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The most effective ads become a part of our culture. They prompt dialogue and debates, they convey meaningful messages, and they aim to create a visceral response. Unlike sorry, stale ads that parrot back the status quo, influential ads aim to break new ground.

These ads made us laugh, made us cry, and in some cases made us question our conventional wisdom — but above all, they earned our attention in 2014. From the jokesters at Dollar Shave club to the brilliant minds behind the Pepsi brand, we’re tipping our hat to the best moments in brand creativity this year. (Warning: The sound in #4 is NSFW.)

1) Re2pect | Gatorade

In terms of storytelling, Gatorade nailed it. Maybe it’s the black and white approach or the Frank Sinatra music, but this ad really pulls at our heartstrings.

In fact, the ad had such a powerful emotional resonance that even Red Sox fans couldn’t stop watching:


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2)Thank You, Mom | P&G

Rather than pushing a product, Proctor & Gamble committed to focusing its efforts on building a relationship with the consumer. In doing so, they created a sense of empathy among moms everywhere.

*Wipes tears*

3) This is Not a Hamburger | HILTL

This clever ad pays tribute to the famous painting “The Treachery of Images” by René Magritte. While the original illustrates a pipe with the caption “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (this is not a pipe), HILTL (a vegetarian restaurant) used a play on the caption to promote their meatless meats. (Yes, that’s a thing.)


4) Awkward Family Viewing | HBO

You’ve just settled down to catch up on a few episodes of your favorite show, when your mom comes waltzing in. (Queue the sex scene.) HBO’s “Awkward Family Viewing” commercials promoting its subscription-streaming service speaks directly to this familiar pain point. That’s what makes it so effective. At the same time, the ad uses the humorous situation to bring to light the benefit of its service.

(Warning: NSFW.)

5) Slides & Polls | Volkswagen

The underlying message in this Volkswagen ad is that getting from one place to another is fun (especially in Volkswagen’s new Polo GTI.) While these ads are entirely product-free, the fact that they likened slides and polls to the joy of driving a Volkswagen is enough to stir up a sense of childhood nostalgia and a desire to learn more.



6) Monty the Penguin | John Lewis

I’d be a Scrooge if I didn’t include a holiday ad in this round-up, right? Not only is this ad heartwarming, but it’s also tied to a series of promotions, including a children’s book, an app, and toys, that promote the department store.

7) Halloween | Pepsi

While calling out a competitor can be risky, Pepsi’s Halloween-themed dig at Coca-Cola was both timely and witty. If there’s one thing you take away from this ad, it’s that sometimes taking a risk is worth it.


Bonus: While the image below is an unofficial response from Coke fans and not the actual company, it’s worth showing off:


8) A Hero’s Welcome | Budweiser

This year, Budweiser gave us a lot of worthy ads to choose from — but this account of a soldier’s return home rose to the top. It’s an emotional play, but one that is quite effective.

9) Security | Dollar Shave Club

Dollar Shave Club proves that a little humour goes a long way. By focusing on the not only the high cost but also the inconvenience of store-bought blades, Dollar Shave Club positioned its product as the only logical option.

Have other favorite ads from 2014? Share with us in the comments below!

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