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 15-45 seconds, hoping to grab your attention and get you to buy their stuff.
Personally, I don’t watch TV for 2 main reasons: (1) most syndicated programs today tend to be quite low consciousness (targeting feelings of jealousy, greed, ego, fear, etc.) (2) it’s a time waster to sit through commercial breaks. What’s more, many commercials today are flashy sales pitches that over-glamorize their products/services. Some prey on people’s insecurities to get you to buy their products. The beauty industry, for example, is chocked full of advertisements convincing you that you must look a certain way to be considered beautiful, while junk food, through the power of marketing, has turned into a tool for self-reward and self-love, in turn contributing to declining health.
However, occasionally there’s a commercial that’s different. Instead of trying to play up on insecurities or pitch a product irresponsibly, it spreads a positive message to the world. Perhaps it’s to remind us about the importance of kinship. Perhaps it’s to break a negative societal belief. Perhaps it’s to make us laugh and not take life too seriously.
In this post, I’ve gathered 20 inspiring commercials that will open your mind. Some of these commercials are funny, some touching, some inspiring, and some mind-blowing. Some will bring tears to your face. With each commercial is an important message to take away. 🙂
As you watch each commercial, ask yourself: What is this ad telling me? How can I apply this lesson? Just like my article on inspiring graduation speeches, I’ve included my thoughts and reflections below each clip.
Enjoy and share if you find the videos meaningful. 🙂
#1. Penguins (BBC)
* Important: Do watch the video before reading commentary below if you don’t want spoilers!
The first time I saw the video, I burst out laughing right after I saw the penguins start to take flight. It was hilarious to see penguins, which normally wobble, take off and fly with such grace and speed — much less across the entire continent!!
This was actually a prank video the BBC created to promote their BBC iplayer on April Fool’s Day in 2008. 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? That’s because we all have a deeply ingrained belief that penguins can’t fly. It’s sort of like a “law” that can’t be broken. Hence when we had that belief broken, albeit momentarily, something cracked in our mental reality that then resulted in a wild reaction. Laughter, shock or amazement — these are our defense mechanisms at work as we try to comprehend what just happened.
While the video is a hoax, it invites us to rethink our beliefs and examine 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 create normalcy and predictability, they also unconsciously limit us.
Are there any beliefs that you’ve always accepted as true, but are really limiting you? Is it time to rethink them? Read: 7 Limiting Beliefs Keeping You from Living Your Best Life
(If you’re interested, here is the Making Of the penguin video. 😉 )
#2. Every Good Thing in Life (Cheers Beer, Thailand)
This video is hilarious! 🙂 It’s a compilation of 3 ads really — each featuring a simple yet good moment in life. The way they exaggerated each moment is classic. Folks who enjoy Japanese anime will probably find the dramatization endearing.
The ads remind us of the little good things in life that we tend to take for granted. What moments do you relish in? What are the things that make you smile? What are you grateful for? Keep them in your heart and don’t forget them, even as you deal with life’s stresses.
#3. Cog (Honda Accord)
This 2-minute ad follows a chain of colliding parts from a disassembled car, ultimately ending with the final shot of the car. What’s so inspiring about this commercial is the intricate detail, massive planning, and precise execution that went into it to make it possible. In creating it, 2 months aside for the creation of hundreds of conceptual drawings and a further 4 months for practical testing and development. Between testing and filming, 606 takes were needed to capture the final cut.
Released in 2003, the ad went on to receive more awards than any commercial in history; so many that it was the most awarded commercial in 2004 and the third-most-awarded commercial in 2003.
This shows that with the right attitude and perseverance, 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 claim to be impossible, perhaps the real question is, “Do you want this enough?”
#4. Excuses (feat. Warhawk Matt Scott, Nike)
Despite that, it has not stopped him from succeeding 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 to 2 national championships (2003) and was selected MVP of the season. While in university, he led his team to 3 national championships (2004, 2005, 2007). He was on the gold-medal winning US team at the 2007 Parapan American Games in Brazil as well as the 2011 games. He has taken part in 2004, 2008, and 2012 Paralympics (Olympics for athletes with physical disabilities).
In the ad, Matt lists a bunch of excuses that people often use to procrastinate. 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 haven’t done something? Their reply: “Oh I’ve been busy,” “There’s a lot of things on my plate,” “I don’t really want it,” “There was something else that cropped up,” and so on. Endless reasons; endless excuses.
The only time results happen is when you take ownership and stop finding excuses. In life, you can either be in the group of people that’s busy doing what they want or the group that’s constantly explaining why they’re not doing what they want. Which one is it for you?
#5. Let Your Game Speak (feat. Michael Jordan, Nike)
For me, this ad speaks of the message to be the best you can be, to hone your craft consistently, and to let the results of your work speak for themselves. I believe there’s a reason why there’s no narration. Having clips of MJ’s best moments, leading from childhood to his adult glory (with childhood parts enacted by child actors obviously), speak for themselves.
Likewise, when you are doing good work, your work will naturally speak for itself. Don’t bother explaining to or fending off negative critics — they are irrelevant in the long run. To do that would be to take yourself away from the work that matters.
#6. Maybe It’s My Fault (feat. Michael Jordan, Nike)
Here, Michael Jordan acknowledges that the portrayal of his success (in media) may have made it seem that he had things easy. But did he? Basketball was something that he had trained for every. single. day. of. his. life. Maybe it was his fault that he did not constantly announce to the world about the grueling nature of his daily training. Or maybe it’s our own fault for even assuming that it could be easy.
There’s no magic bullet to success. A magic bullet is a fast, easy path to a difficult goal — something that’s all too familiar in today’s high-speed world. “Earn $10,000 passive income a month in just a few months,” “Turn from bankrupt to millionaire,” “Lose XXkg in just a few weeks” are just some of many claims that we see by marketers. Many of these are fraudulent claims intended to hook you on some underwhelming product/service.
There’s no fast ticket to success. The sooner you stop looking for a shortcut, the faster you succeed. Read: Are You Looking for a Magic Bullet to Your Goals?
#7. Training (Various artists, Nike)
(Ensemble cast of: Kobe Bryant, Cristiano Ronaldo, Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova, Manny Pacquiao, and Xiang Liu)
Similar to #6, when we look at successful athletes, everything looks easy. However, the 10,000 hour rule applies to them too. Every leader in their field has invested 10,000 hours (and more) in their craft before they came to be where they are today. It’s easy to forget that because we see these people after they rose to prominence, not when they were putting in the due work. Even for those who have turned successful, they continue to improve themselves. We just don’t see that because this work happens behind the scenes.
Have you invested your 10,000 hours? Are you ready to put in the due work? Because when you do, that’s when the action begins.
#8. Dare (Saga)
This ad depicts moments in life when we experience fear. From performing in front of a panel, to going out in the sea, to posing nude in front of an art class, to presenting in a meeting, to seeing your partner with someone else.
Is there something you’re fearing in life now? Fear of loss? Fear of rejection? Fear of failure? Fear of aging? Fear of opening up? Fear of public speaking? What do you do when faced with your fears? Do you hide? Or do you face it head on?
The amazing thing about fear is that when you face it head on, it disappears. This is also why fear is commonly termed as False Evidence Appearing Real. Are you ready to tear away the false fears in your life?
#9. Think Different (Apple)
I once knew a coach who said: “We’ve got to be kidding ourselves if we think we can change the world. I don’t believe we can ever change the world.”
I don’t know why she said that but I totally disagree with her. All of us have the power in us to change the world. There’s no doubt about that. The question is… What do you want to bring to the world? What change do you want to create? What is the dent you want to make in the universe?
#10. Failure (feat. Michael Jordan, Nike)
This is another Michael Jordan ad and it’s an awesome one. Many people know Michael Jordan as the best basketball player of all time. In 1991, he won his first NBA championship with Chicago Bulls. He 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 3 additional championships (1996-1998) as well as an NBA-record of 72 regular-season wins in the 1995–96 NBA season.
Jordan’s individual accolades and accomplishments include 5 MVP awards, 10 All-NBA First Team designations, 9 All-Defensive First Team honors, 14 NBA All-Star Game appearances, 3 All-Star Game MVP awards, 10 scoring titles, 3 steals titles, 6 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.
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 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 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 eventually succeed.
If you’ve been living your life in fear of failure, then you should stop doing that. That’s because staying away from failure won’t help you succeed — it’ll only keep you from winning. By being afraid to fail, you fail by default. The sooner you embrace failure, the sooner you can learn, the sooner you can embrace victory.
#11. Evolution (Dove, Unilever)
The Evolution ad was created by Dove in 2006 as part of their Campaign for Real Beauty, a campaign launched in 2004 meant to demystify the notion of beauty in today’s world. (I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to work with Dove in 2013 for their Camera Confidence initiative.) This Evolution ad features the transformation (via makeup and digital editing) of a supposedly normal-looking woman into the flawless standard of beauty seen in magazines, billboards and TV.
Perhaps if women are more realistically and responsibly portrayed in media, less women and girls around the world would feel inferior about their looks and embrace themselves. Pretty much everything you see in the world of beauty (cosmetics, skincare, fashion) is the product of heavy retouching and airbrushing — including famous celebrities. Unfortunately, those not in the industry do not have such insights. Those who are, get wrapped up in the illusion of beauty and the need to portray a certain image, so in a way they, too, are victims.
Nowadays I don’t put makeup on, only doing so when I’m going for some outing or function. Even then, I put on light-normal makeup. I’m not saying makeup is bad — it has been a great confidence booster for many women. However, it’s important not to get attached to a made-up image — makeup is ultimately just a tool to look a certain way, not part of who we are.
Remember that you’re beautiful (and handsome) the way you are, regardless of your shape, size, color, and age. Everyone is beautiful; it’s the humans who set narrow definitions of what beauty should look like and discriminate others. While you recognize your physical beauty, remember to develop your inner beauty and character, because this is the most crucial part of being a beautiful person.
- The Beauty of Self – Why I Used To Feel Inferior about My Looks and Why I No Longer Feel That Way Today
- Is there an ideal beauty? This lady gets her face photoshopped in over 25 countries to find out
- Are Looks Important in a Marriage Decision?
#12. Real Beauty (Dove, Unilever)
Another ad in the Real Beauty series. As a woman, this ad really connects with me. The typification of beauty in media as someone who is stick thin, petite, has large eyes, a high nose bridge, airbrushed skin, etc. has created a lot of inferiority complexes in women. I remember when I was in my early teens, I hated being taller than most girls as Asian girls tend to be praised for being “petite.” I also hated my baby fats, which I felt made me look fat (but they didn’t; this was only in my mind). When I had pimple outbreaks, I’d feel traumatized because that meant looking ugly.
Like I said to ad #11, true beauty comes in different colors, shapes, sizes, colors, and ages. Besides realizing that beauty isn’t just that one-look, it’s also about realizing beauty is not just what’s on the outside, but what’s on the inside. Do you have a good heart? A compassionate soul? Are you someone who’ll help others when they’re in need? Do you put yourself before others or are you a selfish person? Do you work on improving yourself? Do you desire to better the world? These are what determine the goodness of your soul.
Check out Be a Better Me in 30 Days Program, my premium program on being a better us in just 30 days. In the program, we work on developing a better character — our inner beauty — through compassion, self-appreciation, forgiveness, role evaluation, and many other tasks.
#13. You’re more beautiful than you think (Dove)
The last Dove ad in this article, this video is one of the most popular Dove films to date, being downloaded by more than 15 million people in its first week of release. Several women describe themselves to a forensic sketch artist, who then sketches them (none of them can see each other). The women are subsequently described by strangers who just met them, and the artist does a new sketch based on these descriptions. The sketches are then compared, revealing the women’s descriptions to be very self-critical while the strangers’ descriptions being more flattering and accurate.
While there are questionable bits about the ad — for example, it perpetuates different “standards” of beauty and that looking one way will make you look ugly (for example, how about the people who do look like the women’s self-descriptions? Are they regarded as ugly then? I think not!) — it drives home the message that women can be very self-critical to their detriment. Beauty and happiness come from loving yourself first. Do you? ?
Bonus: Check out this parody ad for men — it may leave you in stitches. 🙂
#14. You Can Shine (Pantene, Thailand)
This ad tells of a beautiful story of perseverance and self-belief. It’s in Thai but has English subtitles so you’ll 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 are trying to be someone you’re not? Time to start believing in who you are and what you can be. ♥
#15. Impossible is Nothing (feat. Kaka, Adidas)
Kaká (Ricardo) is an internationally acclaimed footballer from Brazil. When he was 18, he played in a waterpool and hit his head — hard — on the bottom of the pool. It 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.
Amidst these fears, Kaka 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 was able 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 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 being barely 20. In 2007, he won the European Footballer of the Year and FIFA World Player of the Year awards. Today, Kaka is one of the top performing and top earning football players. In 2015, he was included in the roster for the 2015 Major League Soccer All-Star Game, where he was named Most Valuable Player.
These didn’t happen by chance. As you may have realized, Kaka has gone on to achieve all the 10 goals he wrote, and more. Because he took the step to think about what he really wanted in his life, despite overwhelming odds, and made them happen. For a goal to happen, it has to first be conjured in the mental reality (your mind) before it can manifest in the physical reality.
What are your top 10 goals in life? What are you going to do to achieve them?
Read: How to Achieve Any Goal with Success (my 7-part goal achievement series)
#16. Cancer (Lance Armstrong, Nike)
This ad features a clip of the 1996 press conference where Lance Armstrong announced he was diagnosed with 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.
“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 7 times, having broken the previous record of 5 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 2013: As it turns out, Lance Armstrong had used performance-enhancing drugs throughout much of his career, making his 7-time Tour de France victory an elaborate lie. He has been stripped of his titles in 2012. Read: Case Study: Lance Armstrong’s Elaborate Doping Scandal (and 5 Important Life Lessons We Can Learn From It)
However, it does not negate the fact that this guy has indeed beaten cancer and achieved some good for people (albeit through a facade). He has inspired cancer survivors and set a foundation which has helped and will continue to help cancer survivors. What we can learn from his story is to never give up (based on his cancer survival) and to never negate what’s right in our pursuit of victory.
#17. Beyond the Limits of DNA (SK-II)
An incredibly powerful ad by SK-II (incidentally the brand I was working on before I left my corporate job). Misa Kuranaga wasn’t born to be a ballet dancer but she decided to change her destiny and go beyond her limits. Watch the ad to learn what happened when she did that.
I think people tend to focus on their limitations, especially if these limits are physical in nature. However, the power of the human will has proven time and again to overcome many physical limits. Matt Scott (from ad #4) is wheelchair-bound and he doesn’t let this stop him from being an athlete and winning championships with his team. Wilma Rudolph (1940–1994) was paralyzed as a child but she later became able to work. Not only that, she became the first American woman in history to win 3 gold medals in track and field during a single Olympic Game — on a sprained ankle. Dr. Yeo Sze Ling is a Singaporean who lost the ability to see when she was 4 but she proceeded to study in a mainstream school anyway and got not one but three degrees including a phD in Mathematics by the age of 28!
Sure, there are probably some hard limits that can’t be broken, such as not being able to fly as a human (for now, anyway). But I think there are many limits that we can break if we wish to. Question is, are you challenging them or simply taking them as fact?
#18. Christmas (Edeka)
I’ll not spoil this one — watch it for yourself, till the end. A lonely grandfather spends every Christmas alone because his children and grandchildren are never able to make it home to see him, even if it’s just once a year. There’s always one reason or another, such as being too busy, too many commitments, etc. Years pass, and…
In our pursuit of wealth, success, and goals, don’t forget about your loved ones. You can earn tons of money, sure. But human life is not forever, and when you finally want to see them, sometimes you may not get the chance to anymore.
(This commercial moved me to tears by the way. So did #19 and #20.)
A related podcast: ‘I’m Scared of Losing My Parents. What Should I Do?’ [PEP004]
#19. Old Folks (Petronas)
Another commercial about kinship. This one will really resonate with Singaporeans and Asians because of the setting (the language is Hokkien but with English subtitles), but honestly the message holds true for everyone.
A group of aunties are hanging out. Naturally they start to chat about their children, their jobs, and how much they are earning (very typical Asian thing). You can even see some shade being thrown as the aunties brag about which of their kids is earning more (lol). I’ll leave you to watch to know what happens. I was tearing at the end.
Like with #18, in the pursuit of wealth and career, don’t forget your loved ones. In developed nations like Singapore, the society has become one obsessed with making money, material wealth, and career success. You got to ask yourself, “What is the point of earning all this money?” I’m not saying earning money or being more successful isn’t good — we need money to live. More money also provides a better quality life. Earning money is important.
But at some point, you got to ask yourself, “How much is enough? How much until we start putting our focus back on our loved ones?”
#20. Every Mouthful is Meaningful (CP)
This one got me streaming with tears. (Watch it and if you don’t feel anything, you may need to check your humanity.)
I quote this comment by “LolWhyuNoGG” on YouTube (don’t ask me why his nick is like that):
I’m a man and this instantly brought me to tears… Everyone should love and treat their mothers with respect. They did everything for you when you were young, so you should do everything for them when you’re an adult.
Obviously this applies to not just about our mom but our dad as well. If you’re lucky enough to have your parents still with you, show them some love. Don’t wait till it’s too late to regret. And let’s stop taking our parents and loved ones for granted. Read: How to Improve Your Relationship with Your Parents (4-part series)
If you’ve found these commercials inspiring, share this article with others on social media. Thanks, I’ll really appreciate it! 🙂
This is part of the Inspiration & Motivation series. Check out the other articles in the series:
- 10 Powerful & Inspiring Graduation Speeches You Don’t Want To Miss
- 15 Free, Beautiful Inspirational Wallpapers For Your Desktop
- 20 Amazing Commercials That Will Inspire the Greatness in You
- 56 Most Inspirational Songs of All Time
- 13 Meaningful Movies with Important Life Lessons To Learn
- 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
- 101 Life Principles to Live By Every Day