It’s time to settle the big one: the greatest ad of all time. Not measured by effectiveness, efficiency or Lions, but rather by how beloved it is by both the public and the industry. To achieve this, we want to hold the largest, most comprehensive poll ever. In other words, we need your help, write Harry Guild , Data Strategist & Data Editor of BBH Labs, Tom Roach, Head of Effectiveness & Lucian Trestler, Editor.



Four months ago in the heady heatwave days of summer 2018, BBH Labs hosted the first ever World Cup of Advertising Books.

It was fun. There were nearly 5,000 votes and over 100k impressions. Newbies knocked out Nobel Laureates. Richard Shotton’s The Choice Factory came up against books by advertising immortals, David Ogilvy and John Hegarty, and beat them both. And still people wanted more.


Luckily for Brian, we already had this monster up our sleeve.

These 64 contenders aren’t just personal favourites. They are the result of months of painstaking meta-analysis of hundreds of “Best Ad Ever” polls, editorials, interviews with industry leaders, TV countdowns, opinion pieces and listicles from the past thirty years.

We used data from over 60 different media outlets from across the globe, including The Gunn Report, India Today, Channel 4, BBC Canada, Ad Age, Entertainment Weekly, Le Figaro, Campaign, Marketing Directo, Business Insider, Buzz South Africa, The Drum, The Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, Marketing Week/YouGov, B&T, Forbes, AdWeek, Der Spiegel, TV Guide, The Guardian, Mumbrella Asia and Marketing Magazine.

This resulted in a longlist of 715 ads, all of which can be considered to be among the best ever. To determine our top 64, we then scored the ads by number of list appearances, type of list (e.g. the top choice of a thousand people in a poll has more weight than that of an individual creative), and ranking on said lists. The full methodology can be found in the attached spreadsheet.

As a happy byproduct of this World Cup, we now have a goldmine of Best Ad Ever metadata. The results are too good not to share.

Best Ad Ever

According to the data, Apple’s ‘1984’ is the most popular of all time. Guinness ‘Surfer’ and Cadbury ‘Gorilla’ get the other podium places.

There’s a strong bias towards TV. Much of this is due to the fact that many of the data sources are retrospectives focused solely on television commercials rather than advertising as a whole. As such, digital and print ideas are under-represented in the top 150.  

Agency with the most ads in the top 150

BMP take top spot with 8, followed by BBH London and DDB New York with 7.

Brand with the most ads in the top 150

VW are the top brand, and have been remarkably consistent over the years with ads from 1959, 1963, 1969, 1987, 1998 and 2011 all making the top 150.

Category with the most ads in the top 150

Cars and beer predictably dominate, but it’s heartening to see less sexy categories (including indigestion tablets) make it into the top 150.

Best Decade Ever

One watchout with this data is the issue of recency bias. Most polls took place in the 21st century, and there’s a clear skew towards more recent work. It’ll be interesting to see how the more recent ads in this list are viewed in twenty or so years.  

Best Year Ever

1981 has a strong shout for being the world’s best year for advertising:

  • Nescafé ‘La Colegiala’ (France)
  • Lego ‘Kipper’ (UK)
  • John Smith’s ‘Dog Tricks’ (UK)
  • FedEx ‘Fast Talker’ (USA)
  • Absolut ‘The Absolut Bottle’ (USA)
  • Cancer Council ‘Slip Slop Slap’ (Australia)

Please find the full spreadsheet in all its migraine-inducing glory here.

Although the stats suggest Apple’s ‘1984’ is the greatest ad ever, they don’t have the final say. You do. As before, we will find our winner through Twitter Polls so please share this article now(!) and then vote / retweet as we go so we get the largest sample size possible.

To make it easier to track, we’ll be using #WorldCupOfAds.

The Group Stages kick off Monday 19th November.

Last 32 on Tues 20th.

Last 16 on Wed 21st.

Quarters on Thurs 22nd.

Semis on Thurs 22nd.

Third Place & Finals all on Fri 23rd.