ads worth spreading

Last week, I had the great fortune of going to TED in person after watching the talks online for years.

As a marketer, I was struck by a TED project called “Ads Worth Spreading“. Each year, TED and YouTube award ten ads that are “worth spreading”. As TED Curator Chris Anderson put it, “We’re seeking to reverse the trend of ads being aggressively forced on users. We want to nurture ads so good you choose to watch — and share.”

There has never been a better time in history for marketers with a story to share. Yet, much of advertising is still shackled to the same-old feature-and-benefit-focused 30-second spot. I love the idea that ads could evolve beyond interruption media to quality content that audiences actually seek out.

“Increasingly, we are seeing how brands have evolved as content creators. Some of the best advertising today reflects the narrative storytelling that used to be the sole domain of “serious” content … First and foremost, ads must be driven by ideas. It is no longer enough to repeat the pour shots, bites and smiles that have defined a large portion of advertising to this point. Brands must create wonder and find their place within the larger cultural conversations.”

Here are the ten ads selected by TED and YouTube. I’d love to hear your thoughts of ads you’ve found “worth spreading”.

(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away one signed print of this week’s cartoon. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post by 5:00 PST on Monday. I’ll pick one comment. Thanks!)

Rainforest Alliance: Follow The Frog

Melbourne Metro Rail: Dumb Ways To Die

Channel 4 Paralympics: Meet The Superhumans

Expedia: Find Your Understanding

Coca-Cola: Security Cameras

Dell: The Girl Who Could Fly

TBS: Push To Add Drama

GSK: London 2012

Ram: Farmer

The Guardian: Three Little Pigs

  1. manas says

    why not even one of P&G adverts! Cartier’s spot has to be there in the list. Last and the most important DDB NY’s First World Problems Anthem is surely worth spreading!

  2. Fabio says

    I think we’re talking about different categories here: some ads refer to a subject that can resound with (or slightly influence) the viewer’s opinions, values and mindset (e.g. “Follow the Frog”, or “Farmer”) – while others have a looser connection with the goal of the campaign, but are worth spreading because… well, they’re simply cool (e.g. “Push To Add Drama”).

    In this perspective, I especially like those that manage to blend the two aspects: bringing values upfront a compelling narrative, or building a cool, provocative, convincing or surprising story around the nature of the product: I found “Three little pigs” a great mixture of all these aspects.

  3. Hugh Williams says

    This raises the question of what is a good story versus what is a good advertisement. These are all without question good stories. They are also all lengthy (1 to 1:30 minutes) as good stories generally need time to unfold, but that makes them very expensive to put on air. Finally, the brand is rarely integral to these stories – it just shows up at the end as an add-on. Could I remember what brand was behind most of these ads five minutes later if I wasn’t really trying? Doubtful.

    Good stories worth sharing, yes. Good advertising worth it’s production and air-time value? Not sure…

  4. Tom H says

    There’s been some interesting attempts at this lately with Ford’s Escape, where they actually made a serial of episodes that appeared on Hulu, and more successfully, I think, Samsung has created the “Unicorn Apocalypse” series based on a fake web gaming company. The Samsung series is actually a cleverly compiled set of traditionally structured commercials that are presented in a evolving storyline that is complex enough to actually get you to follow along. I think it’s more effective than a traditional set of themed commercials. But I’m their demographic, too.

  5. Jon Lehre says

    You can taste the palpable desire of each of these videos to be the next cool thing. There’s almost a checklist of requirements that each of these achieve – tug-at-the-heartstrings, check; funny animation/cute song, check; inspiring montage of images, check check check check check check. How many of these could be switched out with another product and still achieve basically the same result? How does Coke have anything to do with the hidden cameras, for example? John Deere tractors or Jimmy Dean sausage or the Corn Coalition of America could replace the farmer’s truck and we’d still nod and say, “powerful stuff.” The Guardian could be replaced by Dell (all the computers being used), Dell could be replaced by Intel (the power to make dreams come true), and on and on. So, all told, very clever, masterfully produced, creative and amazing. But so what? Fun stories but are they more interesting than the next laughing baby video? Is 2 million ‘likes’ the new bar for effectiveness? All I see when I watch the vids is a lot of effort and a lot of money spent creating a 2-minute diversion. But, maybe I’m too jaded. But then… aren’t we all?

  6. Andrew [Drew] Marshall says

    The power of stories cannot be denied. TED has become a story-making enterprise connecting us to ideas through stories that would not otherwise be heard. It is fitting that they choose recognize the power of storytelling in others (even and especially advertisers, who for many years forgot the art of good storytelling). I think what makes these evening more powerful, beyond the latest memes and viral videos, is how they reframe the world for us and their impact lingers. It is that after-effect that seems most meaningful to me. Which brings to mind quote from Robert Frost’s poem, “The Lesson for Today”:

    And were an epitaph to be my story
    I’d have a short one ready for my own.
    I would have written of me on my stone:
    I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.

  7. Allen Roberts says

    Some great stuff, but still the best ad I have ever seen goes back to 1968.
    Union Carbide, a business that terminally stuffed up, made it for their insulation product.
    Great creativity and marketing communication is timeless, it just resonates, and calls for action in a compelling manner.

  8. says

    Hi all,

    Really great perspective from everyone on power of stories and whether as Jon Lehre put it, 2 million “likes” is the new bar for effectiveness. I’ll have to create a cartoon on exactly that topic. This week’s print goes to Jon. Thanks!


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