When you work in advertising, you start to feel that ads are a huge part of your life. It’s easy to forget that, in this day and age, they’re a massive part of everyone else’s too.
With a million different shows to stream and a thousand social media platforms to surf, it’s becoming less of a thing that people are all united by the same cultural milestones. The days of “Who Shot JR” or “Who Killed Laura Palmer” are long gone. It’s rare that the whole country or world is talking about the same things any more. But if there’s one thing that manages to get all kinds of social groups talking, it’s commercials.
Now the 2010s are confirmed to be over and we’re knee-deep in the wreckage that is 2020, let’s look back at our top 10 ads of the 2010s.
Share a Coke with Karen
Companies are always trying to find ways of personalising their customers’ experiences, and this is an example of it being super successful. Personalised Coke bottles swept the world, with people hunting down bottles with their names on them in supermarkets across the globe. The campaign is credited with boosting sales at a time when it had dropped to a ten year low.
Over the course of the decade, the campaign changed to include new kinds of custom bottles, including iconic song lyrics and place names. While you might think the campaign was gimmicky, you can’t deny it got people buying Coke more than ever.
I don’t like tea. I like gin.
We love a queen who isn’t afraid to say what she likes, and great-grandma Jean is one of those queens. She doesn’t like tea, but she does like a gin.
Back in 2011, we were obsessed with this lady comparing teabags, so much so that in 2020 she made a return in another Aldi ad, this time much more gin centric.
This was one of the first of Aldi’s “like brands, only cheaper” advertising campaign that has been running successfully for many years, and continues to confirm Aldi as one of the most well-loved budget supermarkets (and supermarkets in general) here in the UK.
But honestly, what solidifies her status as a true icon and legend is that she is a Middlesbrough gal, which is this writer’s hometown (and coincidentally the birthplace of many other legends. Up The Boro).
I’m on a Horse
One of the few American-born ads on our list, this campaign crops up all the time in reference to how successful advertising can be. The Old Spice “Man Your Man Could Smell Like” ad shows actor Isaiah Mustafa portraying an attractive man who has everything your woman could want. What’s clever is how this campaign targeted the partners of men as opposed to the men themselves, selling to men in a sort of back-door way by telling them that this is what their partners want.
It’s a commonly-held belief that new toiletries are a notoriously hard sell to men (3 in 1 Wash ‘n’ Go immediately springs to mind), this was a smart move that really paid off, especially when you consider that Old Spice was basically a forgotten brand in the UK before this campaign.
Fried Chicken Kentucky
Remember the dark days of 2018 when KFC ran out of fried chicken?
Even if you’re not a huge KFC fan, it’s likely you remember this moment from the amount of attention it got in the media, especially when the company ran with the setback and created ads featuring empty buckets and the logo reordered to spell “FCK”.
Obviously, being a modern digital marketing company, we love to see companies being a bit liberal and cheeky with their marketing- while it can sometimes go a little south, it can often humanise a giant corporation and make them seem friendly with a sense of humour. A useful thing for the biggest and best known fried chicken company in the world.
John & Monty
Honestly, is it even a “best advert” list if it doesn’t include John Lewis?
Mr Lewis (I assume he’s a guy, somewhere) has been grabbing the UK’s attention every Christmas since 2007, with varying results every year since. Undoubtedly, though, the best remembered and most successful was 2014’s Monty the Penguin. A two-minute masterpiece that explores childhood, the love between a child and their toys and coming to understand what love actually is, that made an unnecessary amount of people cry over a plush penguin.
To some, John Lewis may be nothing more than an overpriced Debenhams, but you can’t deny that come Christmastime in the past decade it’s often the leader of the advertising world.
Vegan Sausage Rolls
Arguably the best culinary delight to come out of the 2010s, or at least for those of us who don’t eat pork, was the introduction of Greggs’ vegan sausage rolls. This quintessentially British pastry got a whole new audience in people who prefer to enjoy a vegan or plant-based diet, and they quickly rose to become one of the most popular options on the Greggs menu.
The product gained a lot of hype around it when it was negatively reviewed by Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain, which, if anything, made people want to try it more. But what really set the product apart from other fast food branding was its Apple iPhone-style advertising.
An instantly recognisable parody, in part thanks to Apple’s incredible style which it has maintained for years now, this made the vegan sausage roll even more of a popular product.
Just Keep Doing What You’re Doing
If you were asked to think of the most well-known slogans in the world, odds are one of the first you’d think of would be “Just Do It.” It’s simple. Really simple.
And Nike has run (literally, lol) with it for years, applying it easily to whatever campaign they’re running at the time. This often works in their favour because it applies to millions of different situations. And never has there been a more important situation in the sporting world of late as when Colin Kaepernick took a knee to protest racial injustice in sport, the US, and the world.
The 2010s have seen huge brands take very important and often polarising stances on socio-political issues, and while these are viewed by some as insincere or a cash grab, it is nonetheless fantastic to see brands calling out in support of the beliefs of so many of their customers.
Putting the “L” in Clio
One of the more recent ads on our list, this one’s a real heartwrencher, and one of the first to commercials to have ever made me honest-to-god tear up.
This is probably the least well known of our ads on this list, so if you haven’t watched it, I implore you to give it a go here. “30 Years in the Making” explored another company’s socio-political stance, this time with the LGBTQ+ community. And it’s truly something we love to see, especially as it is portrayed as an honestly wholesome and realistic love story.
Dave has one of the best bottoms in the business
Adverts for money comparison sites are probably some of the strongest, strangest and most annoying of the 2010s, and among all the meerkats, obnoxious tenors and over-memed Philip Schofields out there it’s hard to find one that still holds up and is enjoyed today. I think the closest we can get is also one of the most successful of the decade, and it’s thanks to a man named Dave and his thicc derriere.
I’m sure everyone can remember their reaction the first time they saw this ad. For me, I was excited and hopeful that we’d eventually get more portrayals of drag on mainstream TV, especially in advertising. Since this, the UK has embraced its own version of RuPaul’s Drag Race AND a drag makeover show has been broadcast on Channel 4. Speaking of one of the most forward-thinking channels on our tellies…
What goes on
It’s hard to close out the 2010s without remembering when all eyes were on the UK.
No, not the Royal Wedding.
No, not the other Royal Wedding.
And no, not Brexit. We’re talking about the 2012 Olympics. Or, specifically, the Paralympics.
Unfortunately, Channel 4 does not allow this clip to be embedded to other sites, so if you feel like giving the ad another watch, the link is here.
Channel 4 created one of the most powerful, raw and incredible adverts which showcased Paralympians as “superhumans”. They pushed away from othering people with disabilities, created hype around the event which equalled the Olympics themselves, and turned the (incredible) music by Public Enemy into a theme tune for Channel 4’s entire Paralympics coverage and even the spin-off show The Last Leg, which continues to run today. Genuinely one of the most successful campaigns ever created by a television channel, and one that will hopefully go down in history as bringing athletes with disabilities to the forefront of mainstream culture.
Here’s to the 20s
It may be off to a shaky start, but if there’s anything to be learned by the first half of 2020 it’s that we can keep our spirits up during the more difficult times with entertainment, media and culture. Advertising’s only getting bigger, and without a doubt, the next nine years holds a tonne of new and exciting ways of advertising to the general public.
DMT is a digital marketing team based in the heart of Manchester. If you’re interested in seeing how we can help your business succeed online, get in touch, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.