The best TV commercials range from heartfelt and moving to comedic and thrilling—but all share a compelling, relatable message, high-quality production, and strong brand recall. Gain insights from the 10 TV commercials below to use in your own advertising to influence how people think and feel about your business and what motivates people to take action.
1. Adidas: ‘End Plastic Waste’
Why it stands out: It uses humor to discuss a serious issue—climate change
The beloved iconic Muppet Kermit the Frog narrates the video, encouraging people to adapt eco-conscious practices. With the increasing climate issue, the ad has certainly reached its target audience: the vast population of young people fighting for the world whose future is theirs.
This particular type of TV advertising is effective because it uses a comedic approach to tackle a tough topic. It subtly presents its message, gradually influencing viewers toward their call to action instead of saying it outright.
This strategy allows the commercial to easily grow brand awareness and affinity with its audience while giving them simple ways to make a big difference. It not only helps to inspire action, but it doesn’t add any pressure to viewers and is presented in an entertaining way—the very reason they’re watching television.
2. Rocket Mortgage: ‘Certain Is Better’
Why it stands out: Presents an otherwise mundane subject in a humorous and thought-provoking way
Mortgages may not be the most exciting product, but Rocket Mortgage captured viewers’ attention through semantic humor in one of the best Super Bowl ads of 2021. It’s become one of the most popular TV commercials due to the thought-provoking questions that inspire audiences to think about the difference between being “pretty sure” and being “certain.”
It shows hypothetical situations that make being “pretty sure” a killer for those who make decisions without 100% certainty. Moreover, it makes the audience question how everyday decisions can greatly impact their lives. Finally, what makes the ad great is that it introduces a very human problem: uncertainty with life decisions. Then, it presents itself as the solution to that problem, all while maintaining a positive and humorous tone.
3. Cadillac: ‘How Do You Drive With Scissorhands?’
Why it stands out: It combines pop culture and nostalgia while staying on-brand
Pop culture references are at the heart of many effective TV commercials, including Cadillac, which used the same route to parade its new model. It was one of the popular TV commercials during the 2021 Super Bowl, using pop culture and nostalgia to connect with audiences while showcasing the car’s new features that allow even the sharpest and clumsiest hands to drive a Cadillac.
This commercial says that in the face of every human challenge—whether physical or societal—Cadillac is for everyone. It’s an inclusive message that is presented in a lighthearted manner. Though the movie industry is unrelated to the automaker, the commercial stays on-brand by telling a story based on a movie that—like Cadillac—is an American classic. And for many, an American favorite.
4. Airbnb: ‘Bonnie & Clyde’
Why it stands out: It highlights a customer’s story in a digestible yet heartfelt way
Airbnb is one of the world’s most successful and well-known startups. Their continued success is primarily thanks to their dedication to what has made them unique since day one: giving anyone, of any age, a safe and comfortable place to stay for a holiday.
This sentiment is highlighted in their 30-second commercial featuring an elderly couple on holiday in one of Airbnb’s homes. The commercial is just a montage of travel photos—but the images tell a customer’s personal story that’s instantly relatable to viewers while simultaneously highlighting Airbnb’s ease of use for all ages. The overall commercial leaves viewers with a heartfelt but fun impression, and a glimpse of the positive experience they can get with Airbnb.
5. Amazon: ‘Alexa’s Body’
Why it stands out: It presents its product as the fantasy “everything-you-ever-wanted” solution
The Amazon Alexa ad is one of the best TV commercials of the year due to its ability to craft a compelling storyline built on a simple, yet powerful premise: Alexa is what dreams are made of. It effectively plays into human nature and the desire to get exactly what we want, when we want it, presenting its product as an almost magical, all-encompassing solution.
The ad paints the product in a fanciful way that subconsciously says it’s a dream to have. It effectively elicits desire and the luxury of having everything at our fingertips—from the menial questions we all ask Google throughout the day to setting the mood with lighting or washing the day away with a good audiobook.
6. Apple: ‘911’
Why it stands out: It uses voice-over dialogue to tell a compelling and relatable story
On a more serious note, Apple’s “911” commercial similarly banks on human emotions—distress and safety—as the driving force behind why audiences need an Apple Watch. While no characters appear on the screen, they appear via spoken dialogue in the form of 911 distress calls.
The conversations are tense enough to feel like the climax of a film, drawing viewers in, but they are still relatable enough that audiences can see themselves in similar situations. It also works well because of its focus on spoken dialogue to tell a compelling yet relatable story. While many would use voice-overs to simply tell customers about their products or services, Apple’s commercial proves it can be a compelling storytelling device.
7. Cheetos: ‘It Wasn’t Me’
Why it stands out: It uses a story to show you how good it is—instead of telling you
Celebrity couple Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher star in this lighthearted TV commercial for Cheetos. Mila gets caught stealing her husband’s Cheetos many times. It playfully showcases the fun moments that occur in everyday life.
It’s one of the most effective commercials of the year because it successfully—and subconsciously—conveys the message that Cheetos are good enough to lie and steal for. It’s a powerful lesson in advertising in general, and more specifically, video-based ads: show instead of tell. In doing so, the message comes across as authentic, making it more impactful.
8. Wren Kitchens: ‘The Greatest Showrooms’
Why it stands out: It takes full advantage of its video format to make an ordinary space look special
If you have a well-designed space, what better way to promote it than through a high-production video that takes cues from classic filmmaking? Wren Kitchens’ commercial featuring its new showrooms is another excellent example of utilizing video’s highly visual nature.
The commercial takes full advantage of its video format, delivering a full, high-production spectacle of sight and sound reminiscent of classic Hollywood musicals. It even uses filmmaking techniques, starting with an establishing shot of the store’s building before moving into its interior. It also stands out from others on this list by having zero dialogue—only background music—pulling audience’s focus toward the visuals of the showrooms instead.
Like all the best commercials, Wren Kitchens’ commercial leaves viewers with a sense of awe—even for a showroom—making an ordinary space look spectacular and inspiring, enticing them to experience the real thing.
9. Squarespace: ‘Sally’s Seashells’
Why it stands out: It puts a modern and relatable twist on an old, well-known saying
One storytelling device that always works is putting a fresh spin on a well-known adage—it’s effective because it’s both familiar, yet exciting. This strategy is what Squarespace tapped into with their commercial featuring actress Zendaya as Sally, the seashell seller, from the popular “She sells seashells by the seashore” rhyme.
While no one is probably planning on selling seashells in real life, every business owner can relate to having limited options when selling exclusively through a physical store. That’s precisely where Squarespace, the website builder platform, emerges as the hero in its ad, providing Sally with an online store to sell her seashells on, eventually leading her to success.
By basing its storyline on a well-known nursery rhyme, Squarespace’s ad instantly familiarizes itself to viewers. However, putting a fresh and modern twist keeps it from feeling dated, even making it feel surprising. Finally, it finishes by solidifying Squarespace as the hero in the story, helping anyone—even nursery rhyme characters—find success.
10. Always: ‘Like a Girl’
Why it stands out: It tackles social issues relevant to their audience in an empowering way
Today’s customers and audiences expect more responsibility from brands than ever, and the past few years have seen a shift toward brands addressing more social issues in their ad campaigns. While this can be tricky to navigate, the Always’ 2015 “Like a Girl” campaign is one of the best TV commercials to do it right.
The ad’s message is clear, relevant, and thoughtful, highlighting Always’ customers front and center in a mini-documentary style. While the product isn’t mentioned at all, the ad clearly illustrates that the brand cares about its customers on a personal level, leaving viewers feeling inspired and empowered—two feelings that will eventually translate into its products.
What Makes a Good TV Commercial
TV commercials have evolved over the years, but the best TV ads remain in people’s consciousness long after they air, leading to long-term brand recognition and sales revenue. The commercials above have some core principles in common you can use when creating your video advertising campaigns, whether for television or digital platforms. Below are some elements and principles that make up a good TV commercial.
- A compelling story or message: The foundation of any good commercial is a compelling storyline or message that will capture audiences’ interest and feel relatable to them. The best TV ads don’t directly sell a product—they envelop viewers in a compelling story or message they can connect with.
- Tone that matches the brand: An essential aspect of the most effective commercials is tone. The best commercials are not only compelling, but their tones also accurately communicate their brand’s personality to audiences.
- It appeals to wide audiences: TV commercials differ from digital marketing strategies in that they are broadcasted to wide and varied audiences. This means that whatever your concept or message, your overall commercial must be catered to general audiences.
- Relatability: If there’s one thing all popular TV commercials have in common, it’s relatability. Creating relatable characters through relatable storylines and situations is the most effective way for your commercial to connect with audiences.
- Professional production: The best commercials are those shot and edited with top-notch quality. Television studios have high broadcast standards, so it’s a must for commercials to have exceptional technical quality.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do you make a television commercial?
After deciding that television is the right channel for your advertising goal, the next step is to decide whether to create your commercial in-house or outsource to an ad agency. If making it in-house, start by developing your creative (i.e., your marketing message, story, script, etc.). Determine which network to advertise on, how long your ad will be, and how often it will play. Read our instructions for how to get a commercial on TV.
How much do TV commercials cost?
Television ads are an expensive form of advertising, with the average cost of TV commercials at over $100,000. This amount varies, however, as the cost for advertising on popular TV shows ranges from $150,000 to as much as $828,000 for Sunday Night Football, and into the millions for Super Bowl ads. Get the complete breakdown of TV advertising costs.
What are some of the best commercials of all time?
While the title for the best commercial of all time is subjective and up for debate, many agree that among the best include Apple’s 1984 Macintosh commercial, Coca-Cola’s 1971 “Hilltop” commercial, and Wendy’s 1984 “Where’s the Beef?” commercial. In more recent years, some of the most well-received and popular commercials include Always’ “Like a Girl” commercial from 2015, and Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” ad from 2010.
The best TV commercials grab the viewers’ attention and provide enough information to attract buyers without sounding like a sales pitch. Ads that grab people’s attention often include compelling storylines, relatable characters, surprise elements, or well-known figures who grab and keep people’s attention. Then, once they have people’s attention, great ads remain in the minds of consumers long after the ad has aired.