Vote for the Best Ads of the 21st Century
Choose a year.

On Jan. 12, Ad Age will unveil this century's 15 top ad campaigns as chosen by a panel of judges made up of the industry's leading and most distinguished creators and marketers. We gave the judges a list of 50 nominees and asked them to choose their favorites. Before we reveal that list, we want to see which of our nominees Ad Age members would have chosen. Have your say by voting on your favorite campaigns below. Log in as an Ad Age Member to vote, or register if you are not yet a member.



2000 | Subway Jared

Positioning the fast-food brand as healthier than the competition, Subway hired Jared Fogle as its spokesman and real-life example of a patron who lost weight while eating Subway products. At one point he weighed over 400 pounds, and he literally lost half his weight by eating healthier, including switching to Subway sandwiches. He famously would show his older, bigger jeans in ads. He even went on to run the NYC Marathon. As the famous face of the brand, he was part of what has driven Subway to become the fast food restaurant with the most locations all over the world.

2000 | CP&B, Arnold American Legacy Foundation: Truth

Inspired by a Florida state campaign, Truth, launched in February 2000, and is the largest national youth anti-smoking campaign. It's also the only national campaign not overseen by the tobacco industry. Through unconventional methods including public stunts and bold billboards, the campaign exposes the tactics of the tobacco industry, the truth about the health effects and social consequences of smoking.

2000 | The Martin Agency Geico: Gecko Campaign

The Gecko campaign found its roots in a challenge: Geico often had its name mispronounced to sound like a lizard. This campaign has dominated the others, but the insurer's strategy has bucked the trend of other advertisers, focusing not on one theme, but many. (Remember the cavemen?) The sheer volume of these ads -- the Gecko having the most -- is what's astounding. The company has become one of the biggest advertisers in the country since this campaign began. Brand awareness is not an issue for Geico any longer.

2000 | DDB Budweiser: Whassup

This worldwide campaign repositioned the already hugely popular beer brand and made it more appealing to a youthful and multicultural audience. "Whassup" penetrated pop culture and became a catchphrase used by people worldwide. Internet parodies abounded, late night talk show hosts quoted it. Everyone knew this campaign. For a comedic campaign to net a Grand Prix at Cannes, too, was a recognition of the power of an ad that was so good, it didn't even quite feel like advertising but just watchable content.

2000 | BBH Johnnie Walker: Keep Walking

Johnnie Walker was in decline in the 90s, and it turned to BBH and a new idea to help stem its problems. The idea was one based on "personal progress," a universal message. And so this became a truly global campaign -- in 120 campaigns -- and volume sales rose 94%. BBH claimed that the campaign was directly responsible for over $2.2 billion in retail sales. The 2009 short film "The Man Who Walked Around the World" starring Robert Carlyle was a popular part of the campaign.


2001 | Fallon BMW: BMW Films

This campaign defined modern branded entertainment: eight short internet films, each conceived by a different filmmaker, with celebrity Clive Owen as the big star. And in each, BMW vehicles are integrated into the scripts (such as Chosen, Ambush, The Follow, The Star, Powder Keg). The movies were seen 11 million times in a matter of four months, and the carmaker saw its sales increase 12% in the span of a year.


2002 | CP&B Ikea: Lamp

This Spike Jonze-directed spot was so unusual for the time in its willingness to make fun of its target audience. An old lamp that's been chucked out onto the street while it's been replaced by a new Ikea model takes center stage. Then a wild-looking Swedish man appears to say "Many of you feel bad for this lamp. That's because you are crazy. It has no feelings and the new one is much better." True, funny and a good reason to buy new furniture. It won the Titanium at Cannes that year.


2003 | Heye & Partner, DDB, Leo Burnett, TBWA McDonald's: I'm Lovin It

This was the recognition by one of the biggest fast feeders in the world that a brand isn't the same thing to everyone, it can be interpreted and experienced by each one in different ways -- something Larry Light called "brand journalism". It's also the best of modern jingles. That Justin Timberlake diddy is unforgettable and the 'da da da da da' automatically calls to mind crisp fries and a Big Mac.


2004 | Ogilvy Dove: Campaign for Real Beauty

This was a bold move by a Unilever brand to challenge cultural norms. The idea was to start a discussion around the notion that the definition of beautiful had become limiting and launched at the same time a wider cultural conversation was raging about anorexia, plastic surgery and pressure to conform. Dove also created the educational arm, The Self Esteem Fund, as a way to give parents and educators tools to talk to young girls about how they see themselves. There have been a range of award-winning executions, including the first branded video to go viral in 2006, "Evolution" and a follow-up in 2013 with the moving "Sketches" work.

2004 | TBWA, New York Skittles: Experience the Rainbow

"Taste the Rainbow" was a platform that was becoming stale, but this effort managed to keep that theme yet take the creative into a dramatically different direction. After talking to teenagers about how they consumed and interacted with the candy, the agency went bold with spots that were fantastical and weird. Skittles sales rose among youngsters, and its Facebook page is one of the most-liked for candy, it has 25 million followers.

2004 | CP&B Burger King: Subservient Chicken

This approach took literally the idea of Burger King's message to consumers: "Get Chicken the Way You Want It." This interactive idea came with an intentionally lo-fi look -- a man in a chicken costume in a simple living room setting. Users could submit commands and the human chicken would respond. It was a stunt that went viral and was so successful that it was used in future campaigns. Underscoring the campaign's popularity, the chain has just brought the Subservient Chicken back after a decade.


2005 | Fallon Sony: Bravia Balls

"Go to San Francisco, send a million colored balls down the street and film them. 'Color like no other.' That was what the idea creative Juan Cabral presented Sony for the big-budget launch of the Bravia TV. And the client bought it, knowing it was all in the execution. Everything about this ad was more like a film, including the shoot itself, which drew gawkers and closed down the city. What was most interesting about the 2.5 minute ad was that at the time when so much of commercial making was all about special effects, this used 250,000 real balls and was largely all in-camera work. The song is "Heartbeats" by The Knife, performed and arranged by Jose Gonzalez.


2006 | Toy, EVB Office Max: Elf Yourself

Office Max's experiment to forgo a big holiday TV spot and create a digital experience instead was a big success. The ultra popular site, where users uploaded photos of themselves and friends and family, was a much-imitated model for how to create a fun, branded digital destination. The site got 36 million hits in its first 5 weeks, and new iterations were made each year. Later versions added social components and one year there was even an elf-themed flash mob.

2006 | TBWA/Media Arts Lab Apple: Get a Mac

A rare example of an effective, palatable comparative ad campaign. Each ad, in which John Hodgman personified a PC and Justin Long personified Apple, managed to portray PCs (and thus Microsoft) in a brutal way. PCs were painted as inferior, unreliable and virus-ridden. Yet the ads were entertaining, making fans for Apple beyond just the fanboys. Market share went up. The series became so successful there were 66 'Get a Mac' ads in all. And the consistency was uncanny, all overseen by the same director at Epoch Films.

2006 | Blendtec Blendtec: Will It Blend?

This series of YouTube videos showed that even a small challenger brand can earn popularity in the social media era. Its online stunts -- most memorable are the iPhone blending and the Super Bowl making of a nachos and Budweiser smoothie -- were watched again and again as entertainment. But the best part was that the product was front and center throughout. It was a model for online video content.

2006 | Frito-Lay Doritos: Crash the Super Bowl

An annual online contest from Frito-Lay that represents an early -- and still very much running campaign -- that leaned on the crowdsourcing model, truly turning over the marketing process to consumers. Consumers submit 30-second spots that are displayed on a microsite, and then the public votes for the finalists, who get cash prizes. One winner gets their ad on the Super Bowl and gets to attend. The program is extremely popular and has scaled in size. 2013 marked the first year that FritoLay said it would accept international entries, airing the winning commercial in the big game and also giving the winner a $1 million cash prize. Agencies who have been part of this effort include The Marketing Arm, Goodby Silverstein & Partners, OMD, Ketchum and UEG.

2006 | EuroRSCG (Now Havas) Dos Equis: Most Interesting Man in the World

He's tangled with bears, won arm wrestling matches and surfed the toughest waters in the world with ease. He's the most interesting man! Everyone has seen these funny ads starring the dashing Jonathan Goldsmith. And they all know the way they end: "I don't always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis...Stay thirsty, my friends." The spots have become a web meme and sales are said to have gone up 22% thanks to the entertaining branding push.


2007 | Fallon London Cadbury: Gorilla

The Gorilla ad was an example of the power of advertising as entertainment. The confectioner was seeing a decline in public perception and needed a new approach, so it launched a series of entertainment pieces, including this 90 second ad to Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" -- along with a billboard, print and other pushes -- and let go of its decade long sponsorship of the UK show "Coronation Street." The approach worked, according to YouGov, reversing the sales decline and helping improve the brand's perception again.

2007 | Droga5 UNICEF: The Tap Project

Launched on World Water Day in 2007, this effort to raise awareness about providing the clean and safe drinking water to children in impoverished areas of the world. UNICEF for $1 could offer a child clean water for 40 days, and so Droga5 partnered with restaurants -- first in New York, and later nationwide -- to encourage patrons for a single day to pay for their free drinking water. Not only did this cause marketing effort raise awareness of UNICEF's work around the world, but it also directly helped children by donating the proceeds to sanitation programs. Some $2.5 million has been raised, thanks to this joint effort from consumers and retail.

2007 | The Martin Agency UPS: Whiteboard Campaign

These ads starred Martin creative Andy Azula -- who was chosen after a sample video was created for casting and the client team liked his performance the best. It was mesmerizing to watch, uses the simple colors of the UPS logo, and provided a platform for the brand to talk about different issues from the supply chain to customer service. You know you have arrived when your ad is parodied on SNL by Bill Hader, and that's just what happened in this case.

2007 | R/GA Nike: Nike+

This campaign stretched the possibilities for marketing into a new realm -- forget TV commercials. Now agencies could create platforms. In partnership with Apple, R/GA created this system for Nike to hook up shoes with a tracking device that could wireless connect with an athletes iPod, transmitting running stats that can be uploaded to iTunes. The site then let athletes track their own goals and hook up with a larger community or runners to compare performance. That evolved into another winning effort with the Fuelband a few years later, sparking the whole wearables trend. For an agency, it is the holy grail; to not just influence the advertising of a product but to be in on the ground floor of the development of it as well.


2008 | Grey ETrade: The Baby Campaign

A Super Bowl and sports staple, this campaign helped elevate the awareness of the online brokerage brand and emerge from subprime problems. It was a pop culture hit -- and it didn't hurt that one ad became the topic of a lawsuit filed by Lindsay Lohan, who thought the spot was a parody of her and her drinking habits. It belongs on the list for what it's done as the company moves into a new era without the spokesbaby.

2008 | TracyLocke, CP&B 20th Century Fox: Simpsons Movie Campaign

This campaign revolutionized the notion of product placement and turned it on its head; rather than putting real brands in the movie, it took fictional brands from the "Simpsons" and brought them into the real world. There were a ton of fun components, but the most buzzed about ones included a 7-Eleven effort that transformed 12 stores overnight into real-life Kwik-E-Marts, Burger King's "Simpsonizer" website that led to a million Simpsonesque social media avatars, and JetBlue christening itself the "Official Airline of Springfield."

2008 | Saatchi & Saatchi Tide: Talking Stain

Great planning insights led to this comedic idea to promote Tide-to-Go, the stain remover pen. It became a hugely popular Super Bowl ad and for Procter & Gamble a big online score. In 2008, it was ranked as the highest viewed ad according to YouTube's AdBlitz.

2008 | Ogilvy IBM: Smarter Planet

IBM in 2008 -- right in the middle of an economic crisis -- launched a brave new corporate branding campaign that has become the overarching framework for the company's growth strategy. Called "Smarter Planet" it encouraged its clients and the public to come up with smarter systems to help the world run in a more efficient and intelligent way, from transportation to healthcare to water. It's had many iterations since then, including Watson, the robot that processes information like a human not a computer, and Smarter Cities, the outdoor effort that has transformed walkways and bus stops to be more convenient for citizens. It's B-to-B at its best.

2008 | McCann Halo 3: Believe

A careful focus on planning is what led to a massive media and creative program that made Halo 3 one of the most successful launches in entertainment history -- pushing the desire for this game beyond just hardcore players and extending Halo's fan base. The launch included the creation of a virtual museum, teaser ads, PR, events and film-style opening parties. At the time, the game achieved opening day sales of 84 million pounds, which was higher than the previous record, the opening day of Spiderman 3 the film.

2008 | Arnold Progressive: "Flo" Campaign

You know you are a big deal when you've got people dressing up as you for Halloween. And Flo is one of the most popular costumes in recent times because she is a recognizable pop culture figure -- not just a brand icon. She has helped personalize Progressive with this lasting campaign.

2008 | Wieden & Kennedy Old Spice: The Man Your Man Could Smell Like

This effort revived an old-school brand for P&G. It was a feat of storytelling through digital, explaining how the handsome Isaiah Mustafah was the ideal man for women. The sheer scale of it and the ability to create the Responses campaign, which was customized tailored content in a flash, showed how brands could use social channels for CRM and interaction with Old Spice's biggest fans.

2008 | Goodby Silverstein & Partners Haagen-Dazs: Honey Bees

Haagen-Dazs' 2008 campaign payed homage to a very special helper to its business: the Honey Bee. The company explained the impact of this little creature to consumers, demonstrating through long form content and a web platform that bees pollinate one-third of the foods we eat -- including the tasty fruits in the brand's ice cream. Proceeds from sales went towards Honey Bee research.


2009 | CP&B Burger King: Whopper Sacrifice

Probably the earliest and most identifiable campaign that ran entirely on Facebook, testing the limits of the platform. It garnered attention largely because it was edgy -- and didn't necessarily play by the rules -- which in turn led to increased interest from users as well as the media. It was the equivalent of getting a brand's Super Bowl ad ejected from the big game. Facebook shut down the app, but not before some 235,000 people were defriended just for a free hamburger. For Burger King, that meant thousands of coupons for free whoppers, and the promotion drove more traffic to stores.

2009 | BETC Paris Evian: Live Young

"Live Young" defined viral, garnering 45,166,109 views as of November 2009, which got it recognized in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most viewed ad in history. It featured babies appearing to do stunts on wheels to "Rapper's Delight". The "Live Young" strategy continues to be the primary branding framework for the French bottled water brand.

2009 | SapientNitro Australia Tourism: Best Job in the World

It was a simple idea -- a recruitment campaign in the form of a contest -- to drive awareness of the islands of the Great Barrier Reef. Tens of thousands of applicants from 201 countries sent in videos in hopes of landing a gig as "caretaker" of one of the islands. The PR effort netted $180 million worth of media coverage on a budget of $1.2 million.

2009 | Fitzgerald + Co. Durex: Get It On

No words. But wow -- this is one campaign that used the product in the ads in a humorous way that got people talking and taking notice. Durex is after all a brand about sex, so why not have an eye-catching and risky campaign. It's also a smart print idea.

2009 | TBWA/Hunt Lascaris The Zimbabwean: Trillion Dollar Campaign

To show the negative impacts of this political regime the newspaper did the unthinkable: printed billboards on real money that had become so worthless under Mugabe. They didn't need to say much, it was all in the creative execution. A great example of eye-catching outdoor.

Look for the results of these Members' Choice picks on January 12, and see how they stack up against our judges' Top 15 winners. Voting will remain open until Jan. 5, 2015.

The Top 15 Ad Campaigns of the 21st Century will be part of the ebook, "Advertising Age: Top Ad Campaigns." The ebook also includes the Top 100 Ad Campaigns of the 20th Century.

On sale January 12, 2015, the ebook can be preordered from Amazon and Google Play. It will also be available at Barnes & Noble, Kobo and iBooks.

Top Ads of the 21st Century

In 1999, as the 20th century came to a close, the Ad Age staff ranked the 100 best campaigns of the century. Now, Advertising Age is updating that list with 15 of the best ad campaigns (so far) of the 21st Century. On Jan. 12, Ad Age will unveil this century’s 15 top ad campaigns as chosen by a panel of judges who are among the industry’s most distinguished creators and marketers. We gave the judges a list of 50 nominees from which to vote for their top 15 and asked them to rank them. Those top 15, and the top 100 ad campaigns of the 20th Century, will be included together in an ebook, Advertising Age’s Top Ad Campaigns, publishing on Jan. 12. The top 15 will be revealed in Advertising Age’s print edition and on that same day.

We asked our judges to consider three criteria, the same three questions that were used for the original Top 100 Ad Campaigns of the 20th Century:

• Was it a watershed ad or campaign, discernibly changing the culture of advertising or the popular culture as a whole?
• If it itself was credited with creating a category, or if by its efforts a brand became entrenched in its category as No. 1.
• Was it simply unforgettable?

But before we reveal that list, we want to see which of our 50 nominees that Ad Age members would have chosen. Have your say by voting on your favorite campaigns below.