Most searched commercials worldwide in 2023
In the digital age, where content is abundant, and attention spans are dwindling, the power of a well-crafted TV commercial remains undiminished. Commercials can uniquely captivate audiences, influence consumer behavior, and even shape cultural narratives. This article delves into the ten most searched TV commercials of all time, each a masterpiece in its own right, leaving an indelible mark on the advertising landscape and beyond.
Interestingly, many of these commercials are not recent creations but relics from past decades. (Read this article for the best ads of 2023). Why do people still search for old ads more than new ones? One reason could be the nostalgia factor. Older commercials often evoke a sense of nostalgia, transporting viewers back to a different time and place, a feeling that newer ads may not be able to replicate. Additionally, older commercials have had the time to marinate in the public consciousness, turning into cultural touchstones that are discussed, analyzed, and referenced years or even decades after their initial airing. They become more than just ads; they become part of our collective memory.
Another reason could be the quality of storytelling. Many of the older commercials on this list broke new ground in advertising, whether Apple’s 1984 Macintosh commercial turned an ad into a cinematic experience or Coca-Cola’s 1971 “Hilltop” commercial that touched on universal themes of peace and unity. These commercials set the bar high, creating a gold standard that is tough for newer ads to meet. In a world saturated with advertising messages, where consumers are constantly bombarded with new content, the classics still stand out for their creativity, emotional resonance, and cultural impact.
1. Apple’s 1984 Macintosh – This groundbreaking commercial aired during the 1984 Super Bowl and was directed by Ridley Scott. Set in a dystopian world that eerily resembles George Orwell’s “1984,” the ad portrays a society under the oppressive control of a Big Brother figure, symbolizing IBM. A young woman, played by Apple employee Leeann Tweeden, bursts onto the scene, sprinting with a sledgehammer. She hurls it at a giant screen, shattering the image of Big Brother and liberating the masses. The commercial ends with the text, “On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like ‘1984.’”
2. Coca-Cola’s 1971 “Hilltop” – Aired in 1971, this Coca-Cola commercial is often called the “Hilltop” ad. It features a diverse group of young people from various ethnic backgrounds, all gathered on a hilltop in Italy. They sing a song that starts with the lyrics, “I’d like to buy the world a Coke,” promoting global unity, peace, and harmony. The commercial responded to the divisive times of the late ’60s and early ’70s, offering a vision of a better world brought together by something as simple as sharing a Coke.
3. Nike’s “Just Do It” – In 1988, Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign revolutionized sports advertising. The campaign features a series of vignettes showcasing professional and amateur athletes pushing through their limits, breaking barriers, and achieving their goals. The slogan “Just Do It” is a motivational mantra, encouraging viewers to overcome procrastination and self-doubt. The campaign transcended the realm of sports to become a cultural phenomenon, turning the slogan into one of the most recognizable taglines in advertising history.
4. Volkswagen’s “Darth Vader Kid” Commercial
Overview: Aired during the 2011 Super Bowl, this Volkswagen commercial captures the imagination of childhood through the lens of pop culture. A young boy dressed in a Darth Vader costume wanders around his house, attempting to use “The Force” on various objects, including his pet dog and a doll, but to no avail. The twist comes when he “successfully” starts his dad’s Volkswagen Passat, unaware that his father remotely started the car. The ad perfectly blends humor, nostalgia, and the magic of childhood imagination.
5. Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” – Launched in 2013, Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” campaign challenges societal norms around beauty. The commercial features a forensic artist who sketches women in two ways: based on their self-description and then on a stranger’s description. The two sets of sketches are then compared, revealing a stark difference and highlighting how women often underestimate their beauty. The campaign received widespread acclaim for its empowering message and its challenge to traditional beauty standards.
6. Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” – Premiering in 2010, this Old Spice commercial features actor Isaiah Mustafa, who appears as a suave, shirtless man standing in various extravagant settings. He addresses the audience, particularly women, telling them how their men could be as irresistible as him if they used Old Spice. The ad is a whirlwind of quick scene changes, from a shower to a boat to a horse, all while Mustafa maintains direct eye contact with the camera. The commercial became an instant viral hit, redefining Old Spice as a brand for the modern man.
7. Taco Bell’s “Run for the Border” – Initiated in 1993, Taco Bell’s “Run for the Border” campaign features scenes of people in various situations, all finding a reason to dash towards the Mexican border to grab Taco Bell. The campaign played on the idea that Taco Bell offers an authentic Mexican food experience, so much so that people would “run for the border” to get it. While the campaign was a commercial success, it also drew criticism for perpetuating cultural stereotypes.
8. Geico’s “Gecko” Since 1999, Geico’s commercials have featured a CGI-animated gecko with a British accent. The gecko serves as a friendly, approachable face for the insurance company, explaining in simple terms how Geico can save people money on car insurance. Over the years, the character has been placed in various humorous situations, from walking on a treadmill to interviewing real people. The gecko has become an advertising icon, making insurance discussions more relatable and less intimidating.
9. Budweiser’s “Whassup?!” – Aired in 1999, this Budweiser commercial became a cultural sensation almost overnight. It features a group of friends who call each other and greet with an exaggerated, elongated “Whassup?!” The phrase caught on and became a part of everyday vernacular. While the ad itself was simple, its impact was enormous, turning it into a cultural catchphrase and boosting Budweiser’s popularity among a younger demographic.
10. Always’ “Like a Girl” – Aired in 2015, Always’ “Like a Girl” commercial tackles gender stereotypes head-on. It features girls and boys of various ages being asked to perform tasks “like a girl.” Initially, the phrase is associated with negative stereotypes, but as the commercial progresses, it reclaims the phrase to mean doing something with strength, skill, and confidence. The ad was lauded for its social impact, challenging and changing the way society views gender roles.
As we’ve journeyed through these ten iconic commercials, it’s evident that great advertising transcends the boundaries of time and medium. These commercials have not only achieved commercial success but have also made significant cultural and social impacts. They have challenged stereotypes, broken barriers, and even changed the way we speak. Whether it’s the empowering message of Always’ “Like a Girl” or the cultural catchphrase spawned by Budweiser’s “Whassup?!”, these commercials have left an indelible mark on society.
In an era where digital advertising often takes the spotlight, these commercials remind us of the enduring power of traditional media. They serve as benchmarks for what advertising can achieve when it goes beyond selling a product to telling a compelling story or addressing social issues. As we look to the future, these commercials offer valuable lessons for advertisers and marketers. They show that the key to creating a memorable and impactful ad lies not just in clever slogans or eye-catching visuals but in the ability to tap into universal human emotions and experiences. In doing so, they elevate the art of advertising to something much greater, turning commercials into cultural landmarks that continue to resonate with young and old audiences.
Each of these commercials serves as an advertising masterpiece and a cultural landmark, impacting society in various ways.