Do you watch TV? If you do, you would have seen countless commercial clips in between TV segments, where companies frantically advertise their products and services in the 15-45 seconds, hoping to grab your attention and trigger purchase interest.
I don’t watch TV – I find it’s a waste of time due to the low consciousness nature of most syndicated shows today. I also find most commercials to be poorly made, and somewhat pointless. They are either a self-promotion of a product that’s irrelevant to my needs, or an advert that plays no role in my life whatsoever.
However, occasionally there would be a gem that catches my eye. This commercial would transcend the typical advertisement, going beyond a sales push and instead conveying an awareness raising message that resonates with my soul.
In today’s post, I’ve scoured through lists of commercials and gathered these 15 most amazing, inspiring commercials that will inspire the inner greatness in you. Some of these commercials are funny, some are touching, some are inspiring, some are saddening, and some are mind-triggering. Underneath the different forms of each commercial, is an important message to take away and apply.
As you watch each commercial, ask yourself what is the commercial is telling you and how you can apply that. Just like the inspiring graduations article, I’ve included a commentary below each clip, sharing my personal thoughts and reflections.
Enjoy, and feel free to share the article if you find any of the videos meaningful.
#1. Penguins (BBC)
* Very Important: Watch the advert first before reading commentary below to get an unadulterated viewing experience.
The first time I saw the video, I burst out laughing right after the penguins started flying, and couldn’t stop for the next 30 seconds. It was so hilarious to see penguins, which normally wobble about from side to side, to take off and fly with such speed and grace across the sky – much less across the entire continent!!
If you don’t know, this was a prank video the BBC created for 2008 April Fool’s Day, to promote their BBC iplayer. They pretended to have discovered a new colony of penguins that had evolved and developed the ability to fly. The video was a huge success – it became viral and received over 100,000 views in just the first day.
Why was it such a big hit though? Why were people so eager to spread this to others? What was the huge hoo-haa about? And why did I (or any of us for that matter) have the kind reactions we had (whether laughter, shock or amazement) when watching the video?
That’s because we all have a deeply ingrained belief that penguins can’t fly. That’s like a law of nature, a fact that can never be changed. Or so we thought. And hence when we had that belief broken (even momentarily), a pillar that bounded our reality was crushed, and it resulted in a wild reaction inside us. Laughter, shock or amazement – these are defense mechanisms at work as we try to comprehend what just happened before us.
While the video is a hoax, it invites us to rethink about our beliefs, and whether they are really as true as we think they are. Many times, we have a set of staunch beliefs about how the world operates. While these beliefs help us create a predictable reality to operate in, it also limits us in what we can achieve, and what we can do.
I invite you to think about some of your beliefs right now:
- What kind of beliefs do you have about yourself, your goals, your life at the moment?
- Are these beliefs helping you or disempowering you?
- Are these beliefs true or just self-created boundaries? (Clue: There’s no such thing as a “real” belief – they are all opinions and stances)
- Can you think of ways where you have been short-changing yourself with these beliefs?
- Do you want to continue holding on to them then?
At the end of the day, there is no such thing as a right or wrong belief – beliefs are just beliefs. Opinions, thoughts. The key is then to always requestion your beliefs, and always ensure that you’re holding the beliefs that best empower you to live your best life ever. (On Days 26-27 of Be a Better Me in 30 Days Program, you identify your limiting thoughts and replace them with empowering ones.)
(For those who are interested, here is the Making Of the penguin video. )
#2. Every Good Thing in Life (Cheers Beer, Thailand)
The first time I saw this video, I couldn’t stop laughing! It’s is a compilation of 3 ads in same series – each featuring a simple yet good moment we face in life . The way they exaggerated each moment is truly classic.
The ad reminds us of those little things we tend to take for granted in life. Yet these are part of the moments that make life beautiful, aren’t they? What are the moments you relish in? What are the things that make you smile? What are the things you’re grateful for in life? Write them down in your life handbook, hold them dear to your heart and never let them go.
(For those who have the Live a Better Life in 30 Days Program, refer to Day 14: A Day of Gratitude for a sample gratitude list that shares the 60 things to be grateful for in life.)
#3. Cog (Honda Accord)
This 2 minute ad follows a chain of colliding parts taken from a disassembled car, ultimately ending off with the final shot of the car (Honda Accord). From the “Cog” wiki page:
“Bardou-Jacquet (the director) wanted to compose the advertisement with as little computer-generated imagery as possible, believing that the final product would be that much more appealing to its audience. To this end, he set two months aside for the creation of hundreds of conceptual drawings detailing various possible interactions between the parts, and a further four months for practical testing and development.
For the testing phase, the script was broken into small segments, each comprising only one or two interactions. Ideas deemed unworkable by the testing crew, such as airbag explosions and collisions between front and rear sections of the car, were abandoned, and the remaining segments were slowly brought together until the full and final sequence was developed.
The final cut of Cog consists of two continuous sixty-second dolly shots taken from a technocrane, stitched together later in post-production. (The stitching appears during the moment when the muffler rolls through the floor.) Four days of filming were required to get these two shots, two days for each minute-long section. Filming sessions lasted seven hours and the work was exacting, as some parts needed to be positioned with an accuracy of a sixteenth of an inch.
Despite the detailed instructions derived from the testing period, small variations in ambient temperature, humidity and settling dust continually threw off the movement of the parts enough to end the sequence early. It took 90 minutes on the first day just to get the initial transmission bearing to roll correctly into the second. Between testing and filming, 606 takes were needed to capture the final cut.”
What’s most inspiring about this commercial is the precision, the intricate details, and massive level of planning and precise execution that must have gone into it to even make it possible. It’s always inspiring to see excellence at its best, and this is clearly a work that’s born of excellence. Launched in 2003, the ad went on to receive more awards than any commercial in history; so many that it was both the most-awarded commercial of 2004 and the 3third-most-awarded commercial of 2003. (Cog Awards)
It shows that with the right attitude, commitment, determination and persistence, even the most impossible of things can be done. It’s not about whether you think it can be done; it’s whether you want to do it or not. For the goals that you may claim as impossible or hard to achieve, perhaps the real question is to ask yourself whether you really want them or not.
#4. Excuses (feat. Warhawk Matt Scott, Nike)
Despite that, it has not stopped him from achieving success and excellence in life. When he was 14, he was introduced to wheelchair basketball. At age of 18, he led his team in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association’s to 2 national championships in 2003, and was selected MVP of the season. While he was in university, he led his team to 3 national championships (2004, 2005, 2007). In 2007, he was on the gold medal winning US team at the 2007 Parapan American Games in Brazil – and he was just 21 years old then.
He has taken part in 2004 and 2008 Paralympics (Olympics for athletes with physical disabilities), and is set to be participating in the next 2012 Paralympics.
In the ad, Matt lists a whole bunch of excuses people use every day to explain why they’re not doing things they ought to be doing. Have you heard of the term “excusitis”? It’s a deadly disease where people make excuses for why they’re not living the life they want, rather than take action to create it. Ask them why they’ve not achieved a certain result? Their reply “Oh, because I’ve been busy” or “There’s a lot of things on my plate” or “I don’t really want it” or “There was something else that cropped up in the past few months” and so on and so forth. Endless reasons; endless excuses.
The only time when results happen is when you take ownership for your life and stop finding excuses. In life, either you can either be in the group of people that’s busy out there achieving results they want, or you can be in the group that’s constantly looking for reasons to explain why they’re not living the life they desire. Which group do you want to be in?
#5. Let Your Game Speak (feat. Michael Jordan, Nike)
I think this ad is open to different interpretations. For me, the message is to be the best you can be, hone your craft, supersede yourself every step of the way, and let the results of your work speak for itself. If there are critics, there’s no need to waste time to please them – these aren’t your audience. If there are naysayers, let them naysay whatever they want – you’re not here to get their affirmation.
I believe this is also why there’s no narration for the ad. Having clips of MJ’s best moments (or in this case enacted by child actors), is enough. Likewise, when you’re truly the best that you are, your work will naturally speak for itself too. Don’t bother or worry about defending, explaining or fending off critics – these are irrelevant in the long run. To do that would just be to take yourself away from doing well in your game.
#6. Maybe (feat. Michael Jordan, Nike)
I thought this ad is so simple yet so amazing. It conveys the classic problem of how people constantly try to explain away their ability to create success. This ability has been in there all along, yet they deny its presence, and instead point the finger at other things around them.
Are you actively pursuing and achieving your goals right now, to the max? If no, why not? What reasons are you giving for not doing so?
Believe it or not, we are our own limitations. It’s not our moms, our dads, our brothers/sisters, our partners, our friends, our colleagues, our bosses, our jobs, the governments, the societies, the economy, or anything like that. It’s us. It’s always just been us limiting ourselves all along – whether through conscious self-limitation, or allowing others to limit us (which still links back to us).
The sooner we realize that, the faster we’ll be able to create the life we want. The extent to which we can achieve what we want is directly linked to the degree of responsibility we take for our goals and life. The more responsibility we take, the more results we’ll start seeing from our goals.
#7. Training (Various artists, Nike)
(Ensemble cast of: Kobe Bryant, Cristiano Ronaldo, Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova, Manny Pacquiao, and Xiang Liu)
Sometimes we look at people who are the best in their fields, and we think they have it easy. That perhaps they winged their way to success. Or they happen to be born with that gift or talent. Or they are lucky. Everything seems so effortless when we look at what they’re doing from the outside.
Guess what – the 10,000 hour rule applies. Every top person you see has invested his/her 10,000 hours, or even more, before he/she ever came to be where he/she is today. It’s easy to forget that because we see these people only after they rose to prominence, and not when they were honing their craft. And even for those who have already risen to prominence, they continue to put in their 10,000 hours all the time, day in, day out. We just don’t see them because this happens behind the scenes. But it’s happening no doubt.
So here’s the real deal – Have you invested your 10,000 hours? Are you ready to put in the due work required? Because if you are, that’s when the real action begins.
#8. Dare (Saga)
The ad depicts the moments in life when we experience fear. From performing in front of a panel, to going out in the sea, to being asked to pose nude in front of an art class, to presenting in a meeting, to seeing your partner with someone else.
Is there anything you’re fearing in your life now? Fear of attachment perhaps? Fear of loss? Fear of rejection? Fear of failure? Fear of opening up? Fear of public speaking? What do you do in the face of your fears? Do you shrink away? Or do you face it head on?
The amazing thing about fear is that when you face it head on – when you take the step to confront it, it disappears in your face. This is also why fear is commonly referred to in the self-help arena as False Evidence Appearing Real. Are you ready to start tearing away these false evidence in your life?
#9. Think Different (Apple)
I once knew a coach who made this comment: “We’ve got to be kidding ourselves if we think we think we can change the world. I don’t believe we can ever change the world.”
I don’t know what led her to say that, but I thought she was the one kidding herself. All of us have always had the power in us to change the world. There’s not even a reason to doubt that. This world is ours; our subconsciousness begets us with unlimited resources and power, and we’re all connected as one.
So the question is – what do you want to bring about to the world? What kind of change do you want to create? What revolution do you want to start? What ground-breaking, earth-shattering movement do you want to lead?
What is the impact you want to deliver to this world by the time you are done?
#10. Failure (feat. Michael Jordan, Nike)
Many people know Michael Jordan as the best basketball player of all time. In 1991, he won his first NBA championship with Chicago Bulls, and continued to do so in 1992 and 1993, securing a “three-peat”. In 1995, he rejoined Bulls (after retiring earlier to play baseball) and again led them to three additional championships (1996-1998) as well as an NBA-record 72 regular-season wins in the 1995–96 NBA season.
Jordan’s individual accolades and accomplishments include five MVP awards, ten All-NBA First Team designations, nine All-Defensive First Team honors, fourteen NBA All-Star Game appearances, three All-Star Game MVP awards, ten scoring titles, three steals titles, six NBA Finals MVP awards, and the 1988 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award. He holds the NBA records for highest career regular season scoring average and highest career playoff scoring average. In 1999, he was named the greatest North American athlete of the 20th century by ESPN, and was second to Babe Ruth on the Associated Press’s list of athletes of the century. He was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame on April 6, 2009 and was inducted on September 11, 2009.
(From: Michael Jordan’s Wiki page)
Behind his massive list of achievements, is the experience of failure. This supposed “failure”, is what enabled Michael to grow and become as good as he is today. As what Michael said in the ad, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why, I succeed.“
Success is built upon failure. Failure is how we gain experience. Failure is how we learn and grow. And it is by learning and growing, that we are eventually able to succeed.
If you’ve been living your life in fear of failure, then you should stop doing that, because keeping away from failure isn’t going to help you succeed – it’s precisely what’s keeping you from success. By being afraid to fail, you fail by default. The sooner you embrace failure, the sooner you can let loose, learn from your experiences, and start making real headway in your goals.
#11. Evolution (Dove, Unilever)
The Evolution ad was created by Dove (Unilever) in 2006 as part of their Campaign for Real Beauty. The ad features the transformation (via physical make-up and digital editing) of a normal, pretty looking woman, into what we’d recognize as the flawless beauty often promoted in magazines, billboards and TV.
Perhaps if the image of women is more realistically and responsibly portrayed in media, less women and girls around the world would feel inferior about who their looks, and embrace themselves. Pretty much everything you see in the world of beauty (cosmetics, skincare, fashion, etc) is the product of serious retouching and airbrushing – including famous celebrities. Unfortunately, those who are not in the industry do not have such insights, and those who are get wrapped up in the illusion of beauty and needing to portray a certain image, so they themselves are the victims too.
I don’t put makeup when I’m going to nearby places, and I put on light-normal make-up when I do. For the most part I prefer to keep things minimal (though it varies depending on situation/occasion). I’m not saying make-up is bad – it has been a great confidence booster for many women, and I love putting on makeup and making myself look better. However, it’s important not to get married to an image of how we should look, because looks are ultimately impermanent.
Our physical body is the shell we use to experience life today, and one day it’ll generate and cease to exist (when we die). Ultimately, the most important thing that makes up us is our consciousness, and it’s our self-development that makes up better people, and lets us live better lives. Focus on that and you won’t go wrong in life.
#12. Real Beauty (Dove, Unilever)
I’m not sure how guys feel about this ad, but as a girl, it really connects with me. The typification of beauty in mainstream media as someone who’s stick thin, is petite, has large eyes, a high nose bridge, airbrushed skin and angular features has created a lot of inferiority complexes in women. I remember when I was in my early teens, I really hated being taller than most girls. I also hated my baby fats, which made me look fat. When I had outbreaks, I’d feel traumatized because that meant looking ugly to the world.
True beauty comes in different forms, shapes and sizes. Besides realizing that beauty isn’t just that 1-type of look, it’s also about realizing beauty isn’t not just what’s on the outside, but what’s on the inside. Do you have a good heart? Do you have a compassionate soul? Are you someone who’ll help others when they’re in need? Are you always putting yourself before others or do you care about others? Do you have a passion toward growth and development of yourself? Do you want to better the world? These are what determine the goodness of your soul on the inside.
#13. You Can Shine (Pantene, Thailand)
A 4 minutes advertisement that tells a story. Given that I used to work in the company that manages Pantene (Procter & Gamble), I was personally surprised to see this ad since it’s not exactly the conventional ad that the company would commission. For one, there’s not exactly any “selling” in the ad; two, it’s 4 minutes long, way longer than a normal advert which is 15-30 seconds long.
That said, the advert tells of a beautiful story of perseverance and self-belief. It’s in Thai but has english subtitles, so you’d have no problem understanding. Have naysayers in your life? Are you short changing yourself because of what others say? Are you withholding who you are on the inside because you try to be someone you’re not? It’s time to start believing in who you are and what you can be. Let the real you emerge; this is what it means to live your life to the fullest.
#14. Impossible is Nothing (feat. Kaka, Adidas)
Kaká (Ricardo) is an international acclaimed footballer from Brazil. When he was 18, while he was playing in a waterpool with his younger brother, he hit his head – hard – on the bottom of the pool – which snapped his neck and fractured the sixth vertebra in his spine. This was an injury that many, including Kaka, feared would leave him paralyzed and unable to walk again, much less play football.
In the midst of these fears, he wrote down a list of 10 goals he wanted to achieve in life, which are the 10 goals you see in the ad. 2 months after the incident, he began to play football again. 1 year later, he played in the final of Rio-São Paulo Tournament and scored the equalizer goal and the winning goal, within a 5 minute time frame.
In 2002, Kaka was the youngest player included in the 2002 Brazilian World Cup squad. He only played 17 minutes in South Korea & Japan against Costa Rica during the group stage, enough for him to win the World Cup that year while barely being 20. (AC Milan Online, Kaká) In 2007, he won the European Footballer of the Year and FIFA World Player of the Year awards. And today, Kaka is one of the top performing and top earning players with Real Madrid.
These didn’t happen by chance. As you may have realized, Kaka has went on to achieve all the 10 goals he wrote, and even more. Because he took the step to reflect on what he really wanted in life, to write down his goals, and then took action on them.
What are your top 10 goals in life? What are you going to do, moving forward, to achieve them?
#15. Cancer (Lance Armstrong, Nike)
And finally, leaving the best for the last – the rare “Cancer” ad featuring Lance Armstrong. This ad features a clip of the 1996 press conference where Lance Armstrong announced he was diagnosed with stage three testicular cancer – at the tender of age of 25.
At that time, the cancer was at the third stage and had already spread to his abdomen, his brain and lungs. From Wikipedia:
“On that first visit to a urologist in Austin, Texas, for his cancer symptoms he was coughing up blood and had a large, painful testicular tumor. Immediate surgery and chemotherapy were required to save his life. Armstrong had an orchiectomy to remove his diseased testicle. After his surgery, his doctor stated that he had less than a 40% survival chance.”
As you can see from the press conference, held 6 days after his diagnosis, he swore that he would beat the disease. By Jan 1998, he was back into serious training;
In 1999, he went on to win the Tour de France each year from 1999 to 2005, and is the only person to win seven times, having broken the previous record of five wins. He would then proceed to be named Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year for the years 2002–2005. He received ESPN’s ESPY Award for Best Male Athlete in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006, and won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Overseas Personality Award in 2003. Lance’s story, both as a cancer survivor, and as someone who proceeded to win Tour de France seven times, is an inspiration to all. He did this because he never gave up on himself. He never gave up on fighting the disease. And most importantly, he never gave up on life. If someone can amass such strength even in the darkest of times, that’s something for us to draw from when we face difficulties and challenges in our life.
Update Jan 20, 2013: As it would turn out, Lance Armstrong had used performance-enhancing drugs throughout much of his career, making his seven-time Tour de France victory an elaborate lie. He has been stripped of his titles in 2012.
However, it does not negate the fact that this guy did indeed beat cancer and achieved some good (inspiring other cancer survivors, setting a foundation which has helped and will continue to help cancer survivors, etc.) even while living this hoax. What we can learn from his story is never to give up on life (based on his cancer survival) and not to negate what’s right and what’s integritous in our pursuit for victory.
View other articles in the Inspiring Series
I hope you like this collection of inspiring commercials! Check out the other articles in the Inspirational series:
- 10 Powerful & Inspiring Graduation Speeches You Don’t Want To Miss
- 15 Free, Beautiful Inspirational Wallpapers For Your Desktop
- 25 Inspirational Songs To Brighten Your Day
- 12 Meaningful Movies with Important Life Lessons To Learn
- 8 Important Personal Development Lessons To Learn From Inception
- 101 Most Inspiring Quotes of All Time: Vol 1 | Vol 2 | Vol 3 | Vol 4
- 101 Things To Do Before You Die
- 101 Ways To Live Your Life To The Fullest
- 101 Important Questions To Ask Yourself in Life
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