Video is still the best way to tell stories, not just for writers but also for marketers.
Within a few minutes, you can convey big ideas about your brands in simple but meaningful packages.
Use an appropriate background music track, throw in relatable characters, select the most suitable cast, and hold it all together with a thoughtful script that conveys your message in an unexpected manner.
If you get the basics right, you may tell a story that will stay with your audience for a lifetime.
It’s actually simple – most videos go viral because they’re hilarious, shocking, emotional, deep, relatable, or visually awe-inspiring.
Where can you find good references for such brilliant pieces of work? Right here!
This continuously updated ad collection below pays homage to some of the best video advertisements in recent history.
Keep tissues ready because you’ll either be crying your hearts out or laughing through your nose (is that even possible?)
You might think you need a huge budget to shoot a cool beverage commercial. But this short ad completely defies that norm, using just a bunch of Coca Cola bottles to show the emotional value behind their product.
It’s a brilliant example of being resourceful. By using the power of inspirational copy to strike a chord, it turns these bottles into contextual representations of life & real people.
Such ads are timeless (and it was rightly revamped with a fresher look decades later).
Oh dear, this is such a tear-jerker, and I love the daadi played by veteran Kamlesh Gill because she captures the adamant yet warm persona so beautifully.
Vivek Kakkad of Curious films directed this masterpiece, and I think it makes for a wonderful case study on branded storytelling for 3 simple reasons:
Leverages the mother-son bond to create an emotional connection with the audience
Uses nostalgia to bring back childhood memories of eating at home
Seamlessly & naturally integrates its product into the center of the script (joy of healthy food)
According to a report by AFaqs, “The background score, which plays an important role, was created by Abhishek Arora (the music director for Vicky Donor) while Nitin Pradhan, former creative director at JWT, penned the lyrics.
Swaroop Khan, a contestant on Indian Idol 5 and a folk singer from Rajasthan has sung the emotional song.”
Honestly, I just want to go hug our old folks now. What’s your take on this video? Did it tug at your heartstrings, too?
This one has set new sky-high standards for brand storytelling with this emotional ad. Apart from the cute daadi (granny) who steals the show, what I love about the script from a marketing lens is that:
It humanizes its service employees & shares the brand experience through their eyes … which is very rare!
It takes the effort to research & understand the Indian target audience’s culture, values, heritage, and family relationships … most brands never bother to do this research
It zooms in on an intimate friendship rather than displaying big numbers and statistics, which wouldn’t have made an emotional impact on anyone
Also what is it with grandparents and lovely ads haha, is that the magical ingredient or something?
Most life insurance commercials go the usual route of showing family-centered stories to promote their products. But this tear-jerking ad takes the principle of being there for others beyond blood relationships.
It keeps the storyline quite simple, focusing on one man and his day-to-day journey, showing how one can practice a little kindness every day despite busy schedules.
There is no mention of the product because all the focus is on the value/ethics that the company believes in. This bold move makes this look like a nice short film instead of an ad, thus hooking more people in. Currently, it has 1M+ likes.
There is a massively impactful conclusion that hits the spot hard. Whoever wrote the script knew just how to build up the tiny moments to an epic crescendo.
It’s the simple writing and visual direction that makes this a brilliant case study of how telling a good story can have more impact on your sales than lazily promoting your product. We want to see more warm & fuzzy ads, please!
Driving with Dad ~ Maruti Suzuki
Agency: MullenLowe Lintas Group
Year: 2023 for Maruti Suzuki Driving School
I never thought a driving school ad would make me laugh and cry.
The script is so thoughtfully written, each line hitting us hard with a dose of witty humor that seamlessly pairs driving concepts/guidelines with expected taunts or comments from the stereotypical father portrayed in the film.
Of course, the Dad device could’ve gone awfully south if it wasn’t done perfectly because it’s easy to offend millions of fathers with this kind of highbrow humour. But it worked well in the ad’s case.
Every scriptwriter should watch this ad to understand how a brand can make itself more memorable by leveraging emotional moments people may go through while using their products or services.
In the above ad, Maruti uses the bittersweet brown father-son bond to bring out emotions like the anxiety of a father who’s wanting to teach his son an essential life skill, and the pride/satisfaction of the son who is able to master the challenge,
My favourite part? Obviously, it would be the last line, when the father appreciates the son but does it through another taunt, “Accha hi sikhate honge … agar aap jaise ko sikha diya toh,” and they burst out laughing.
As someone who’s struggling to learn driving, and also hearing the same kind of taunts from his father, this hit me on a personal level.
This is such an emotional coaster ride. I’m impressed with the soulful dialogue & classy acting by all the characters. But there’s a deeper reason why I love it so much.
Technically, you’d expect Paisabazaar to push customers to buy loans that they aggregate on the site. But this story does exactly the opposite, encouraging people to build their dreams bit by bit without ‘depending’ on another person. So the message is that PB wants to empower its customers & not just make the cut from their banking partners.
This humanizes the brand and clearly establishes its broader vision. The technique is called ‘anti-selling,’ in which you show people that your brand goes beyond the physical utility of your product. The idea is to create an emotional connection around your core offering so that customers don’t feel like they’re being sold to.
Does your brand really care about making an impact on their lives?
Much like the elder brother in this ad, who loved his sibling silently, do you have your audience’s best interest at heart?
Try conveying and practicing empathy in your marketing- it’s an underrated but effective trick!
No marketing discussion is complete without a mention of the iconic Seagram’s Imperial Blue campaign that had men (and women) around the world in splits, and that, too, without using many words!
The whiskey marker wanted a “surrogate ad” campaign to push its music CDs since advertising alcohol was (and still is) banned on television by the Indian government.
FYI, surrogate advertising means using another secondary product to create awareness of your brand’s name, probably because your product is mature, taboo, illegal, or discouraged for promotion towards underage viewers (e.g. alcohol, condoms, porn, etc.).
To capture the office-going male audience, Ogilvy & Mather India originally conceptualized a series of relatable & evergreen ads. They poke fun at the subtle ways in which men will try to impress or court the fairer gender.
Without being too sexist or cringey, the witty storylines pack a light comedic punch, accompanied by the catchy tune, “Pyaar ki Raah me Chalna Sikh…”
BTW, that tune was written by Ajay Gahlaut, who was then the Executive Creative Director of Ogilvy’s Delhi chapter. As of 2021, he’s currently leading Dentsu Creative.
He says, “Here, the humor doesn’t really arise from objectifying the woman that the man comes across – it comes from the subversion of his expectations, and how the world is indifferent to the loss of his fantasy – a theme that, in more recent ad films, [often] play out without any women even being part of the frame [or being actively involved in the script].”
I’m a huge fan of this whole concept because it finds a way to touch the target audience (predominantly men) without taking them too seriously. This is classic tongue-in-cheek humor at its finest!
Save Smart with Fi – Meet Fi Jars for the dreams of today!
Save Smart with Fi – The Smartest Financial Assistant in Town
Fi is a neobank startup (operating without physical branches) that wants to help young Indian millennials & Gen-Zs save money through automated savings every time they shop online.
In a bid to show their no-bullshit young personality, they created video ads with a funny “low-effort” PowerPoint theme, as if mocking the software’s blatant use in the wake of work-from-home culture since the COVID-19 lockdowns in India.
This played well with their brand’s persona of being prudent with your money. Because the series doesn’t go for any expensive photo shoots or celebrity endorsements.
Instead, it completely relies on memes, common internet lingo, and an honest anti-jargon script, delivered by a friendly young voice.
The execution looks entirely done on MS PowerPoint Slides to the layman. But looking at the cute animations, this was probably executed in After Effects/Premiere Pro.
The ads were reportedly run as paid performance campaigns on social media and OTT platforms like Hotstar during the IPL season.
B2B Marketing doesn’t have to be boring – this ad is proof of that! Its premise is hilarious and overblown but the punchline lands perfectly.
A rocket ship is making preparations to launch for a mission to Mars. Mission control begins the countdown but gets a call halfway through from the sponsor, who says the logo on the shuttle needs to be bigger.
At a second launch, the rocket is again making preparations to take off with the logo now taking up most of the craft’s exterior. Mission control is counting down a second time but is once more interrupted by the sponsor with news that millennials want a new color and a hashtag on the ship’s exterior. After giving the shuttle a makeover, the launch preparations are underway for a third time.
As before, the countdown is halted by the sponsor who says that Mars is no longer trending online and that the mission needs to be rerouted to Pluto. After all the specified updates have been accommodated, the final countdown is taking place.
This time, the power shuts off due to budget depletion, and the launch is delayed. The punchline swoops in – Don’t know what your marketing team is doing? Adobe’s Marketing Cloud allows business owners/managers/stakeholders to keep track of financing.
Year: 2021 (October) for Ladder Life Insurance (USA)
This is another life insurance commercial that decides to take a unique approach, although this time it’s a really, really dark comedic tone (unlike the emotional Thai life spot we saw earlier).
I love that the creators decided to meddle with the whole idea of getting life insurance (protecting your loved ones) and then turned it on its head (this stuff is so good, your loved ones will want to kill you). That’s just genius thinking!
The element that sealed the deal for me was the last bit of voice over which clarifies that attempting to commit insurance fraud will almost certainly land you in jail.
Overall, the execution is brilliant because it keeps you guessing about the product until the end. What a masterpiece!
Most anti-smoking ads are filled with gory visuals that have little to no impact. This short, copy-less video takes a different approach. It triggers emotion by bringing a kid into the picture.
The story starts out on an innocent note, with the son trying to imitate his father by wearing the same office clothes.
But we get gut-punched out of nowhere, as the kid is seen holding up a cigarette in his hand. The father sees this and realizes the impact of his habit on the next generation, which ultimately convinces him to put down his habit.
No heavy words. No uncomfortable images of cancer patients. Just simple & impactful storytelling at its finest. We love it so much!
The script is witty like always and doesn’t even contain a single word. The entire comedy rests on the expressions & shenanigans that ensue. Virat is a natural actor, but he probably picked up some lessons from his effervescent wife. Bloody brilliant.
How often have we heard advertisers saying they don’t have enough budget to make a good ad? This beautiful short video from Google illustrates that all you really need is creativity.
The entire spot, released during the Super Bowl 2010, is just a series of Google Searches that tell a beautiful story.
It was created in-house by Google’s team of newly recruited, bright-eyed advertising professionals. Read the full story behind this campaign here.
Burglars want Tacos ~ Frijoles & Frescas
This Vegas-based Mexican joint literally turned a burglary that happened in their store into the whackiest PR stunt ever! I don’t think moment marketing can’t possibly get any better than this!
I love that their manager Greg Carlson had a sense of humor around the whole event, and so they used it perfectly to talk about how addictive their tacos are … even to thieves!
As expected, the video (which was an ad-cum-PSA to help them identify the burglars) went viral immediately after they uploaded it to YouTube. News outlets ate up the story because it’s so undeniably good.
If you look at the ad, you’ll notice it has a kitschy, homemade style, but actually, this kind of video gets more traction than polished content on social media because it feels authentic to end users. The 4.7M total views on this one are proof of that theory.
Also, looking at the comments, I can tell that the little shack is well-known well beyond Vegas.
I wonder how the robbers must’ve felt after they saw the story – elated to be the famous cast featured in it? Or envious of all the unintentional fame and business they brought to the brand they were trying to steal from? You tell me!
This is the cheekiest short ad I’ve seen in a long while. It was created to promote the Young Directors Awards of 2010. And my research tells me it’s part of a series, which contains other equally hilarious episodes that follow similar premises.
What I like about the concept is that it’s such a creative take with the brand’s tagline “Born to Create Drama.” By showing youngsters being as natural actors who use their talent for mischief, it cuts to the heart of the point directly.
I also like how it addresses the TG directly in a way (although I’m sure the receivers of the YDA award are a bit older than the cast used in these ads).
This one gets me sappy every time. It brings real humans to the forefront and gives them the experience of a lifetime.
Cancer is one of the harshest struggles one can face in their lifetime; the way this ad addresses it is warming beyond measure.
Sometimes a good technique to write ad concepts is to write them for specific people instead of trying to capture everyone. As this example proves, there’s power in making things up, close, and personal.
Perhaps the cheekiest, most hilarious ad on this list!
I love how they’ve built the suspense until the very punchline. And the addition of Gordon slicing the block of meat/vegetable (alluding to the man’s visible privates) is refreshingly original. Not to mention how the man awkwardly crosses his legs to hide his shame.
All done without a single word.
They also seamlessly incorporate the name of their product into the script by using a sticky note that is used to track new orders in big kitchens.
And to top it all off, the tagline is cocky, too, “Should’ve gone to Specsavers.”
2021 was all about Mark Zuckerberg’s grand Metaverse announcement story.
To many, though, the prospect of poorly animated avatars & VR headsets felt uncomfortable, if not downright creepy or bizarre. It didn’t help that Mark is already the internet’s favorite target because of his rather odd look that many say looks alien-like.
To mock his announcement video, Icelandic tourism authorities created a parody ad, mocking Mark’s delivery style, and promoting Iceland as a real, more authentic, and more exciting alternative to the dystopian Metaverse.
The best part is it was pitched, produced, and published by the agency SS+K in a matter of five days.
Any later & the people would’ve missed the context, given the pace at which news stories rise & die nowadays.
For topical ads like this one, it’s all about getting the timing right. So the complete turnaround is certainly worth appreciating.
Moreover, the actor’s deadpan performance is on fleek, the costume mirrors Zuckerberg’s outfit, and the script is deftly written at every beat.
So I give this hilarious spoof a solid 10/10.
CNBC‘s Monica Pitrelli notes it’s not the first time the Tourism board has used humor to promote the country’s beauty to international tourists.
Influencer marketing is usually obvious & boring for fans.
Brands lazily put their products in a celebrity’s hands, and expect the fandom to go gaga over it, just because the person is endorsing it – as if nobody knows its a paid collab.
But this video by Twitter is an excellent example of how to get it right.
First, the ad uses the context of the Robert E Kelly meme correctly.
His BBC interview went viral precisely because his room was unlocked, allowing his toddler & their caretaker nanny to slip in during the live conversation.
Twitter users also face the same inconvenience when their tweets are hijacked, trolled, or debated by strangers on the internet. So the connection & relevance is right on cue.
Second, the ad recreates the funny scenario beat by beat, and because it’s what got people talking in the first place, the recall is high.
People immediately got the joke even though the original video surfaced in 2017, three years before this ad brought the man back.
And last, they deliver the punchline by positioning their new “inner circles” feature as the solution to the problem.
I like how they used simple animation to show how to activate it IRL, so users can actually try it out themselves.
Overall, they’ve used the unexpected influencer to the best of his abilities, and stayed authentic to his personality/story, much like how the previous Icelandverse ad replicated the nuances of Zucky’s style effectively.
Agency: Mother (original concept created for Greenpeace)
Year: 2018 for Iceland Foods UK Supermarket
This brave animated ad was banned for being “too political” after Clearcast, the agency responsible for approving ad content said it would be in breach of the Broadcast Code of Advertising Practice.
After the ban, the supermarket brand ended up organically posting it on its own YouTube channel, and their tweet went viral with 6M+ hits in a short time, making the video one of the most viewed pieces on the platform in 2018.
It uses powerful poetry & adorable characters to communicate an extremely serious & touchy issue in a heartwarming, personal way.
This is a masterclass in the technique of making a social issue personal through relatable characters that have problems at a granular level.
Most of the content opposing palm oil production & use is serious, dark, and unfit for wide sharing on socials.
But the ad in question breaks through the clutter & hits the right spot. It was able to do it because it focused on the direct emotional & physical impact both animals & humans have to bear because of environmental destruction.
So if you want to convey a big complex issue, start by making it personal & relatable.
If you want to know the riveting story behind the ad, John Freeman has penned a great post on Down the Tubes.
He says, “But Iceland didn’t make it, originally. It’s a version of a Greenpeace animation created by London-based agency Mother, narrated by Emma Thompson, directed by Lip Comarella and Simon Griesser for Passion Pictures, with initial character development by Therese Larsson, Thibault Leclerq, and Marceline Tanguay.”
This idea would never get approved in today’s times, given that brands are becoming more & more cautious of trying something that’s so outrageous & original.
Well, at least we got to see such kind of blazing creativity in the old days.
The series of commercials, which were launched in Egypt (and then worldwide), feature a terrorizing Panda who suddenly appears whenever someone says no to “Panda Cheese.”
He then proceeds to raise havoc for the unsuspecting victims. It clearly has that “WTF” element, and clearly everyone loved it.
Sleepy Owl Coffee attempted to replicate it in 2022 with their “Your Loss” campaign but it felt flat, because the direction in the Panda campaign is just too bold & creative that no other brand will be able to top it.
This is easily one of the darkest ads I’ve seen, period.
It was created for a national NGO, which is led by several family members whose loved ones were killed in the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012, that claimed the lives of 20 first-graders and 6 educators.
It starts like a usual “back-to-school” video, with kids showing off their new bags, books, and other items brought before the summer ended.
Then before you can fully absorb what’s going on in the background, you realize you’re in the setting of a live school shooting as its happening.
The concept & copy is extremely hard-hitting, filled with sarcasm that leaves scathing marks on your mind.
It just makes you think so much about how innocent kids cope with something as extreme as gun violence, highlighting the urgent need to address the issue.
It has a compelling & clear CTA at the end, too, targeted at kids, parents, and school staff: To know the signs & prepare in advance, visit our website.
The campaign went viral on social media for good reason, bringing the world’s attention to one of America’s most shameful sins as a nation.
Bank Robbery ~ Asahi
Agency: Enormous Brands
Year: 2022 for Asahi India Glass (AIS)
This is over-the-top advertising done right.
The ad keeps you guessing about the product being advertised (noise-canceling windows). It’s why we stick around to find out until the end. But the acting & shots in the middle are the real meat of the matter, they’re so comical & well thought out.
It’s one of those weird commercial ideas that would be rejected by traditional clients, but I’m glad Asahi India Glass decided to trust their agency’s gut on this one.
I had a hearty laugh because this is one of the most refreshingly original ads I’ve seen in a long time.
Heaven ~ CMPD
Agency: Goodby Silverstein & Partners
Year: 1995 for California Milk Processor Board
Oh boy, there is so much to unpack here.
Firstly, you should read the story behind one of the most iconic campaigns ever conceptualized in the history of advertising.
“Got Milk?” was the timely response to falling milk sales in the USA, and the whole focus of the campaign (which spanned two decades) was to talk about the lack of the product (and how annoying or inconvenient one’s life will be without it).
It led to the coining of the term “Deprivation Marketing.”
The ad in question was one of the many scripts that sprouted out of this clumsy, bonsai-small tagline. It’s dark humor at its finest.
What I loved the most about the script/art direction was that we’re never explicitly handed the twist on a silver platter i.e. we don’t see a narration or dialogue telling us that the man is actually in hell, not heaven (as hinted by the concerning lack of milk in the afterlife).
The burning effect on the words at the end is enough to sell the story. This means that the director respected his audience enough to quickly read between the lines and understand the hidden message.
Today’s advertisers unknowingly spoon-feed everything to their audience, fearing that if they do something clever, it might not be understood. But good advertising is above all bold advertising.
So you need to be fearless and leap into “clever” territory, trusting that your fans will figure it out, which will actually lead to a pleasurable catharsis and an interest in buying your product.
Accidental Degree ~ STOA
Writer: Mathias Ritter (domino expert) + internal marketing team
Year: 2022 for STOA Business School
Selling an alternative pathway to the traditional MBA is no easy task in a country that is obsessed with MBA degrees.
But STOA has nailed its value proposition and messaging with its latest string of digital ads, bundled under the campaign “Stoa Isn’t For You.”
Firstly, all the ads ins the series use hyperboles to poke fun at our tendency to inflate the importance of degrees over practical experience. The insight of “getting degrees just for show” is brought out extremely well.
Secondly, by explaining who SHOULDN’T apply to Stoa, they make their target audience very clear to everybody. This is a good takeaway for strategists – often clever marketing “alienates” the crowd to lock on their niche, making the act of associating with the brand hella exclusive, and by extension, very attractive.
Overall, I loved the hilarious script and the acting! 10/10 from me.
Producer: Hungry Films with director Mahesh Gharat
Year: 2023 for Acko Insurance
There are two lovely takeaways from this video. Firstly, it is hyper-targeted at Mumbaikars, which is fair considering Acko’s partnership with Mumbai Indians (a cricket team in the domestic IPL tournament). Many writers & strategists today try to appeal to the masses, fearing that if they go niche, the ad won’t go viral.
But the reality is that niche content gains massive traction because the people represented in it are proud to share/spam it in their circles, creating a network effect. This is why the ad got popular in Mumbai’s WhatsApp group.
Secondly, notice how nowhere in the ad has Acko tried to market itself or its insurance products. The ad is simply a heartwarming letter & ode to the spirit of our commercial capital. This is a good example of what content marketing should actually be like – it should entertain & inspire, not heavily promote the brand itself.
I dig the videography, the music is too catchy, and all types of Mumbaikars have been portrayed beautifully throughout the montage. More interestingly, I admire how the recent technological & social changes in the city have been shown in a creative manner (e.g. an increase in women cab drivers, and the popularity of UPI among street vendors).
Love this so much – makes me shout “Aamchi Mumbai!”
Chickens ~ Mercedes Benz
Agency: Jung von Matt/Neckar (Germany)
Year: 2013 for Mercedes Benz
Most car commercials feature the same predictable drone shots of the automobiles racing through hills and highways.
But Mercedes decided to change that up with a refreshingly energetic “chicken dance” commercial in which they use chickens to illustrate their Magic/Intelligent Driving Body Control feature.
With the use of no special effects, real chickens really did dance to Diana Ross’ “Upside Down” without moving their heads, just how your Mercedes’ suspension unit can adapt to any potholes or sudden bumps to provide you with a smooth ride.
The music, art direction and message synced really well, making the ad an instant it.
What is even funnier is that their competitor Jaguar immediately released a parody response to this commercial, showing an actual jaguar (the animal) eating the chicken, unveiling the message that they prefer their cat-like lightning fast reflexes to mere intelligent driving body control.