Best Ads of the Last 50 Years

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It’s not enough for an ad to be memorable and witty to enter the annals of greatness. While the ultimate goal of advertising is always the same, some examples (such as those below) demonstrate an ability to communicate something more. Here are some of the most well-known and best advertisements of the last half-century. 

This Bud’s For You

The 1970s kicked off with a nasty case of the “Blue Collar Blues.” Shifts in the auto industry and gas shortages took a hit on every working man’s wallet, and there was an overwhelming sense of discontent among workers (much of this was the staging ground for Paul Schrader’s excellent film Blue Collar). 

It wasn’t hard for Budweiser to see, at the decade’s end, that everyone needed both a drink and, more importantly, a toast. Despite the economic depression, Budweiser managed to corner 35 per cent of the beer market after it aired. 


Director Ridley Scott’s famous Superbowl ad for Apple’s Macintosh is still getting universal acclaim. The 60-second ad has been honoured and written about as much as anything else in Scott’s oeuvre.

The year 1984 also saw the film adaptation of George Orwell’s novel of the same name. The book was in the public consciousness then as much as it is today. Scott’s ad took a simplistic approach to the material — the struggle for control over freedom. 

Customers purchased $155 million worth of Macintoshes in the three months following the Superbowl. It’s worth noting that the computer came with more than a few gripes from users.

No Beige

It’s almost odd that the advertising world hadn’t exploited actor Jeff Goldblum’s charmingly awkward verbal tics earlier. His anxiety-filled voice perfectly captured what Apple wanted to introduce with the iMac in 1998: no longer would users sit in front of a boring old beige box. Forget about “think different,” Goldblum spoke different.

There were seven ads in total for the campaign, not all featuring Hollywood’s most eccentric pitchman, but the message was clear: beige was out. Though the ads were a hit, insiders didn’t think it was enough to convince people to switch from their PCs.

By the end of the year, Apple announced a $309 million profit revenue.

Dove – Campaign for Real Beauty

Nothing screamed the early aughts like Maxim Magazine. It’s a period of history we’re only starting to look back on with shame, but in 2005, advertisements were catering to it. Fanta, the forgotten soft-drink from Coca-Cola, launched a new ad featuring what Slate described as “low-rent Spice Girls,” that eventually ended up in Maxim.

Dove went the opposite route, finding through market research that only an amazingly low four per cent of women considered themselves beautiful. The ads featured “real” women in their underwear. Dove’s “Evolution” video hit YouTube — a site that had only been around for a year — and it might as well have helped usher in the term “viral video.”

Kenny Hedges | Contributing Writer

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