The Most Memorable TV Ads of All Time


Few of us watch TV to see the ads, perhaps with the exception of Americans during the Super Bowl halftime show and Brits at Christmastime waiting for the John Lewis and Coca-Cola truck ads.

Yet, ads are an important part of television. Without them, we’d all be paying a lot more for the content we watch. Despite what many of us like to claim, ads work on everyone; otherwise, companies wouldn’t be spending millions of pounds on them every year.

Even though they might work in getting us to part with our cash, ads are rarely that memorable. This is especially true for product placement where we see bottles of Coke in scenes of Stranger Things and a KFC spaceship in Community.

Occasionally though, advertising executives create a work of art, they produce a television advertisement that people enjoy watching, talk about to their friends, and remember for years to come. Here are some of those most memorable ads of all time.

McDonald’s – I’m Lovin’ It

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In 2003, Justin Timberlake released a song called “I’m Lovin’ It”. At the time, it was all over the radio and music channels, but it’s faded out of most people’s minds. However, the song was originally written as a jingle for McDonald’s to use for its ad campaigns.

The campaign was originally devised for the German market using the slogan “Ich Liebe Es”, but has since been translated into numerous languages around the world. The year before the campaign was launched, McDonald’s had been suffering from a declining share price and disappointing earnings reports.

14 agencies were tasked with coming up with an idea for the company’s first globally unified ad campaign. That competition yielded the I’m Lovin’ It phrase, and the rest is history.

While Timberlake himself isn’t used in the company’s ads anymore, that signature “ba-da-ba-BA-BAAA” jingle plays at the end of every radio and TV campaign.

PokerStars – I’M IN

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PokerStars is one of the most well-known online poker brands in the world, with millions of customers worldwide. Like most companies of its size, it has a brand refresh every now and then as it adjusts its offering and works to better serve its customers.

The most recent of these was in August 2020. This was done off the back of a significant amount of research conducted among its customers, and is designed to reflect that the company’s products offer a safe place for people to “challenge each other and share experiences”.

To coincide with the brand refresh, PokerStars launched a 60-second TV ad that showed people in numerous exhilarating situations, like getting married, at a boxing match, and riding a motorcycle.

The ad is memorable for being a bit different, focusing on feelings, and by leaving the viewer guessing as to the company behind it until the last few seconds.

Coca-Cola – Hilltop / I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke

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If you were around in the 1970s or you’ve watched the final episode of Mad Men, you’ll be familiar with an ad that features a bunch of people singing “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” in unison while standing on top of an Italian hill.

Costing $250,000 in 1971 ($1.6 million/£1.1 million today), the ad was the most expensive ever made at the time.

The ad’s creator, Bill Backer, got the idea for the campaign when stranded in an airport in Ireland after his plane was grounded. He and his fellow passengers had to spend the night there and he noticed that the angry passengers looked much happier the following money as they sat around in the airport cafe drinking Coca-Cola.

He said that moment made him realise that the product is more than a drink, but also a tool for people to spend time together.

Like with I’m Lovin’ It, the song in the ad was commissioned by Coca-Cola but it became so popular after the ad began airing that people rang into radio stations to ask them to play the song. It became so popular that it reached number seven in the US charts.

Coca-Cola received over 100,000 letters from the public, all commenting on the ad, a feat no modern television commercial could ever achieve.

Today’s Coca-Cola ads all keep to the same themes that Backer devised for this one. The company doesn’t tell people how great its drink tastes or how convenient it is to buy a bottle from just about any store. It shows them that drinking Coke is part of a social activity, a moment that you can share with loved ones.


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