by Ryan Evans
Oct 25 '16

Best ads of the 2000s - today

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Buger King , The King – 2003

Burger King brought back “the King” character used in the 70s and 80s TV ads. The character was cleverly redesigned as an odd caricature of the original. He had a huge head a creepy grin and never talked. He’d show up in bed with people or surprise people behind doors. The King character was a little confusing, but he spawned an internet meme and is highly recognized.

Apple, Ipod – 2003

iPod poster

The “dancing silhouettes” ads of the iPod and iTunes advertising campaign foreshadowed Apple’s dominance. The ads were bright, fun and featured cool music. Apple used that simple formula over and over on TV, billboards and in print. The iPod was a truly transformational product the company sold well over 200 million iPods.

Las Vegas, What happens in vegas stays in vegas – 2003

The campaign’s first spot, Mistress in Disguise, features a woman transforming from her crazy Las Vegas character into her normal personal on her limo ride to the airport. It was supposed to air during the 2003 Super Bowl but the NFL rejected the commercial because they oppose gambling and they deemed the ad a bit too racy. News of the rejection spread to the media who ran the spot over and over as the “forbidden Super Bowl ad” news story. The simple slogan “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas” is inextricably linked to the town.

Dove, Real Beauty – 2004

dove beauty

Dove-Real-Beauty-CampaignDove created a series of ads about a topic sensitive but meaningful to their customers. They tackled the sad statistic that found only 2% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful. In their their Real Beauty Sketches ads, they used a FBI-trained sketch artist to draw a female volunteers two times. First, as each woman described herself and the second time, as a random stranger described her. The images that were drawn were completely different and the emotional impact was pretty dramatic. This ad was one of many of a global ad campaign. The various videos and ads were viewed hundreds of millions of times and a spurred a national conversation that gained international media attention.

Apple, Get a Mac – 2006

Apple has had it’s fair share of ad campaign successes, but this one was a big. The two characters “Mac” a friendly young cool guy with jeans and stubble and “PC” and up-tight, insecure nerd in a bad suit talk computer problems. The gist of the friendly banter is that a Mac is easy to use and simple and PC is beleaguered with problems and is hard to use. The genius of these ads is that they speak to people’s true perceptions of Macs and PCs. The direct attack by apple is aggressive, but the tone comes off as friendly. These ads were one of many successes by Apple at the time. Apple announced a 12% increase in Mac sales after the ads ran for a year, accelerating it’s market share vs PC.

Blendtec, Will it Blend – 2006

Will It Blend? is a series of infomercials that demonstrate Blendtec blenders. In the show, Tom Dickson, the Blendtec founder, tries to blend insane things to demonstrate the power of his blender. The first blend started with a box of matches. Here is Dickson explaining,

“One of the first things I did was I took a box of 250 matches… See, the blender didn’t have a molded lid for the jar yet so I put a piece of plastic on it. I hit the switch. It blew up! The matches really blew up! I had on a sports coat and a long-sleeve shirt and the smoke shot up my sleeve and I remember wiggling my hand and being like Whooo! I thought my hand was on fire. The next thing I knew the smoke had gone to the ceiling. We had to evacuate the building.”

The campaign was an instant hit. Dickson has made countless TV appearances, was featured in an Edy’s Dibs commercial, has it’s own apparel and has been viewed almost 300 million times on YouTube.

Life Lock, Social Security Ad – 2007

lifelock social security number ad

In 2007, Todd Davis showed the nation his Social Security number in an ad campaign to promote the company’s identity theft protection services. As a result, Davis was a victim of 13 cases of identity theft between 2007 and 2008. And while the media stories about Davis being a victim of identity theft doesn’t exactly vouch for the quality of the service, LifeLock has over 3 million subscribers.

Dos Equis, Most Interesting Man in the World – 2007

Instead of featuring sexy, 20-somethings having a good time Dos Equis decided to launch a bold and original campaign. They created a debonair gray-beard character called “The Most Interesting Man in the World.” Dos Equis used the risky tagline “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.” Jeff Kling, the agency’s former chief creative officer said the ad went through a lengthy approval process before the agency got the spot on air. He got a last-minute call from a nervous Heineken executive. “I could hear the stress in his voice,” said Mr. Kling. He reassured the executive, “I guarantee you, if you run this work, it will kill it for you,” he recalled. He was right.

Subway, Jared Fogle Pants- 2008

jared fogel pants

In an article published on April 24, 1999 in the Indiana Daily Student, Jared Fogle laid out his subway diet that allowed him to drop his weight from 425 pounds to 180. A Chicago-area Subway franchisee took Fogle’s story to Subway’s advertising agency. They ran a small test and the ads worked. Fogle subsequently appeared in more television commercials as well as sponsored in-store appearances throughout the United States. Fogle had filmed more than 300 commercials and continued to make appearances and speeches for the company. Subway attributed one third to one half of its growth in sales to Fogle, with revenue tripling from 1998 to 2011. But with Fogle now sitting in prison over child porn crimes, Subway will need to start all over.

Obama Presidential Campaign, Yes We Can / Si se puede – 2008

President Obama’s 2008 campaign was light years ahead of rival John McCain in it’s ability to leverage technology and connect directly with voters. One example of this is the video made by musician Will.I.Am. The video was seen 10s of millions of times. The slogan “Yes we Can” became a rallying cry and was woven into many other aspects of the campaign.

Obama Presidential Campaign, Hope Poster – 2008

obama hope poster

The Barack Obama “Hope” poster is another display of the nimbleness and sophistication of the 2008 Obama campaign. The design was created as a poster by artist Shepard Fairey in a single day. Fairey immediately sold 350 of the posters and then it was was given massive distribution soon thereafter with the approval of the Obama campaign. The image became one of the most widely recognized symbols of Obama’s campaign message.

Snuggie, Snuggie Infomercial – 2008

Once this infomercial gem hit the air, comedians like Jay Leno, Ellen DeGeneres, Bill Maher and Jon Stewart mocked the product ad nauseouseum. Hundreds of parodies have been made, TV shows have featured the product and dozens of Snuggie pub crawls take place in its honor every year. The Snuggie has generated over half a billion dollars in sales. Not bad.

Staples, Easy Button – 2008

The “Easy Button” was first intended to be a fake button with magic powers in Staples ads. But after the company launched the first ads, customers started calling the company to see if they could buy one. The company cleverly responded by making the “Easy Button” a real product and proceeded to sell almost 2 million of them.

Alec Brownstein, Creative Google Ad – 2009{#AlecBrownstein,}

Alec Brownstein was looking for a new job at an ad agency. When Brownstein Googled the names of creative directors at agencies he wanted to work at he noticed there were no sponsored ads that came up. So he bought ads along side the names of five creative directors he admired. The ads read: “Hey, [creative director’s name]: Goooogling [sic] yourself is a lot of fun. Hiring me is fun, too” with a link to Brownstein’s website, Brownstein got calls from four of the five creative directors he targeted and job offers from two of them. What was the total cost of those ads? $6

Mailchimp, Serial Podcast- 2009

Serial Podcast

The weekly Serial podcast about a real-life murder mystery involving a group of high school students exploded in popularity and took podcasting to a new level. Every episode of Serial, starts with a 20-second ad to MailChimp. The producers of Serial went out and interviewed people on the street about MailChimp. In the simple, authentic spot there is girl who mispronounces “chimp” as “kimp”. For some reason the internet loves this ad and for a while several hundred people where using the #mailkimp hashtag. This simple ad may have been bigger than the t-shirts mailchimp gave out.

Toyota Sienna, Swagger Wagon – 2010

If you had kids and were car shopping in 2010, you saw this ad. The ad is shot like a rap video with nods to hip-hop references in a hardcore tounge-in-check hardcore tone. Toyota tried to ride the success of this videos with a later attempt featuring Busta Rhymes, but the magic was gone. The original was funny and original but the subsequent ad came off a little forced and trying too hard.

VOLKSWAGEN, The Force – 2011

The advertisement for the 2012 Volkswagen Passat, features a young boy in full Darth Vader regalia attempting to use The Force to start a washing machine a clothes dryer, and to wake the dog. After he is unsuccessful in those attempts, he is startled to discover that he can start the car, though his father actually does it using a remote control. The ad appeared on YouTube on February 6th 2011 and received 8 million views by the time it aired on TV a week later. By the end of 2011, Advertising Age said, “With 600 placements, the video is on pace to become one of the most-watched viral ads of all time.”

Chipolte, Back to the start – 2012

Chipotle’s “Back to the Start” campaign started out simply as a way to promote a loyalty program but turned into quite a sensation. The video addressed inhumane farming and the video ended up being aired in full for 2 minutes during the Grammys in 2012. It triggered a national discussion about food and farming and has been seen over 10s of million times. Of course, they used Willie Nelson in the video so that was probably inevitable.

Mailbox, Video Ad – 2012

The Mailbox founders created this video by themselves with zero budget. But this video, with the help of the catchy song “The Littlest Birds” by The Be Good Tanyas helped get Mailbox over a million users in 6 months and paved the way for the jaw-dropping $100 million acquisition by Dropbox. Dropbox has since shut down Mailbox.

Grasshopper & LessFilms, Shit Entrepreneurs say – 2012

The geniuses over at LessFilms created a parody of the “Shit People Say” for that anyone in the Tech community can appreciate. Almost all of the one liners are funny because, sadly, most tech folks have heard versions of these come out of the mouth of green, cocky, startup founders. The best lines:

“A/B Test, then pivot, and if you still don’t know pivot again.” “All we need is 1-2% of the market and we’re billionaires.” “We’re not too concerned about profit right now”

This video has over 100,000 views. That’s an impressive accomplishment for a B2B product with a $0 ad budget.

Dollar Shave Club, Viral Youtube Video – 2012

In March 2012 Mike Dubin scraped together $4,500 and had a friend make a YouTube video called “Our Blades are Fucking Great”. Rubin’s deadpan comedic ridicule of traditional razor blades worked. In fact, it worked a little too well. The video went viral the website crashed and inventory was gone in six hours. But they managed to sort it out and Dollar Shave club is approaching a billion dollar valuation.

Osmo, Kids commercials – 2013

These ads are reminiscent of the simplicity of Apple ads. One of the ads starts out with one kid playing a simple game on the iPad and soon there is a group of kids having a good time, rooting for each other while they learn. Having kids preoccupied while learning something is every parent’s dream and Oslo sells that idea very effectively.

Goldie Blox, Girls commercial – 2013

In February 2014, GoldieBlox won an ad competition put on by Intuit to air a 30-second commercial during Super Bowl XLVIII. The ad was a parody of the Quiet Riot song, “Come on Feel the Noize,”, called ”Come On Bring the Toys.” The ad showed little girls throwing away their pink toys, as they sing “More than pink, pink, pink, we want to think,” and that “girls build like all the boys.” The commercial airtime was valued at $4 million and propelled the GoldieBlox brand to household name recognition among parents with daughters.

Calvin Klein, #mycalvins – 2014

my calvins

Social media can occasionally stoke the flame of a good ad campaign. A good example is the the #MyCalvins hashtag. The hashtag refers to the 1981 TV ad for Calvin Klein Jeans featuring a Brooke Shields whispering, “You wanna know what comes between me and my Calvin’s? Nothing.” Strong advertising images and soundbites of the brand’s past have been an important component of the #MyCalvins campaign. Calvin Klein reignited the old campaign by taking to Instagram in 2014 with prominent ”influencers” like fashion bloggers like Bryanboy and Aimee Song and music stars like Trey Songz and Fergie. posing in CK undies. Then the internet collectively soiled it’s Calvins when Justin Bieber started promoting them. To date the campaign has reached over a half billion people.

Always, Like a girl – 2014

The feminine products brand Always redefines the derisive phrase “like a girl” to be a an expression of strength. The video was inspired by a study that found more than half of girls claimed to experience a drop in confidence at puberty. To showcase this, they ask adult women to “run like a girl” or “throw like a girl”. These women display exaggerated weakness or silliness. Then they very young girls to do the same and the act out the same scenes with seriousness and sometimes toughness. Not only is this ad is touching on a visceral level, it’s been wildly successful with over 60 million views.

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