What Makes ‘The Best Of The Best’ The Best?

There’s something very satisfying watching a master craftsman, or woman, take a piece of misused, old furniture and restore it to its former glory. I even quite like painted furniture, like the circa 1680 Rothschild Desk attributed to the artist Pierre Golle. As a piece of art, it’s exquisite.


Which brings us to Janet. (Need I mention this is not her real name?) She is a YouTube ‘furniture restorer’ whose favourite modus operandi is to slap on white chalk paint. But just because you can paint furniture doesn’t mean you should. And it certainly doesn’t mean applying white chalk paint over an antique piece of furniture with slivers of brass, pewter, horn, mother of pearl and expensive timbers delicately inlaid in the surface.  Yes, Janet did.


But she has YouTube videos so she must be good, surely?


Someone who is good at their job lets the results of their work speak for them. The same applies to choosing a media company for your next corporate video.


When choosing a media company what should I look for?


The first thing to do is to study their portfolio. Keep an open mind. You may sell life insurance, but does that mean you have to talk about what happens when you’re gone? More on that later. Here are a few things to look out for when perusing the agency’s portfolio.


  • The obvious done wellYou want people who know how to take the obvious and unflinchingly make it memorable and or funny. Often at the same time. Take, for example, this DollarShaveClub.com ad. Mike tells us, without any pomposity, suit, or neat office, that he is the founder of the company. ‘Corporate’ is not the style here. Honesty is. Heck, the man even swears. He tells you what his company does and what their blades have.


And here’s the cunning trick. He asks you if you really need all the other gizmos other blade suppliers claim their blades have. Well, almost. They don’t come with back scratchers. But you get the point.


And the point is, as Mike says, because the other blades are 2000% more expensive, think of where you’re going to stack all those dollar bills he’s saving you! Oh, and with DollarShaveClub.com you won’t forget to buy your blades either, because they ship them to you!


Why is this a great ad? The agency knew they had two main constraints. The first was an extremely small budget. The second was that the ad needed to stand out among the ads for blades with gizmos and kerpow graphics. The answer – simplicity was best. Especially when talking about the fact that a great blade didn’t need to cost the earth. Packing it with humour made simplicity the best choice. Every time you’re standing in the queue at the supermarket to pay $20 for blades, you’re going to remember this ad and ask yourself, “Why?”


  • The obvious done differently


Staying fit and healthy is the secret to a long life. Yet so many medical resource-related ads either show young, healthy people, or the services or products they have available, being sold to you by a person in a white coat. Very friendly. In the Netherlands, there is a pharmacy company known as DocMorris NV.


Their ad, Take Care, tells the heart-warming tale of an old man’s journey from stiff and creaky to fit and strong. His neighbours think he’s crazy at first, then they start to worry about him. That leads to them encouraging him to keep going. We see him repeat the same exercise over and over.


It’s the reason why that matters. All is revealed when he arrives at his daughter’s home to spend Christmas with her and her family. In the present he gives his granddaughter is the star for the tree. As he lifts her so she can put it on the top, we see the same exercise he’s been practising.

Why is this a great ad? The agency wanted to deliver the same message as the ads with people in white coats – that staying healthy was important. The genius of the ad is that they tell you that without saying a word. Look for an agency that knows the power of showing not telling. They let the heart-warming emotion attached to an important holiday say it all for them. And we only find out the company’s name for right at the end.



  • The story has a twist


Let’s talk gum. Fresh, minty, sugar-free taste. Wonderful smelling breath. Bright, clean teeth. Yada yada yada. There are SO many gum companies out there. Wrigley’s knew they needed something memorable.


It’s a given that if you don’t have fresh, minty breath and clean teeth you’re not exactly going to be popular. But that, in itself, is rather corny. Through this ad, thanks to the song, Can’t help Falling in Love, we follow the story of an American girl, Sarah, and the Spaniard, Juan. They meet at school and fall in love. They date, and after prom, move in together. At each milestone, Sarah offers Juan some gum. Later, we see Juan take out a pen and write something on the gum wrapper. But what? The date of the milestone, perhaps? It’s the curiosity that keeps the viewer hooked.


The time comes for Sarah to take a job away from Juan. When she comes home for the holidays, Juan asks her to meet him at an art gallery.


And here’s the twist. All the pieces of artwork are Juan’s drawings. Each one is an illustration of one of their milestones. And all on the gum wrappers of the gum that Sarah had offered him over the years. The last picture is of Juan proposing to Sarah. She turns around and there he is on one knee holding up the ring box.


Why is this a great ad? Firstly, Sarah and Juan are a bicultural couple who reflect the reality of the marketplace. An agency in touch with the marketplace’s reality will be able to reach them on a much deeper level than one that isn’t. Sarah and Juan’s lives are very familiar. The song is well-known and a perfect fit for the story. Unlike other gum ads, it’s the drawings on the gum wrappers that are the most meaningful part of the story, not fresh breath. Gum is sweet, the story recorded on the gum wrappers is even sweeter. We never see the name of the gum until the billboard at the end of the ad, so we are focusing completely on the story unfolding in front of us.


  • Telling the other side of the story


Some stories are short, others take longer to tell right. The choice to make a long ad is a courageous one. That alone sets this ad from Thai Life Insurance apart. Most life insurance ads want you to think about what will happen to your family when you die, and how the insurance company can step in, like a hero, and help. But Thai Life Insurance took a different route. They eschewed the manipulation of school fees, food on the table, struggling to make ends meet…except that they didn’t. They used the exact same elements to persuade people that life, not life insurance was what mattered.


Instead of the company being the hero, they made a man with very little the hero. The ad tells the story of how this man interacts with the people and creatures he meets every day; a potted plant besieged by the elements, a street vendor struggling to lift her cart onto the pavement, a mother and child begging on the street trying to find enough money to send the young girl to school, an old woman in his building who isn’t eating properly, and a hungry dog that haunts the small restaurant our hero eats at daily. Despite what other people think, our hero makes choices that affect those lives for the better. And he is consistent with his kindness. The voice over asks what will he get in return for doing this?


Happiness, deeper understanding, love, that which money can’t buy, a world made more beautiful.


By the end of the ad, the plant is thriving, the child is in school and teaching her mother as well. He sees the street vendor gifting food to someone in need, the old lady figures out it’s our hero leaving bananas for her and is effusive in her thanks, and he has a loyal pet. The voice over asks the viewers what they value most in their lives. The final billboard reads ‘Believe in good’.


Why is this a great ad? The ad is not meant for western audiences, but it still has the power to affect them. It’s true that life insurance is about making the lives of loved ones better. But what makes this ad great is that it asks why wait until you’re dead?


By the end of the over-3-minute ad you’re so invested in this man’s life that when you see the end result – a home with a loving pet, surrounded by thriving pot plants, you want to cheer! And we’d be cheering for the right thing, a man who cares and makes meaningful choices, not a company. A great agency knows the difference.


What makes these ads the best of the best?


There are 7 reasons why these ads stand out among the millions of ads we see every day.


  • They tell great stories. Stories that aren’t predictable. Stories that look at life differently.
  • They reflect the world around us in a hopeful way without being pedantic, falling into trope holes, or predictability.
  • They show, they don’t tell.
  • They ask different questions to other ads of the same industry.
  • The lifestyles they promote are aspirational only in the sense of good choices of character, of deeper emotional rather than monetary value, and they promote putting others first. Even the DollarShaveClub.com ad talks about giving people jobs as part of their philosophy.
  • The production values are excellent – from casting, to script, song choice, and editing.
  • The clients were courageous and trusted their agencies.


Not only are the ads the best of the best, but because of their courage and creativity so are the agencies, and the clients. When you’re looking for an agency, look for people who create courageous ads. Who look at life differently. Who don’t just slap on white chalk paint because it’s ‘in vogue’ at the moment.


What was the best video you’ve seen that made you reconsider your choices, or the reasons behind your choices, and made you want to be a better person?