Last updated on 24th January 2022
Video ads have skyrocketed in popularity over the past ten years, and this can largely be tied back to the 2011 John Lewis Christmas advert, The Long Wait. With the release of that 90 second video, ads became less about the product and more about the story. Now, Christmas adverts from all brands are eagerly anticipated by excited members of the public and often talked about as feverishly as Oscar-nominated films.
But it’s not only Christmas ads that get people talking. Many brands, from huge enterprise businesses to startups no one has heard of, have started using video ads to create a buzz around their products, and, in some cases, to put them on the map.
The benefits of video ads for businesses are plentiful. When posting a video ad on YouTube, the advanced targeting allows you to choose your audience–meaning you only get views by people who have the potential to be interested in your product, brand, or service. The ‘no skip’ function on YouTube also ensures you a level of guaranteed engagement!
In a recent Wyzowl survey, we found that 74% of marketers who don’t currently use video, plan on using it in 2019. So we thought some inspiration was in order! Here are 21 of the best video ads of all time (in our humble opinion!)
21 totally amazing video ads
1. Rang-tan (Iceland)
Entrancing animation and a voiceover by famed British actress Emma Thompson combine to quickly suck you into the story of Rang-tan. In the video ad, an adorable orangutan leaps around a little girl’s bedroom. Only what starts out like a Dr. Seuss rhyme quickly turns dark when we discover the reason why the rang-tan is there: Her habitat is being destroyed by the palm oil trade.
The vortex-like emotional pull of the ad helped it rack up more than 65 million views to date across TV and social media. This video ad is also credited with lifting the Iceland brand from seventh to second place in talkability score among supermarket brands, after they promised to stop using palm oil in their products.
2. Web of Fries (Taco Bell)
In this 90-second faux movie trailer, a regular guy (played by movie star Josh Duhamel) stumbles onto a dangerous conspiracy. A global conglomerate of French fry makers don’t want anyone else to sell fries, including Taco Bell’s mouth-watering new nacho fries. And once he starts asking questions, it quickly becomes too late. Our mild-mannered hero is soon going up against “Big Burger” – all to hilarious effect.
The ad was a spectacular hit with viewers who couldn’t get enough of the ad’s funny thriller clichés. They also couldn’t get enough of those cheesy fries. Taco Bell’s nacho fries were one of the most successful food launches in history with 53 million sold in their first five weeks.
3. Perspective (Apple)
This sleek and cerebral video ad opens on a quote about saluting those who have always “seen things differently,” a take on the historic Apple motto “Think different.” But we only understand what the quote actually says when the right angle comes into perspective.
The video goes on to illustrate its theme with dazzling feats of perspective. Each time the camera pans around the white loft we only understand what the quote says when we arrive at just the right angle to view it. Since it debuted in 2014, the ad continues to dazzle. To date, more than 3.5 million people have viewed this video advert on YouTube alone.
4. Dumb Ways to Die (Metro Trains)
If you’ve ever been tempted to take your helmet off in outer space or eat an entire tube of super glue, this is one PSA you don’t want to miss! In this award-winning ad produced by Metro Trains in Melbourne, Australia, we see a rather startling number of adorable animated blobs meet their doom in increasingly bizarre ways. We finally reach the moral of our story when the last three blobs are killed due to unsafe behaviour near trains.
In PSA terms, this video ad was something of a blockbuster. The video took home five grand prizes at the Cannes Lions festival. To date, the video has received over 170 million views. Most importantly, this video advertisement has been credited with reducing the number of accidents on Metro trains by 20%. (We say just try getting that tune out of your head.)
5. The Sculptor (Peugeot)
Called one of the best car adverts of all time, this video shows the extreme lengths one man will go to for a Peugeot car. Spoiler alert: It involves an elephant!
The fast-paced 40-second video commercial opens on a young Indian man seeing a sporty Peugeot 206 and falling in love at first sight. He then jumps into his old beat-up car and smashes it against a wall. Bemused onlookers watch him smash his car in a rather dazzling variety of ways (including having an elephant sit on it). When he’s finally finished, he has ingeniously “sculpted” his old clunker into a Peugeot-shaped car.
6. Write the Future (Nike)
This sweeping sports epic takes us around the world with some of the greatest footballers of all time, including Cristiano Ronaldo. Produced for the 2010 World Cup, “Write the Future” spans more than 3 minutes (on the long-ish side for video ads).
In each sequence of this video commercial, we see a moment that determines how each player will write themselves into history. The final culmination is the unveiling of a colossal statue of Ronaldo that would seemingly give the Statue of Liberty a run for the money. History was made in the video department too. In one week, more than 7.8 million people watched this video – breaking all previous records for most views of a video ad gone viral.
In this comedic video ad, we meet an accomplished little stick figure named John who can play the piano, writes books in multiple languages – all because of what he’s learned on Skillfinity.io!
We go on to discover John has picked up a rather dazzling list of skills using the service. Yet the quirky voiceover wisely undercuts the stick figure smarty pants in a fun way that keeps the ad from taking itself too seriously – or even worse from becoming boring. Who wouldn’t want to learn from Skillfinity in such a fun way?
8. BuyMyVitara (Eugene Romanovsky)
When special effects pro Eugene Romanovsky put his 1996 Suzuki Vitara up for sale, he made what some have modestly called “The Greatest Used Car Advertisement In History.” In the video, his used Suzuki Vitara speeds around dinosaurs from Jurassic Park and zooms around with Mad Max amidst dunes. But this car will not be stopped. The Suzuki then plunges into the ocean to swim with sharks – it even goes to the moon!
While we’re not sure if this beloved 1996 Suzuki is still on the road. This tribute video lives forever. More than 6 million people have watched this video advert.
9. Unmasking a Killer (New York Presbyterian)
While the title may sound more like a true crime episode, the star of this dramatic 2-minute ad is the cutting-edge immunotherapy treatments being developed at New York-Presbyterian Hospital to beat cancer.
The bold black and red animation in this video tells the story of the body’s T-cells, which protect us from cancer – until they don’t. Immunotherapy works by turning these T-cells back on and helping the body to fight cancer. First aired during Super Bowl 50, the ad went on to win two Clio Health Awards.
10. Real Fires
This classic ‘80s video ad opens on a roaring fire in the fireplace while “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” plays sweetly in the background. Soon a dog saunters into the fireplace scene. He’s quickly joined by a cat, who inexplicably gives him a sweet kiss on the cheek – instead of taking a swipe at him! Even more bizarre, a tiny white mouse joins them. The mouse gets a peck on the cheek from the cat too, instead of being gobbled up in one bite! Just goes to show, a real fire is so romantic even cats and dogs (and mice) can get along with one blazing in the background.
11. Check This (Google)
Set to a kicky rap beat, this video shows just how much fun it can be to use a Google spreadsheet. The demo quickly moves us through all the cool things we can do with the Google program. The video was part of a series of ads created for Google’s G Suite featuring their products being used to the beat of entertaining music. Another video in the series showed someone creating a presentation to the A-Team theme song, and having a blast doing it. Who knew work could be so much fun?
12. The Worst Song in the World (Monoprix)
Why would someone suffer through the “Worst Song in the World”? The heroine of this video advertisement is walking down the street when a truly awful song comes on. If we’re to believe the lyrics of the song, it is the “Worst Song in the World.”
Unfortunately, the song only seems to get worse as it goes. Our poor heroine only gets more and more frustrated, yet she keeps listening. We don’t learn why she suffered through the miserable music until the big payoff at the end. The on-screen copy reads, “Having your hands free changes everything… get your groceries delivered.”
This hilarious video racked up 16 million views in 2 weeks and more than 25,000 people listened to the music video for the “Worst Song in the World” song featured in the ad.
13. Listen (NO MORE)
What starts as a 911 call quickly turns into a possible crank call – then is revealed to be a real 911 call from an abused woman terrified her husband is overhearing her conversation.
If the operator didn’t listen to the caller, he may have hung up on her. She might not have gotten the help she needed from police. The point of this video advert is you have to listen. Really listen. It’s hard to imagine a more effective way to learn such an important lesson than by watching this video.
This exceptional ad aired during the Super Bowl on February 1, 2015. The Washington Post called the PSA “the most powerful ad of the game.” Since 2015, it’s garnered more than 10 million views.
14. Gulp (Nokia)
Gulp is a short film that billed itself as “the world’s largest stop-motion animation shot on a Nokia N8” when it premiered. Using a record-breaking 11,000 sq. ft. set, this video commercial was shot in South Wales with a Nokia N8 camera.
The story begins with a fisherman on his boat hitting the high seas, as fishermen do. After catching “the big one.” He gets eaten by an even bigger one! Luckily, he escapes with the help of a bomb… oh just watch it yourself to see! This is a truly delightful little video ad that shows the huge possibilities when filming with a Nokia camera.
Nokia scored more than 1.5 million views for its brand since the ad debuted in 2011.
15. Lamp (IKEA)
Directed by Hollywood hotshot Spike Jonze of Being John Malkovich fame, this much-praised ad took home a Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival Film Grand Prix. It all begins ominously on a dark and stormy evening. We see a woman pick up an old lamp from a table. She takes the lamp out to the curb. Somber music tells us this is going to be emotional and thought-provoking – not!
After we see the new lamp replace the old lamp sitting in the rain, the tone completely changes. A man comes into screen with a sharp rebuke for the viewer. He tells the audience that it’s crazy to feel bad for the old lamp. The new one is much better!
But the story told in this video advertisement doesn’t end there. A sequel to the first commercial called “Lamp Recycled” premiered in 2018. The second video gives us a new view on whether new is always better (while keeping the same old cranky guy).
16. Sepsis (Viven Health)
This Emmy-award winning video ad titled “Betrayed By Your Friend” shows both the heartwarming relationship between a boy and his dog – and the terrifying way the dog can instantly turn on the boy and attack him. Just like sepsis, an all-too common disease in which the immune system turns on itself and attacks the body. Sometimes with deadly consequences.
This animated video ad is a beautifully drawn example of the advertising maxim “Show don’t tell.” What might have been difficult to explain in medical terms is easily understood in this video, as are ways to help to prevent it like washing your hands.
17. The Unique Connection (Pandora)
Much of the appeal of Pandora jewelry is the way you can create something completely unique with their charms. This video advertisement celebrates the uniqueness of all women with an emotionally charged experiment. In the video, six women are put in a lineup. Then their blindfolded children have to identify them.
To watch the looks on the mom’s faces, you immediately see who belongs to whom. When the child finally identifies their mother solely based on touch (while still blindfolded), the moment shows the amazing connection between a mother and her child. Viewers have been dazzled ever since the video debuted in 2015. To date, it has garnered more than 19.5 million views!
18. Send it App to Cash (Western Union)
This video could go into detail about how the app works, what button to press… but how boring would that be compared to watching money fly all over the world instantly?
The great thing about this video is the way it’s focused on benefits and doesn’t get bogged down in features. From the moment the button on the Western Union app is pushed, money springs into action! We see a fast-moving coin blaze through a yellow-sky landscape down to the depths of a yellow ocean.
By the end of this video commercial, we’re excited to start using an amazing, new way to send money. We certainly know it’s Western Union by the yellow graphics.
19. Moving In (Art.com)
This video for Art.com, a maker of art prints, shows an attractive young couple and their adorable daughter moving into a new home. They’ve got their new furniture arranged perfectly, but something’s still missing… the walls need art! Soon, the walls come alive with animated graphics and prints showing the transformation art can make in a home.
We also love this video for the clever way it brings the online search process into real life with an illustration of the search bar. For viewers, it reinforces the idea that you can search for (and find) exactly what you need to liven up your walls on Art.com.
20. Cycling Experiences (Airbnb)
Sometimes a video is just way too cool to look away. The playful graphics of this Airbnb video are so cool you almost can’t stop watching it. You certainly want to see what happens next!
Playing with colours and forms, the video created an experience that was so much fun it actually makes you want to try one of Airbnb’s many cycling experiences in real life. Shorter versions of this video double as a series of gifs Airbnb used to illustrate a press release. A great example of how you can re-use a video in unexpected ways to bring your brand to life.
21. Gravity (Casper)
In the one-minute Gravity video, we begin with a refresher on gravity à la Sir Isaac Newton (i.e., guy gets hit on the head with an apple). The kicky little science mini-course then expands to include all the many ways Caspar is a great mattress – beyond its formidable ability to help you deal with gravity. The super-creative mix of animation and live action keeps you guessing as to what will happen next, and we’d say more engaged.
Discover even more amazing video ads
We hope you were inspired by these 21 video ads to do something amazing yourself. Whether you’re looking to expand brand awareness or drive sales, there’s almost no limit to what video ads can do for your organisation.
Want to see even more amazing videos like these? Watch the 20 Most Awesome Explainer Videos. Fresh for 2019, these are the explainer video ads you don’t want to miss!
To learn more about just how video ads work, check out these video ad examples.