The best TV commercials effectively send a message that tells a relatable story while strengthening brand awareness and driving more sales. Many of the most memorable of the past year were produced by large businesses, featuring expensive celebrity spokespeople, but they often utilized additional strategies to help drive their own success that businesses of any size can incorporate into their own ads.
Here are the 10 best television commercials of the past year and why they worked:
Why it works: Takes a lighter approach to an otherwise heavier topic—climate change.
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 huge 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. This effectively allows the TV commercial to easily connect 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
Why it works: Asks the audience to make certain decisions in life through humor.
Rocket Mortgage captures the viewers’ attention through semantic humor in one of the best Super Bowl ads of 2021. It has reached popular TV with its showcase of thought-provoking questions that inspire audiences to think about the difference between being “pretty sure” and being “certain.”
The TV ad does this by showing hypothetical situations that make being “pretty sure” a killer for those who make decisions without 100% certainty. What’s more, it really gets an audience to question how their everyday decisions can greatly impact their lives. And it closes its case with a bang, by promising certainty—something every consumer desires.
Why it works: It stays on-brand by reviving an American classic.
Pop culture has been the reference of many effective TV commercials out there, including Cadillac, which used the same route to parade its new model. It was one of the popular TV commercials during the Super Bowl last year, showcasing the edge that even the sharpest and clumsiest hands can 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 manages to stay on-brand by telling a story based on a movie that—like Cadillac—is an American classic. And for many, an American favorite.
Why it works: It ensures comfortable and safe travel as the pandemic slows.
The past two years have been a struggle for the world, particularly the travel industry. It has been hit hard by international restrictions and closures that limit where people can go, as well as their desire to go. However, Expedia presents an escape from all of that, with a safe and comfortable guided travel experience.
It uses its own version of the famous song “All By Myself” as a smooth transition as we begin to explore the world again, making it a part of the best TV commercials in the past year. The colorful and witty utilization of the song helps the company reach people and how they are feeling. After all, it illustrates its empathy and connects to the fact that while many are stuck in isolation, you’re not really alone in feeling alone.
5. Amazon Alexa
Why it works: Imagine Alexa as anyone you want, or, you know, as Michael B. Jordan.
The Amazon Alexa ad is one of the best TV commercials of the year due to its ability to craft a compelling story line 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 what we want. It takes the plot up a notch by having viewers imagine how it would feel to not only get what we want as we want it, but also from who we want it from.
Though it’s based on an imaginary daydream, it paints the product in a dreamy 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 audio book.
Why it works: It highlights the company’s value–not its products—and tugs at the hearts of individuals as we make memories with friends and family with beer.
Anheuser-Busch’s commercial reminds us that it’s never about the beer—it’s about being together. This marvelous example of a TV commercial presents moments that we have raised our glasses and bottles for.
As one of the most effective commercials when it comes to warming our hearts, it awakens emotions, leaving us wanting more of not just the beer, but also the good memories. In hard times and good times, it reminds us that good company is all it takes. Its brilliance boils down to understanding the real value a company provides and playing up on that—something any business can do.
Why it works: 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 a number of 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—sends 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 more authentic and in return, is more impactful.
8. Progressive Insurance
Why it works: The TV ad does not try hard. At all.
Popular TV commercials and those that are part of the best TV commercials of all time usually have flair and action within them. But this commercial by Progressive Insurance has a certain charm in it that comes without anything actually happening.
It simply provides information about the insurance, and just like what the ad says, nothing really happens. It is an effort to provide calmness in stark contrast to the number of other TV ads vying for your attention with loud messages and eye-catching scenes on-screen. It’s creative and unconventional, which adds to its oddly charming flair.
9. Bud Light Seltzer
Why it works: The commercial is witty and yet again takes us back to 2020 with creativity.
The year 2020 was indeed the “lemon of the year.” Bud Light reminds us of that by likening the pandemic to lemons, which made a bitter year for the world. It’s simple yet flashy in its branding, with the rain of the lemons being compared to the apocalypse. Moreover, it wittily utilizes the usual motto of “when life gives you lemons, you make a lemonade.”
The ad itself is funny, and the circumstances surrounding it are satirical in its entirety. It sends the message that Bud Light gets you. And by reminding you of its relevant and down-to-earth brand, perhaps in return, you will get yourself some Bud Light.
Why it works: The advertisement’s usage of Opportunities by Pet Shop Boy envelops its satirical sense.
The duet with the vehicle is an ultimate metaphor for the breakdown of the car’s engine, which the man ignores as he has received huge insurance savings by switching to Allstate. Singing to the tune of “Opportunities,” this popular TV commercial asks the audience to make money by saving through insurance.
It is simple yet witty, making it one of the best Super Bowl ads. And its obscure nature makes it compelling—which any business can use to grab and hold an audience’s attention.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Do television ads still work?
The short answer is yes, television ads still work. In fact, despite on-demand streaming, television ads remain an effective way of reaching millions of people. However, given the nature of a TV ad and its limited ability to target audiences, it’s best for businesses with a large target audience instead of a niche audience–as opposed to businesses with a niche product or narrow audience and those marketing a new business.
How much does television advertising cost?
Television advertising isn’t the most affordable ad channel, with the average cost for a 30-second commercial hovering around $115,000. However, prices vary greatly from as little as $14 cost-per-mille (CPM) on a local network to over $5 million for air time during the Super Bowl. Additionally, the cost for the time slot is not the only expense involved—also keep in mind production costs, which are minimally around $5,000. Get the complete breakdown of television advertising costs.
Which social media platform is best for advertising?
The most popular social networks for advertising are Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, though there are a number of other leading choices, such as LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, and TikTok. Which is best for your business will depend on unique factors, such as your advertising goals, messaging, budget, and target audience. Learn more about social media marketing to find out which platform best suits your business and its advertising goals.
From the list above, it is enough to conclude that the best TV commercials are composed of ads that know best how to utilize satire, humor, and a good story to capture the audience’s attention. Popular TV ads are not created solely for marketing but also for entertainment, which subconsciously plants a selling point to the viewers.