11 of the Best Animated Ads and What You Can Learn From Them
The power of good animated ads cannot go understated. Just look at the Super Bowl. Most people watch the Big Game as much for the ads as they do the actual football — and companies spend millions of dollars just for thirty seconds of air-time because they know how many people are tuned in and how massive that potential audience is. Even after the Super Bowl, people are gathered around the proverbial water cooler talking about the best and worst ads of the night just as much as the final score, the big plays, and all of their hot takes about the half-time show. Countless articles are posted in the days after the fact about the best and worst Super Bowl commercials, and if an ad is done right, even years later, people will remember it.
Take Terry Tate: Office Linebacker, an ad that’s nearly 20(!) years old — ask anyone over a certain age and they remember the series of ads that starred Terry Crews vividly. Even people who were kids, or weren’t alive at the time of the campaign, probably know about them.
Or even think back to the formative years of your childhood; there’s undoubtedly a handful of commercials you remember vividly — you can recite every word from a familiar jingle, you remember the bad perms and mullets and pompadours, you can even remember the awful pattern straight out of the 1990s of the background the mattress salesman was green-screened onto. The point is: advertisements do more than just sell a product — they stick with us and weave their ways into the fabric of our everyday lives. And a good animated ad has the power to not only sell something, but be memorable for years and years and years.
Creating a good animated ad is a massive undertaking that can be expensive and time-consuming, and that’s where a company like Explainify comes in. With our team of experts, you can collaborate on a one-off ad or an ongoing campaign that, just like the animated commercials we’re about to take a look at, can not only make your product, service, or message stand out, but be memorable for years to come.
So, with that said, let’s take a look at some fantastic animated ad examples both recent and not-so-recent and break down what not only makes them great, but what you can learn from them when you’re putting together your own animated ads.
Seneca College: Follow Your Dreams (2014)
What sets this animated ad apart is its crisp, exquisitely produced motion graphics and its amazing use of color throughout its entire short run-time. The team at Gloss Creative in Canada used contrasting colors amazingly throughout the entire video to really make everything pop, and help immediately grab the audience’s attention and keep it.
More than that, the script doesn’t speak in hypotheticals, but directly addresses a “you”, and addresses a “you” that is easily relatable. Seneca knows its audience, and does a great job in succinctly getting to its point and addressing the audiences’ pain points. And with both elements of the ad so strong, it’s easy to see how it’s such a great example of some of the best animated ads out there.
What You Can Learn: A strong script is very important — just as important as a strong animation style. And more than that, when creating animated ads it’s imperative that your script and your animation work in tandem. Explainer video companies like Explainify know the importance of nailing these two elements, and ensure they work together to showcase your brand in the best way possible.
This ad also shows how important use of color can be in advertising, because if you can catch your audience’s eye with a visually stimulating and visually arresting piece of art, you’ve got them on the hook to keep watching for the entire duration of your commercial.
If this ad style appeals, an animated explainer video is another great way to use eye-catching graphics to get your brand or product out there.
Sherwin-Williams: Where Will Color Take You? (2017)
Just look at this amazing ad. Arguably one of the most visually arresting and best animated commercials in recent memory, this ad is not only an incredible example of showcasing a product perfectly, and an amazing piece of advertising, but just a staggering example of incredible animation.
So, why does this commercial work so, so well? Well, this commercial is not only an inventive, interesting, and smart way to showcase Sherwin-Williams’ business, it brilliantly does so without saying a word.
The team behind the ad was smart enough to rely upon a cultural touchstone for many people as their inspiration: The Lion King. They pay homage to and recreate the opening scene from the beloved Disney animated film not only near shot-for-shot, but, again, without a single word, showcasing the depth and range of their product line — these animals are not only painstakingly animated, but the advertisement implies that such a range of color is only possible with someone like Sherwin-Williams. Once the audience clues into the brilliant touch that all of these animals are created using paint swatches, their mind makes the tangible real-world connection to Sherwin-Williams’ line of products. The team does an incredible job in not only making a rather mundane thing into something fantastical, but gives the audience a story to follow, and recontextualizes something familiar in a whole new, interesting way — all whilst selling their product.
What You Can Learn: Don’t be afraid to experiment. The best animated commercials show that not every commercial needs to be straightforward, and oftentimes it’s just as effective, if not more so, to create an advertising campaign that isn’t so nakedly about selling your product as it is about creating something memorable and long-lasting for audiences.
Paying homage to pop culture in fun, interesting, and inventive ways can be a great way to help make your animated ad a huge hit.
Coca-Cola: Polar Bear Family Film (2013)
This commercial as a stand-alone commercial is, in fact, a strange anomaly. It’s not even a standard commercial, really. It’s technically a commercial for Coca-Cola, but it’s not about selling a product; it was part of a campaign to promote the protection of polar bears and their ever-dwindling environment. Arguably, it’s not even a commercial so much as it’s a short film, and a short film produced by Ridley Scott of Alien and Blade Runner fame, no less.
So how is this one of the best animated commercials in recent memory? It’s one of Coca-Cola’s commercials in a long, long line of winter and Christmas-themed ads that have been running for ages — some of which were animated, some of which were live-action, and some of which were a combination of the two. Everyone remembers the advertisements from their childhood involving the giant Coca-Cola truck festooned with Christmas lights rolling down snowy highways to bring rosy-cheeked families bottles of Coca-Cola.
And from there, Coca-Cola began, and continues, a long-running series of animated ads involving a family of polar bears that, over time, became part of the collective culture without some people even realizing it. Just like the Coca-Cola advertisements involving the festive semi-truck before them, people came to expect the advertisements involving the family of polar bears every year once the season changed and there was snow on the ground. It became a tradition.
Because of this tradition (and a huge budget), Coca-Cola was able to take a risk, and do something incredibly inventive within the advertising space. This short film flies in the face of everything that conventional animation advertising tells you: keep your videos short, concise, and sell your product. Again, this isn’t really an animated ad. It’s a short film, and it’s not advertising Coca-Cola. It’s advocating for the protection of a vital species in our ecosystem: polar bears.
And it’s doing so very smartly, by humanizing those polar bears, and pulling at our heart strings. Even though the short film is only seven minutes long, all of the bears are well-developed characters, and believably human in their depictions. And there’s humour, too. The story has levels, and a strong, interesting narrative. And it uses those years of tradition, and presents us something we’re familiar with: the family of polar bears we’d been seeing for all those years in previous Coca-Cola ads. It also is exquisitely animated, helping the polar bears to emote, as well as being very well shot and produced. The sweeping vistas give the audience a sense of scale and place that grounds everything in reality; they’re a great reminder of how amazing the world is, and, because of our intervention, how we could not only lose such an amazing species as polar bears, but how much damage we’re doing on our stunning natural world.
This animated ad is a sterling example of the power of not only what building up a series of ads can do for your brand in helping those ads, and by extension, your brand, be memorable to audiences, but it’s also an incredible example of the power animated ads can have in being amazing tools for advocacy and change in the world.
What You Can Learn: This ad shows that if you can build a strong campaign over time and bring back a familiar, likable cast of characters, you can go a long way to create loyalty to your brand. People remember those Coca-Cola ads years later.
It also shows that, if you have the budget, you don’t need to stick to a standard “template” of an advertisement. This ad is seven minutes long and barely advertises anything. It is a message much more so than it is a standard commercial.
More than that, this is an incredible example of an animated ad that imbues the human experience in the inhuman, and demonstrates how important it is to appeal to the human experience in advertising. Sympathy and empathy are incredibly powerful tools, and people can easily connect with this ad because they can see themselves in that family of polar bears. And in doing so, people start to feel, and connect with them. So by framing the family of polar bears as so human, they’ve appealed to people to show that these amazing creatures feel, and experience very human-like emotions, and appeal to a sensibility that these creatures deserve to be saved. This animated ad shows the power of many things: building a tradition, experimenting with standard expectations of advertisements, and the power of ads as a means to deliver impactful messages of advocacy, and not just as means to sell products.
Hendrick’s Gin: A Moving Picture (2015)
This is, most definitely, one of the most peculiar ads in recent memory — the narrator, with her slightly stuffy, antiquated British accent even states “open your mind to the peculiar” — but it works.
And why does it work so well? Firstly: it is indeed quite peculiar, and it’s visually appealing. Not many advertisements look like this one. It very smartly keeps building on its concept as it starts out on the shot of a fish’s eye and pulls out and out and out, growing with each shot a world that gets ever stranger and stranger, taking the viewer on a journey where they want to see what happens next.
What helps set this animated ad apart is not only its Monthy Python-esque animation, but its script: it uses words like “peculiar” and “odd” and invites you, the viewer, to consider its strange world. A strange world where all of these strange beings drink Hendrick’s Gin. The narrator, in the closing moments of the ad, states “Awaken to the world of the peculiar and never shall you be bored again.” She also states that Hendrick’s Gin is “oddly infused with rose and cucumber.” It’s a big gamble to describe your product as “odd”, considering the often negative connotations of the word, but arguably, it’s paid off for Hendrick’s.
What You Can Learn: This ad shows that embracing what can often seem like a negative — weirdness, strangeness, peculiarity, and, of course, oddness — isn’t a bad thing. Hendrick’s fully embraces itself as odd, and that can be an incredibly strong marketing tool. People don’t always want to fit in. One might argue that you want to appeal to the largest demographic you possibly can, but if you know your product, and you know you can build a loyal fanbase, there’s an argument for embracing your peculiarity. Hendrick’s shows that it’s a brand that stands out, and this ad positions drinkers of Hendrick’s as people that stand out, too — that you should be someone who wants to stand out, and embrace the odd, the peculiar, because, as the ad states, “never shall you be bored again.”
This animated commercial is a great example of showcasing your brand through a video, and creating a brand that people will want to align themselves with.
Headspace: Say Hello to Headspace (2017):
Over 17 million people have said hello to this meditation app thanks in part to this simple, but effective, animated ad. What makes this ad for Headspace so effective is a combination of several things done really, really well.
First off: The ad subtly uses sound very effectively throughout the video to not only break up its narration, but also to ensure that the viewer is constantly engaged. The narrator has a steady, calming voice — and he is, in fact, the main voice for the app itself. His voice is like that to help you relax, to even fall asleep in some exercises. But that means it isn’t exactly the right voice for a sales video. So having other sounds to help break things up keeps you engaged. It’s also a great way to allow for some smart little bits of comedy, like when your mind is mentioned, and the mind literally speaks up and introduces itself. The use of sound also helps the world of the animated ad feel more lived in as well, which helps the audience relate the animations on-screen to real-world experiences — and in turn helps relate the app to real-world situations.
Furthermore, this is a fantastic example of an animated ad that utilizes mascots — though not immediately identifiable as well-known mascots like Tony the Tiger, many of the characters featured in the ad resemble a kind of animation style that has exploded in popularity in animation advertising in recent years — and for good reason. The characters are all extremely cute and infinitely charming.
And once again, this is a great use of a strong, straightforward script that tells its audience exactly what the product is all about.
What You Can Learn: The importance of good sound design can’t be overstated, and this is one of the best animated ad examples in recent memory when it comes to sound design used well.
The direct instruction on how to use the app and subscribe at the end also show how animated commercials and explainer videos can be used to drive customer acquisition.
Slack: Traffic (2016)
To say this animated ad from Slack is strange would an understatement. It’s downright bizarre. But it’s also hilarious, and more importantly, it’s fun.
Within mere moments of the opening shot you can’t peel your eyes away just because it’s so interesting to look at. Everything has a very Aardman Animation — the animation studio responsible for films such as Chicken Run, and the famous Wallace and Gromit series — -inspired look; yet it still feels unique to the world that the animation studio has created for this commercial. And nearly every moment in the short run-time is peppered with a clever throwaway gag.
On top of that, this animated ad is just a blast to look at, with its vibrant colors, energetic art style, and its constantly-shifting shots and locations. There’s so much packed into any given scene at any given moment that the commercial demands you pay attention to it at all times.
Brilliantly, there’s barely any dialogue, as well. There’s just strange, odd sounds that the characters make that forces the viewer to pay more attention. And very quickly, you pick up on the meaning behind everything.
And even more than that, something so subtle, but so brilliant, is the use of color in this ad: if you pay really close attention, you’ll notice that all of the colors used in the ad are the colors of Slack’s logo — only four colors, but it looks so vibrant and crisp.
At the end of the animated ad, a narrator comes in to say that Slack is an amazing tool for any type of team, and that’s when your mind pieces together all of those seemingly disparate scenes, and what unites them: Slack, being shown to be used in a multitude of ways by a multitude of teams for a multitude of purposes. It’s a brilliant way to show just how diverse, and useful, Slack can be in a fun, inventive way.
What You Can Learn: This ad does some brilliantly subtle things with colors, and is just downright strange and funny. And embracing the bizarre, the whimsical, the weird is oftentimes to your advantage. So don’t be afraid to get wild and weird with your animated ads.
Working with the right team on your video ads can make all the difference. A clever commercial or explainer video can be a marketing goldmine, just like Slack’s.
Sega Genesis: Genesis Does What Nintendon’t (Early 1990s):
You might think that you could use the term “best” in smear quotes for this entry, but at the time of the release of this advertisement, it was absolutely incredible, and, in fact, a very smart and bold stake to claim in the ongoing console war between Nintendo and Sega.
Any child of the late ‘80s and early 1990s probably vividly remembers this animated ad, and remembers a time on the playground when lines were drawn on the battleground — you were either a Sega household, or you were a Nintendo household. And there was no getting around it with this ad: Genesis did what, at the time, Nintendidn’t. There is no subtlety about this ad: it positioned the Sega Genesis as a superior console to the hotly-anticipated Super Nintendo Entertainment System. And it did so with quick cuts and flashy footage of video games that were meant to blow the tiny minds of children who would to their moms and dads with hopes that they could convince them to get a Genesis. And if they already had one (the Genesis was released in 1989), the ad was meant to persuade kids that they didn’t need the new, hot SNES, because the Genesis was still more than powerful enough of a console.
What You Can Learn: Sometimes, it can pay to be confrontational, and simply directly address your competition right out in the open — or as much as you can get away with it. All of your customers are thinking it anyway, so sometimes the positives can outweigh the negatives in directly addressing your competition and coming out with guns blazing. Plus, who doesn’t love a good catchphrase?
John Lewis: The Bear and the Hare (2013)
Simply look at this stunning video. Not only is the very Watership Down-esque 2D animation absolutely exquisite and breathtaking to look at, but set against the lifelike 3D backdrops, it’s downright mesmerizing, and something wholly unique from an animated ad. Department store company John Lewis is known for its advertising campaigns around the winter holidays in the UK, and, arguably, this is its most well-known campaign for a reason.
The simple, effective ad is so much more than just its animation, though. It’s a heartwarming story that shows us how important connection is to the human condition — to anyone. And yes, it may do so with cartoon animals, but the message is still universal.
What To Learn: This is one of the best animated commercials going, not only because it is gorgeous to look at, but because it uses its amazing animation to tell a heartwarming, human story. You can take to heart (no pun intended) the message behind this advertisement, and you can see that it’s a great example of just how powerful a message one can send with an advertisement. Animated ads can be used for more than just marketing and sales, and can promote human connection. And fostering a strong sense of connection, of empathy, and sympathy, in your advertisements, can be a vital way to foster support not only for your business, but for the fundamental beliefs you and yourr brand stand for.
Nokia: GULP and Dot (2011):
Time for two short films from Aardman Animation studio. GULP is an incredible example of stop-motion film, and set a world record for ‘largest stop-motion animation set’, with the largest scene stretching over 11,000 square feet.
The short film is a fun, beautifully-animated, simple tale about a fisherman who, well, simply fishes for a bit more than he probably wishes.
And Dot is just a fun, interesting, beautiful short film to look at.
The selling point of both videos don’t come until the end, when it’s finally revealed that both videos were shot on a Nokia N8 phone. This reframes both films as an amazing testament to the incredible things the Nokia N8 can do.
What You Can Learn: If you’ve got a product that can do incredible things, why not use animated product videos like this show it off? More than that, though, these animated ads are examples of taking a chance on a unique, visually arresting art style to set your campaign apart and really catch some eyes.
The most recent entry on this list showcases the incredible stake brands can have in shaping society. With a strong animated video ad you can do incredible things, and play an incredible part in shaping the larger conversation of a society. This ad isn’t selling anything, and is more of a public relations campaign, but uses a familiar product to get its message across.
The Lego company relies on pop culture in this animated commercial — not only relying upon people’s familiarity with Lego, but with the Lego movie, where the audience sees often lifeless action figures and dolls brought to life, just like they imagined in their childhoods.
What’s also so important about the choice to use Legos for this advertisement is its target audience: children. Firstly, Lego is a familiar and comforting thing for children, and the message behind the animated ad is one of, quite frankly, very serious, and dire consequence. If you were to present all of this information with a real-life person, it may seem intimidating, and scary for children. But reframing a very real thing as something a hero ought to do, and presenting it in a sort of fantastical setting such as the Lego world helps bring some levity to the situation while still making sure the message is clear: being a hero is vital in a time like this.
Not only is the use of Lego brilliant, but the script, which lists straightforward, attainable actions firmly and succinctly, and the effects — like the KAPOW! graphic — used throughout the video, are all in perfect synchronicity to create an effective PR campaign that helps empower youth in a very scary time.
What You Can Learn: Using animation effectively can be an amazing tool to get across very serious messages, and it can also be an amazing tool for getting across messages to a very specific target audience — like children. And it doesn’t need to be an outright sales pitch. This example shows the efficacy of animated ads for even the most serious PR videos.
These are just a handful of some of the best animated commercials spanning many years. Hopefully you’ve not only learned a lot about what can make a great commercial, but you’ve also come to appreciate how much of a massive undertaking those commercials can be — it is no coincidence that companies and brands hire outside animation studios to create the incredible animated ads we all remember for so many years. They are experts, after all; just like you’re an expert in your field. And with Explainify, you’ve found your very own team of experts that’s here for you to help make your animated ad dreams into animated ad reality. With Explainify, you can rely on a team that will collaborate with you to bring your vision to life within your budget — and on time. Explainify’s experts can help take you and your business to the next level with videos that will be making the rounds of a “best of” article just like this.
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