Ten of the Best Commercials Ever and What Made Them Stick

Wendy's

A television spot is incredibly expensive to produce and broadcast, so companies want their advertising to be memorable. The reason Super Bowl commercials go viral is because they are designed to do so. You cannot shell out $3.5 million for 30 seconds of air time without making it count. Here is a look at 10 of the best commercials and what made them memorable.

Catch Phases

First aired in 1984, the Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef” ad had a long life. Almost 30 years later, people still remember the tiny old lady asking the slightly provocative question. The ad was surprising and funny, and offered a catch phrase that could be repeated across the world.

Years after the Wendy’s commercial, Budweiser hit similar gold with their “Wassup?” commercial. The commercial first aired during a Superbowl and featured various men yelling “wassup?” into the phone. The outrageous exaggerations proved comic gold as people everywhere took to greeting each other with the ridiculous phrase.

Two other ad campaigns that sparked memorable catch phrases were the Heinz ketchup commercials that intoned “Good things come to those who wait,” and the musical Kit Kat “Give me a break” spots. Spots that generate the best buzz using catch phrases include funny characters, surprising elements, a short story or a memorable jingle.

Memorable Characters

One of the most memorable series of television spots is centered around the E*TRADE baby. The tiny guy with a gruff voice tells viewers about his success on E*TRADE from a variety of situations, including one classic ad where he has been banished to the crib for riding the dog. It is not so much the cute baby as the charming and memorable character that makes this ad work.

Another commercial that capitalized on the charm of its characters was for Worther’s Original. These ads showed grandchildren spending quality time with their grandfather and reminiscing about how he always had delicious Worther’s candy. The characters were likeable and caused many viewers to think back to their own childhood.

Other great ads with memorable characters include cartoon additions like the Trix Rabbit, Lucky the Leprechaun and Captain Crunch. In these cases, the characters are created for the target audience and are funny, colorful and larger than life.

The Surreal or Stupid

When a commercial combines ridiculous or even stupid elements, it can be incredibly memorable. No one does this as well as Doritos. The company consistently delivers humorous or shocking ad spots that combine sex appeal, stupidity or daily life with the overwhelming craving for Doritos chips. One memorable ad plays on afternoon hunger in an office. In this ad, a man holding a crystal ball says there will be free Doritos in the office. He then throws the crystal ball at the vending machine and people start scooping out bags of chips.

Memorable commercials evoke emotion in the viewer. They cause people to laugh, reminisce, feel happy or become thoughtful. Likable characters, a surprise ending or a situation that resonates with everyone are all ways to accomplish such memorable viewing.

– Jacob Paul writes for several higher ed blogs. Several universities offer a global communications masters including University of Florida and University of South Carolina.

1 comment to Ten of the Best Commercials Ever and What Made Them Stick

  • markerickson

    Two commercials that I'm fond of contain whimsy. First, the guy on the porch who has a slice of 'za and douses it with McInhenny Tabasco Sauce. A mosquito takes blood, flies away, and explodes. Pure Gold. I also adore the VW spot where the kid is dressed in Star Wars garb and the dad uses the key to make the car lights flicker, surprising his son. There are many, many more top-notch commercials. I think my fav from this year's Super Bowl was the Montana/Tide spot. Definitely broght a smile to my face!

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