Iconic ads of the noughties

The third entry in our ‘Iconic Ads’ series covers the ’00s, without a doubt the noughtiest decade in at least a hundred years. We saw the end of Harry Potter (or so we thought), the end of Napster (or so we thought), the end of George W Bush’s career, and we also watched some great ads. Ads like…

Honda (2003)

The ad: Honda’s ‘Cog’ ad is a mesmerising piece of film. Entirely separate from its purpose as an advertisement, the video is elegant, impressive and compulsively watchable. Most importantly of all, it is actually real. The ad was filmed over four days and it took six hundred takes for everything to quite literally fall into place. The team experimented for four months to come up with the sequence, but the result was definitely worth it.

The legacy: In the 24 hours after “Cog” first aired, Honda’s UK website received more web traffic than other UK automotive brands received during an entire month. The advert’s popularity led to a legion of parodies, including Just Works (an ad for the 118 118 directory assistance service that replaced car parts with a tractor wheel), a flamingo and a space hopper.

In short, the ad was very successful and it won many, many, many awards. Too many to list here.

Sony Bravia (2006)

The ad: Like ‘Cog’, Sony’s ‘Balls’ ad is an impressive unorthodox physical-but-humanless stunt captured on film. Though much larger in scope, ‘Balls’ only took two days to shoot.

The crew blasted 250,000 bouncy balls down the streets of San Francisco. This footage was slowed down and overlaid with the sombre acoustics of Jose Gonzalez. The result is strangely calming considering the high energy of the balls in the behind the scenes footage! The noughties did bring us some great films, but when this ad rolled before a movie it was sometimes the highlight of the cinema trip.

The legacy: Sony kept at their ‘colour like no other’ ad campaign for a while longer. They produced another famous ad that splashed paint over a Glasgow estate, but this one didn’t capture the public’s imagination as much as ‘Balls’. Aside from winning many awards, ‘Balls’ helped Jose Gonzalez’s album Veneer reach number 7 in the UK Albums Chart.

Cadbury (2007)

The ad: The Cadbury’s ‘Gorilla’ ad has become one of the most iconic ads of all time. And while ‘Balls’ illustrated Sony’s colour capabilities and ‘Cog’ showed the intricate inner workings of a Honda vehicle, ‘Gorilla’ tells the viewer exactly nothing about Cadbury’s chocolate. The idea behind it came from ad guru Juan Cabral, who also directed ‘Balls’ (he had a good decade). Cabral said ‘Gorilla’ was meant to convey the joy of eating Cadbury’s chocolate. Even though the gorilla seems more determined than joyous, this advert resonated with the public in a way few others have.

As you know, the ad features a gorilla at a drum kit, waiting patiently for the drum fill of Phil Collins’ ‘In the Air Tonight’. When it comes, the Gorilla absolutely nails it.

The legacy: Before this ad, Cadbury’s star was definitely on the wane. Several PR disasters including product recalls, contamination scandals and a 10-year sponsorship of Coronation Street meant Cadbury’s needed a fresh marketing approach. After the ‘Gorilla’ ads, sales of Dairy Milk increased 9%. That’s good. But the sales of Phil Collins’ ‘In the Air Tonight’ increased even more, and the song reached number 14 in the UK singles chart over 20 years after its release.

Hovis (2008)

The ad: Hovis’ ‘Go On Lad’ is the Forrest Gump of bread advertisements. The titular lad buys a loaf of bread from a bakery in the horse-and-carriage era and runs forwards through time, passing historic events, until he arrives at his home in 2008. Cut to: a closeup of the Hovis bread and the caption, ‘As good today as it’s always been.’

The marketing team at Hovis realised that throughout the sinking of the Titanic, WWII, the miners’ strikes and the millennium fireworks, their bread has always tasted the same.

The legacy: Press around the country treated the launch of ‘Go On Lad’ as an important cultural event. Newspapers that ran features on the ad include The Independent, The Yorkshire Post, and The Liverpool Echo. It was a slow week for celebrity gossip and scaremongering that week so ‘publications’ like The Daily Mail, The Daily Mirror and The Daily Star also covered the ad.

Like all the adverts on this list, it won more awards than Leonardo DiCaprio at this year’s Oscars.

Noughties ads in a nutshell

Looking at these ads, it appears money was no object for advertising agencies in the 2000s. Memorable ads from the ’00s are huge, big-budget affairs with expensive special effects and emotive visuals and soundtracks. But though all of the adverts we’ve explored here were successful, it is Cadbury’s quirky ‘Gorilla’ ad that represents what many brands want to achieve with their campaigns now.

‘Gorilla’ is one of the biggest examples of an ad going ‘viral’ online, with thousands of people uploading their own versions to the quite recently-launched YouTube. Ads in the 2010s frequently aim for viral status with varying levels of success. To read the next instalment in our Iconic Ads series, check back in four years!