Top 5 best ad campaigns of the 21st century, per experts

Posted at 2:08 PM, Jan 12, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-12 18:00:56-05

The 2000s have been an interesting time for television advertising.

Since TiVo launched its first digital video recorder in 1999, ad agencies have been forced to find creative — sometimes extravagant — ways to catch a viewer’s eye before they press fast forward.

Advertising Age, a leading news agency covering the marketing business, just released its list of the Top 15 Ad Campaigns of the 21st Century, focusing on television and web-based video ads.

The full list includes popular characters like The Most Interesting Man in the World for Dos Equis beer, minimalist approaches like Apple’s Mac and PC guys, as well as patience-testing commercials like Budweiser’s “Whassup” spot.

Below are the top five best ad campaigns since 2000, according to the experts at Advertising Age.

#5 - Red Bull: “Stratos”

The people at Red Bull insisted that its 2012 Stratos stunt was not an advertising campaign but the writers at Ad Age beg to differ, pointing out that it generated millions of dollars in profits for the energy drink giant. The stunt, which saw a skydiver free falling from a capsule that was 24 miles above the Earth, broke world records and racked up a reported 207 million views.

#4 - Old Spice: “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like”

Who wasn’t mesmerized by this campaign just a few years ago? Old Spice’s hilarious, dizzying commercials starring actor Isaiah Mustafa first aired in 2010 and picked up rave reviews from advertising experts as well as reestablishing Old Spice as a popular brand. An ad campaign that people didn’t get tired of seeing? That’s an accomplishment.

#3 - BMW: “The Hire”

Hollywood A-list actors and directors, a $17-million budget and a running time of more than an hour. BMW’s ambitious 2001 campaign “The Hire” is more like a movie than an ad campaign, but make no mistake it was designed to sell cars. This groundbreaking series of eight short films starring British actor Clive Owen hit the Internet four years before YouTube even existed.

#2 - Nike: “Nike+ Running”

Advertising typically works by promoting an existing product but in the case of this 2007 Nike campaign, it helped launch a new sector of technology. The writers at Ad Age credit this spot with “nearly single-handedly pioneering a new consumer category,” referring to wearable tech. In the video spot, a runner is shown using an Apple device to track his workout. This was about a year before Fitbit’s first Tracker device became available.

#1 - Dove: “Campaign for Real Beauty”

This decade-running campaign from Dove was named the best of the 21st century by Ad Age because of its attempt to change the way we think about beauty. This series of ads has been hailed as socially responsible as well as inspirational. Dove’s sales also have increased by $1.5 billion in the time since 2004, when the “Campaign for Real Beauty” kicked off.


Clint Davis is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @MrClintDavis.