9 Iconic Animated Commercials
that Changed Advertising

Some of the very first films in history were animated. Since then, animation has developed in parallel with film and as soon as commercials began appearing regularly on domestic TV in the 1950s and the advertising industry as we know it evolved, animation has always played a key role. Animation possesses all the qualities that are ideal for commercials - they are eye-catching, engaging and distinctive: the perfect medium to sell a brand.

Here we look at 9 commercials that have had a major impact on the history of advertising for creative, commercial and social reasons.

1. Matches an Appeal

What is widely acknowledged as the very first animated commercial was actually one of the first commercials of any kind. Matches an Appeal was created by Englishman Arthur Melbourne-Copper in 1899 and was a stop-motion film asking for donations from the cinema audience to finance sending matches to soldiers fighting in the Boer War. As both a fundraising appeal and a commercial for Bryant & May matchsticks, it lit the fuse for two formats that over 100 years later have hugely important roles and influences in our lives.

Seminal is an often overused word but in this case it couldn't be more deserved.

2. The Flintstones - Winston cigarettes

The Flintstones was one of the most successful and iconic animated series in the US which ran from 1960-66. It was the first animated primetime American television series and the first animated series to be nominated for an Emmy. Back in those days it was usual for successful shows to be sponsored by a brand and part of the sponsorship deal was to have the stars of the show endorse that brand. The sponsor of the Flintstones was Winston cigarettes so after the show we got to see Fred and Barny spark up and wax lyrical about their great taste. It may not have been such a big deal back then, but today the image is pretty surreal. More than that though, it marked a key turning point as the lines between tv, culture and commercial marketing became irretrievably entwined. 

3. Be Together. Not The Same (Android)

The best and most iconic commercials don't sell a product, they sell an idea. Google's Be Together. Not The Same spot for Android, which first screened during the 2016 Oscars, was part of a thematic campaign that it had been running for two years - but this was the one that everyone took notice of. It's a beautiful, heartwarming 60 second story on the theme of how being different is not a bad thing, and the importance of standing up to bullies. There's not a single phone in the whole 60 seconds.
In the last ten years, commercials for the bigger brands have started to deal with changing social issues head on in an intelligent and engaging way and this was a great example of that. 

4. Dumb Ways to Die

This simple animation was originally conceived as a public service announcement campaign by Metro Trains in Australia to warn the public about the dangers of being around trains. It became a phenomenon and now, 230 million views on youtube later and with a big bag of awards under its belt, the campaign has its own website and spin-off range of merch. It's proof that a great concept, brilliantly executed and a catchy tune will get you far in this world.

5. Honda Grrr

Hate something, change something, make something better.

This is an amazing commercial that works on several levels and rightly won many prizes. It was awarded the prestigious Film Grand Prix in 2004 and was also selected by Adweek as the best commercial of the decade. It succeeded by breaking the rules. On the surface, it's a commercial about dirty engines and Honda's commitment to improvement. But the message is obviously so much bigger than that. It's a commercial that's fun and funny and bright and colourful and profound and has a great catchy tune and is everything that a commercial about engines shouldn't be… and that is why it is amazing.

Honda reported its brand awareness figures more than doubled in the period following the campaign’s debut. Overall sales of Honda products within the UK increased by more than 35%

6. Hare Jordan

Michael Jordan had already transformed the world of basketball with his skill and charisma. He'd already changed the world of marketing with his deal with Jordan. And now he had his eye on transforming the crossover between sport, marketing and culture with this Hare Jordan commercial which aired at the Superbowl in 1993.

Inspired by Robert Zemeckis' groundbreaking feature Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Hare Jordan mixed 2D cartoon animation with live action and was an instant success. The concept was developed further in the massive global hit Space Jam and Michael Jordan had achieved his goal once again. 

7. The Boy who Learned to Fly

Brand commercial as art or art promoting a brand? It's hard to say here and the line between the two is blurred in this 7 minute animated short for Gatorade in 2017. The product is not mentioned at all until the end but before then, we are treated to the uplifting and inspiring story of Usain Bolt's journey from childhood to greatness. This is all about brand awareness association and it succeeds brilliantly.

The spot was created by Moonbot Studios, a small start-up who won an Animated Short Oscar for The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore in 2012.

8. John Lewis – The Bear and the Hare

Since they first appeared in 2007, John Lewis Christmas commercials have evolved to become a genre in their own right and prompted other competitors to follow suit and up their game or face irrelevance. The Christmas commercial in the UK is now an 'event'.

And a lot of money is spent on making them. The brand awareness of winning the 'Christmas commercial of the year' unofficial audience award is worth the high price.

This offering from 2013 broke the usual live action style but it remains many people's favourite and evokes those reassuring Christmas emotions that everyone loves.

It mixes a range of animation techniques - hand-drawn 2D animation with stop-frame model animation and CGI - to tell a heartwarming story of friendship and tradition.

9. Lyft - June: Life is Better When You Share the Ride

This 7 minute animated short film by Academy Award-winner John Kahrs tells the story of a lonely widow in Chicago who, after an accident, is suddenly inspired to start sharing her ride with strangers - and sharing her life too. It's dripping with style and positivity - from the uplifting story about the importance of community to the cool 60s inspired animation style.

The soundtrack is ace too. The main song was written and performed by Lyft driver-turned-recording artist Sir the Baptist, who switched career after a random encounter with a stranger in his car.

As a brand awareness campaign for new company Lyft, this succeeded beautifully and showed everyone how it should be done.

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