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Creative Works The World's Best Ads of All Time Creativity

The Drum Network tells us what we SHOULD have named Best TV Ad of All Time


By Sam Anderson, Network Editor

July 19, 2022 | 7 min read

The Drum recently revealed the 100 best TV ads of all time – nominated by our readers and voted for by the world’s top creative directors. But no list is perfect. The Drum’s editorial staff had some gripes, and the industry’s been chattering too. We asked 10 creative leaders from The Drum Network what should have claimed the top spot.

A collage of stills from our best ads of all time

Creative leaders tell us what should have topped our 100 best ads poll

Never call a list definitive. Turns out, adland is passionate about which of its ads is the greatest of them all; just look at the response to our recent list of the 100 best TV ads ever.

Honda’s intricate Rube Goldberg marvel ‘Cog’ took the crown on our list, but it won’t top everyone’s personal ad pantheon. Here, along with their ‘official’ placements, are the winners in the minds of one group of creative leaders.

Cadbury’s Smash Martians – Michael Fraser, creative director, APS Group (Scotland)

Our placement: 100th

Great ads are like great music tracks. Both give a sense of time and place. Like a personal diary, they remind me of my different life stages, my mood, my thoughts, my feelings and my ambitions. Ads for BT, Hamlet, Guinness and Levi’s are classics, and worthy winners.

But my choice is ‘Smash.’ Because it takes me back to summer holidays in a tiny caravan, with my mum asking, “Why don’t they just peel a potato?”

Tango’s Orangeman – Vedia Ayvaz, senior vice-president, entertainment marketing and design, Known

Our placement: 90th

Orangeman went viral before ‘viral’ entered our vernacular, all through word of mouth. Hilariously funny and bold, yet also simple, it was light years ahead of its time, creating fan engagement and a shareable cultural experience before the birth of social media, TikTok trends, IG challenges and smartphones.

Nike’s Parklife – Alex Leach, senior production director, Jellyfish

Our placement: 67th

Why isn‘t the genre-redefining Nike ’Parklife‘ higher than 67?!

Sports ads before were just ‘tech and performance.’ Many still are. This was different. It gave us the excitement, energy and passion of a Sunday league ‘kickabout’ – the same if it was premier league footballers or Dave from ‘down the pub.‘

Skoda’s Cake – Jake Crabb, social media manager, Disrupt

Our placement: 66th

Skoda’s ‘Cake’ is the best TV ad of all time. This completely outside-the-box, disruptive concept for a car commercial captured the nation back in 2007 as bakers molded thousands of pounds of ingredients into a hyper-realistic ‘replicake’ (something that is pretty popular in 2022).

I can vividly remember watching at the age of 11 and not being able to take my eyes off the screen as they built the fondant Fabia. I thought, “I wonder if you could actually drive that?” I can’t picture an ad that is more captivating and creative.

Ikea’s Lamp – Francois Boshoff, creative director, Media Bounty

Our placement: 8th

Top spot for me (including ‘best rug pull’ and ‘best sequel with sustainability at heart’) would have to go to CP+B and Spike Jonze, for bringing me close to tears about... a lamp. I felt for that lamp, and I was delighted when immediately reprimanded for it. Emotional storytelling (and casting) at its best.

Also Ikea’s Lamp – Lennart Wienecke and Maarten van Kempen, creative directors, APS Group (Netherlands)

Ikea’s Lamp is a legendary film that made us realize there are many ways to tell a story, even in the same film. In this case, a heart-wrenching story about an abandoned lamp, turned into a scolding by an unknown stranger. And he’s right. It has no feelings. That is because we’re crazy.

While we’re here, how did The New York Times’ ‘The Truth is Worth It’ not make the list? In our opinion, it’s the most suspenseful, important and urgent commercial of our age. Very well made and written even better, it shows the bravery, determination and importance of journalism, while keeping us on the very edge of our seats the entire time.

Guinness’s Surfer – Natalie Patel, managing director, Found

Our placement: 2nd

Hands down the best ad of all time. An immense piece of timing, music and cinematography. It’s an advert that makes you want to sit up and watch, without fast-forwarding. To this day, it gives me goosebumps. A masterpiece.

Also Guinness’s Surfer – Jonny Kelly, UK associate creative director, Momentum Worldwide

How is 'Surfer’ not number one?

“Heaven have mercy on us all – Presbyterians and Pagans alike – for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending.” – Herman Melville

Cinzano’s Joan Collins and Leonard Rossiter – Richard Temple, chief executive officer, JAA

Our placement: Did not place

If good TV ads are to live in popular culture, Honda’s ‘Cog’ well and truly deserves to be number 1. This genre of “how on earth did they do that?” and “how did they sell it to the client?” is also well-represented by Sony’s ‘Balls,’ Skoda’s ‘Cake’ and Evian’s ‘Skating Babies.’

Yet where-oh-where were the ads with a bit of humanity?

Cinzano’s ‘Joan Collins and Leonard Rossiter,’ BT’s ‘Maureen Lipman’ and the Compare the Market Meerkats should be up there. Perhaps what adland thinks is good is different from what the public does?

AeroMexico’s DNA Discounts – Rebecca Smith, senior marketer, Jaywing

Our placement: Did not place

In 2018 America’s southern border was all over the world news. AeroMexico’s thought-provoking response ‘DNA Discounts’ challenged stereotypes, questioned racist beliefs, and had everything from ancestry, ick factor and humor to stunning Mexican vistas. It’s beautifully timed. Halfway through, “the more Mexican they are the more discount they get” has us invested.

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