150 great ads we had something to do with

Recently, Sir John Hegarty sat in front of the cameras for the 50th edition of Thinkbox’s long-running series of films with Campaign, 3 great ads I had nothing to do with.

In this series of short films, top creatives from across the industry have the joyful task of selecting and talking about just three TV ads that have inspired them. The only rule is that they can’t be ads they made themselves.

The idea – other than to display pure magnanimity towards one’s fellow creatives – is to explore some of our greatest ads in the company of people who know more than a thing or two about making them. To find out what it is about great ads that makes them so great and encourage the advertising industry to even greater heights in the future.

As we reach the landmark of 50 films, it is a good moment to reflect on the series so far and what we can learn from it.

I fibbed in the headline. In total, there have actually been 137 great ads that have featured in the films so far, as some special ads have cropped up more than once. And deservedly so.

Joint top of the leaderboard with three appearances each are ‘Meet the Superhumans’ by Channel 4 for the Paralympics, IKEA’s ‘There’s no bed like home’ by Mother, and Levi’s ‘Laundrette’ by BBH, showing a nice blend of recent hits and timeless classics.

Levi’s ads in particular stand out to UK creatives it seems, featuring a total of 11 times in the 50 films. I obviously wasn’t allowed to choose one – Sir John neither – but might have done if it had been 3 great ads I had something to do with. Levi’s closest competitor is Volkswagen with 6 nods, followed by Guinness, John Lewis, and Nike, all with 5.

But, Levi’s aside, what stands out is how little repetition there has been. Yes, unsurprisingly with a series like this, ads that have had a huge impact on popular culture sometimes feature more than once. But the same ad has not yet featured any more than three times in 50 films. Most appear only once. That is remarkable.

So, what the series shows is that TV ad creativity in the UK is a wonderful creature with a very long, very diverse tail. When I had to choose my three ads, I went for Polaroid’s ‘Resignation’ by BBH, Chipotle’s ‘Back to the start’ by Creative Artists Agency, and an ad that hardly made any impact on pop culture featuring a drumming gorilla. And it seems everyone else had an equally varied take. If we can be judged by our likes and influences, then this is a wonderfully reassuring glimpse of the creative diversity we have in this country.

Aside from which ads or brands do well, the 50 films also tell us which agencies have done well, whose ads appear most often. Given Levi’s creative popularity, you won’t be surprised to learn that BBH is the most cited so far with 19 ads featuring in the 50 films. They’re followed by Weiden + Kennedy with 14 and AMV BBDO with 10.

But that could all change when we reach 100 – Mother is on 9 so far – and I hope that dozens of ads that haven’t yet been thought of are celebrated by the people who didn’t think of them.

Rosie Arnold is President of the Thinkbox Creative Academy, the group of 200 award-winning creatives who judge The Thinkboxes

This article originally appeared on Campaign  

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