Ads Worth Spreading

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People hate advertising.

How often have you heard that line? Do you believe it to be true? I don’t (no shock there). I prefer to turn the phrase a little bit: people don’t hate advertising… people hate bad advertising. It’s a pervasive sentiment throughout the marketing world. Think about privacy: people want their privacy? If people don’t want brands to know what they’re doing why do they give out their personal information for a couple of coupons (is that all that it’s worth?)? If people were truly concerned about their online privacy, why would they sign up for Facebook and not only post very personal pictures of them and their family, but also publish (to the world, no less) information that they would commonly label as "personal and private"?

We’re an interesting species.

At this year’s TED conference they announced the winners of TED‘s ads worth spreading contest/initiative. In looking at the many winners that were chosen by the judges, I could not help but sit back, enjoy the ads, smile and think to myself: "advertising is worth it." The big challenge comes from getting brands, media companies and the advertising agencies to elevate the industry so that we all, collectively, believe it – and, more importantly, practice it. We’re struggling. We often don’t really know what works and what connects when it comes to creating advertising and marketing messages, so we pander to the lowest common denominator and create an ad that simply screams… instead of an ad that will tell a story.

How did we get so lost?

Is there any data, proof or business case to validate that screaming your product in an annoying and repetitive fashion actually gets (and keeps) attention? Below, are some of the ads that touched my heart. The truth is that I’m going to remember these ads forever. The truth is that I’m either going to become a customer or think about these brands the next time that I require their products and services.

That’s the point of advertising: to make a brand an idea worth spreading.


  1. Only viewed the first one so far Mitch and it’s a gem. I’ve never heard of Chipolte let alone that they have storefronts in the GTA. I only know this now because I cared enough to google them. I will give them a chance, I hope the food is well prepared as the message.

  2. Excellent point! Most advertising–at least where I’m from–has devolved to a 30-60 second song-and-dance routine, ad nauseum. The most recent campaign that comes to mind is by a cell phone company here that is nothing but a bunch of teenagers dancing for 2 minutes (no, really, that’s all there is!).
    These kinds of ads say nothing about the company or the product, or why I should choose them except that being part of their network I can spontaneously burst into synchronized dance with my friends.
    I saw the Chipotle and Kinect ads on YouTube some time ago and shared it with the people I know exactly for the same reason you made this post – because they stood out and made a connection. I think most marketing campaigns don’t know how to do that and the sad part is they don’t even try. Why? Because the easy road, the bad advertising road filled with repetitive lyrics and synchronized dances is *good enough* to get by. And I think until that changes, bad advertising will live on.

  3. Mitch. Thanks for sharing. I wasn’t aware that Ted had such initiative.
    As a fellow agency owner, I echo your thoughts. Done right advertising makes a deposit in the mind of the consumer instead of a withdrawal.
    Raising the standard is needed. Where do we start?

  4. Great post Mitch. I’ve been a director/producer of television commercials for over a decade, and I’ve been thinking a lot lately about not only the effectiveness of the television commercial format (is the TV airtime cost worth it when we now have interactive distribution?) but also how best to make an impact with the viewer and cut through the noise.
    Today’s television viewer likely has immediate or close access to the web, so an effective TV ad should inspire the viewer to follow-up with the brand online and, if the message or creative is good enough, share it with their social networks. Definitely tough to do! But in terms of television creative, I think that should be a primary goal, to get the most out of the ad spend.

  5. Wonderful post. I really enjoyed these ads especially the Chipotle story and the Sharpie pens. True indeed, that ads nowadays need to scream and be fully charged with sexual connotation and violence. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Thanks for sharing those videos! They are all excellent and certainly more memorable than 99% of other advertising on TV. The last ad, for the Touch Wood cell phone, reminds me of those Honda commercials from 5 or 6 years ago.

  7. Starting with messages of awareness is a good place. It also would not hurt if we shred these types of examples within our agencies and talked about the reasoning and logic behind them. We do a lot of lunch and learns at Twist Image in hopes of fostering and elevating the education of our team.

  8. We also need to make that first touchpoint (the TV ad) something that truly resonates instead of something that truly annoys. If we’re going to interrupt someone’s media experience, let’s make it with something additive.

  9. Both the Honda ad and this one for NTT Docomo create a world of wonder that the viewer wants to see… and see how it ends. When was the last time, you sat there and could not wait to see how a commercial would end?

  10. I find it interesting that all the examples tend to be much longer than a traditional ad or 30 second TV spot. It feels like around two minutes is a more optimal amount of time to immerse the viewer in the content and create an real emotional connection. Longer spots also start to feel more like content than ads. Maybe that’s a good trend too.

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