Ads that made me think about Advertising

I may be pretty late to the ad-game, but it’s definitely something that’s always intrigued me. One trip to the cinema with me and you’ll realise my favourite part of the evening is playing ‘guess the brand’ when the pre-film ads start, followed by a thorough but uneducated (or thoroughly uneducated?) critique of each ad. Different adverts have stuck with me for different reasons over the years. Here’s some of those adverts and some of those reasons.

Honda – ‘The Cog’ and ‘Impossible Dream’

When I think of adverts that amazed me when I was young, Honda is up there with the best. I’m no petrolhead, but it’s because of these adverts that I was far too excited when my parents bought a Honda Accord. These adverts made me so randomly loyal to Honda, that when I used to play Need for Speed on my Xbox, I’d look straight past the Lambos and the pimped out Mazdas and see what Hondas they had.

Firstly, The Cog advert was so aesthetically pleasing. Talk about ASMR, the satisfaction of watching each part of the car carry on the domino chain always had me gripped from start to finish. It was an advert that you couldn’t look away from. In terms of sound, I like that the advert is mostly silent other than the rolling or tapping of the chain of parts. When so many adverts try to stand out by blaring out noises, this one caught your attention by how quiet it was. One of my favourite chapters of Rory Sutherland’s Alchemy was the one on “Satisficing” – the overlap between satisfying and sufficing. To me, The Cog was a good example of this. All that effort just to show a standard Honda Accord at the end. It didn’t shout luxury, but it said here’s a reliable car that won’t let you
down (Hence “Isn’t it nice when things just work?”).

Contrast that with the Impossible Dream that came shortly after. Honda had shown us they had a reliable family car, now it was time to really show off. This was more a piece of cinema than an advert. It started modest with just a small moped, then crescendoed with jets, speedboats and robots, before finishing humbly again with the moped. It was somehow dramatic and understated at the same time. This kind of advert made me think about advertising like showbusiness.

Cadbury’s – The Gorilla

A mainstream selection on the list of ads that caught my interest, but for good reason I feel. At the time this came out I was going through my drumming exams and, thanks to this advert, instead of practising the rhythms I was meant to be graded on, I’d spend hours listening to Phil Collins, waiting the minute and a half-ish until I can do the drum solo. The advert was impressionable to me not only as a drummer, but also as a child/young teenager, did I want to eat chocolate advertised by an awesome drumming gorilla or some other boring chocolate?

The advert showed the status of the Cadbury’s brand, and the reason they have their famous purple trademarked. Without a single sign of chocolate in the advert, it still showcased their brand so well because we all knew whose advert it was. At a younger age this definitely got me thinking about advertising. Why aren’t they showing or talking about their chocolate? Why is there a gorilla? What’s the point in it? How do I get involved in this?


This campaign made me realise the real power of good advertising. This advert is different to those that we’re usually exposed to – here’s why you should buy my product – and was more of a PR manoeuvre. Responding to KFC running out of chicken in their stores nationally, they turned a disaster into a brilliant story. With one cheeky anagram and a sincere apology underneath, this piece of art u-turned a commercial nightmare into something endearing in the public eye. Suddenly, people sympathised, and the story people were talking about wasn’t “did you hear KFC ran out of chicken?” but “did you see that great apology KFC put out?”. This came at a time I was already working in my job, writing contracts and legal jargon, and definitely made me think about how I want to be writing more creatively.


I only grew to appreciate Guinness’ advertising later on, probably around the time I started drinking it. But since then, I’ve grown to realise that Guinness has one of the strongest brands in the world and I love their advertising. I’m an avid drinker of the black stuff, but I think I love their branding even more. There are so many aspects of the Guinness branding that I love, so it’s hard to focus on one campaign. Artistically their advertising is surreal, stylish and colourful. My flat is filled with Guinness memorabilia, and my girlfriend who doesn’t drink beer is okay with that. In terms of copy, the taglines were simple but effective. “My Goodness, My Guinness”: effective to the extent where I convince myself that having an excessive amount of Guinness at the pub is okay because it’s better for me than other beer. “Guinness for Strength”: clearly carried weight because dad always used to tell me it’d put hairs on my chest, which as a late bloomer came with much excitement.

In terms of particular adverts, Ogilvy’s Fish on the Bicycle is an obvious choice. Surreal, with an important message, and the only reference to the product is in the statement “not everything in black and white makes sense”. Honourable mention to the Good Things Come to Those Who Wait campaign and the Surfer ad, which somehow succeeded in making people want to wait longer for their beer. Any advert that changes human behaviour so dramatically is somewhat special.

These are just a few of the adverts that sit at the top of my mind when I think of adverts that made me think about advertising over the years. For one reason or another, these all stuck with me and made me think that this is an industry that I’d love to be a part of. Hopefully soon I can make adverts that influence the car a teenager buys on an Xbox game, nearly jeopardise a music exam or want to wait longer for a beer.


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