150 great ads we had something to do with

'Meet the superhumans': joint top of the leaderboard
'Meet the superhumans': joint top of the leaderboard

What do the 50 short films from our series tell us about the state of creativity?

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 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 reach even greater heights in the future.

As we reach the landmark of 50 videos, 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 so far, since 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 4Creative for the Paralympics, Ikea’s "There’s no bed like home" by Mother and Levi’s "Laundrette" by Bartle Bogle Hegarty, 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 episodes. I obviously wasn’t allowed to choose one – Sir John neither – but I might have done if it had been 3 great ads I had something to do with. Levi’s closest competitor is Volkswagen with six nods, followed by Guinness, John Lewis, and Nike, all with five.

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. 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 short films also tell us which agencies have ads appearing 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 series. They’re followed by Weiden & Kennedy with 14 and Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO with 10.

But that could all change when we reach 100 in the series – Mother is on nine 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, a group of 200 award-winning creatives who judge The Thinkboxes

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