target’s The House on Hallow Hill Halloween ad because it offered more engagement via a choose your own adventure-like story.
Best Ad With a Message About Violence Against Women
I love when ads tackle controversial topics that call into question how we treat each other as human beings. This ad entitled “Slap her” created by FanPage.IT does just that.
The premise is that a group of young Italian boys are asked to interact in funny ways (at first) with a young Italian girl.
They start by making funny faces at each other. But then, when they are asked to slap her, all of the boys refuse and question why anyone would do that. And audience teardrops ensue.
This video is a creative way to spark a conversation about issues related to violence against women. Well done!
Best Ad That Provokes an Entire Industry to Be Better
Since the U.S. financial crisis in 2008, the wealth management industry has been in some hot water. So, what better way to try and regain people’s trust than by pointing out a flaw in the system?
In this video ad, U.S. financial institution Charles Schwab owns up to the fact that wealth management firms need to be accountable for losing their investors’ money.
The company now offers an Accountability Guarantee which “pledges to refund clients’ program fees from the previous quarter if they’re dissatisfied with services like investment management.”
Thanks goes out to Shopify Plus contributor Nick Winkler, for sharing this ad.
Best Ad Featuring a Real Life Superhero (and it’s not Iron Man)
Modern technologies are capable of changing our lives for the better.
And this ad for the Microsoft Collective Project manages to inspire our hearts and minds with this superhero-themed video about a young boy who has a special meeting with Robert Downey Jr. (who plays the role of Iron Man in the franchise film series).
In the video, “Iron Man” delivers a real bionic arm to a young boy who is a fan of the films. The story is so touching because it shows how technology can help to enhance a young boy’s life.
But the real super hero in this story is a man named Albert Manero who only shows up at the end of the clip.
The little boy explains to Iron Man that Albert keeps trying and trying to make his bionic arm better “until he gets it right.”
From a brand perspective, this story is both inspirational and aspirational and builds a strong customer affinity with Microsoft as a “human-focused” software company.
Best Ad That Reminds Us Liam Neeson is a Bada**
While Neeson also did the voiceover for the Game of Thrones parody that I referenced earlier, his role in this ad really helps to sell the product.
Basically, Neeson exposes his love for gaming (perhaps he takes it a little too seriously) and in turn gets people interested in wanting to play the game. Heck, I want to play Clash of Clans just to find out if AngryNeeson52 is actually online playing as my opponent.
While this was also an ad created for the Super Bowl, I wanted to call it out separately because the story is funny, playful and encourages people to try the game to satisfy their curiosity.
Best Ad That Makes You Want to Buy a Puppy
The ad “Puppyhood” produced by Buzzfeed is clearly a content marketing story created in collaboration with Purina Puppy Chow for their website PuppyHood.com.
This is a great example of media storytelling with a little product integration on the side. Shopify Plus contributor Michelle’s Nickolaisen recently commented on how BuzzFeed is quickly becoming a master storytelling machine in this Medium post that is well worth a read.
I think “PuppyHood” is a great showcase of Buzzfeed’s storytelling talent. And the hilarious narrative of a 20-something man learning how to take care of a puppy is a great way to build both awareness of and affinity with the Puppy Chow brand.
What’s interesting is that while some of these ads aired on TV, many of them were created exclusively for online viewership.
Some even teased at the restrictions that come with advertising on Youtube, which brings us to final category...
Best Ads to Mock Youtube's "Skip Ad" Feature
Even though preroll ads have become more present on Youtube, the video sharing site has kindly given viewers the ability to "Skip Ad" after 5 seconds.
But what happens when a brand is smart enough to call attention to the skip feature, and create something that keeps you watching in spite of it?
In one direction, we have a series of videos by GEICO that came out in early 2015, where the entire ad was over before the "skip ad" button was clickable.
By the time you're able to skip the ad, the brand's already said everything it needed to, but you keep watching, because it's almost like you're viewing what's going on in the commercial's world when the cameras should have stopped rolling.
On the other end of the spectrum, Android released it's "And Skip" ad, that was a whopping 7 minutes and 34 seconds long. This ad immediately calls attention to the skip button, and challenges you to push it as soon as it's available.
Of course, being the stubborn human being you are, you won't let an ad beat you in a battle of wills, so you keep watching.
In my case, the ad was almost twice as long as the video I intended to watch, but I was sure to watch all the way through.
But that's the beauty of advertising today. They can be anywhere between 5 seconds and 11 minutes long. They can feature pooping unicorns, adorable puppies, or be viewed in 360 degrees.
But, for as different as it can be now, the cardinal rule is as it always has been; be engaging, and tell a good story. Regardless of medium, this will always be a universal truth.
Which were your favorite ads of 2015 and why?
About The Author
Andrea Wahbe is a freelance B2B marketing strategist and corporate storyteller who writes about Canadian SMEs, marketing and digital media trends. Follow her on Twitter.