My Favourite Five Ads: Dave Trott

To celebrate the IPA's centenary this year, we are asking adland's finest to pick their top five ads from the past 100 years. This week Dave Trott, creative director, copywriter and author causes Creative Mischief with his selection...

Apple, 'Get a Mac'

This isn’t just one ad, it’s a campaign with 63 commercials. All made on a plain, white site with two actors. As clean, simple and cheap as possible. But what really makes it great is the way Mac takes on and destroys the competition. They couldn’t do that if they mentioned the competition by name - they just refer to “PC” and as there isn’t a computer brand called PC, they can’t get sued. PC just happens to be any computer that isn’t a Mac. They do it by simple, funny demonstrations of why a Mac is better than a PC. 63 simple side-by-side demos; the sort that all the gurus said was dead. But Steve Jobs didn’t listen to gurus. Which is why Apple is the most valuable company and brand in the entire world today.

Federal Express (Fedex), 'When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight'

I had to include this ad because it was done by the person who taught me advertising. It was part of a campaign that got Federal Express into the language. The complete campaign delivered a simple thought: “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight”. That thought is delivered by making each commercial as entertaining as possible.

Consumers loved the entertainment and repeated it over and over again. And each time ending on the punchline “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight”. Summarising the difference between Federal Express and the much larger UPS and wrapping Fedex’s USP in fun. Or as Walt Disney said “We have to entertain in order to educate because the other way round doesn’t work”.

Net 10, 'The League of Evil'

In this campaign, Droga 5 are selling a pay as you go (PAYG) phone network. The people who mainly use PAYG networks are young men. Young men like to read comics and watch cartoons, so Droga 5 created a campaign about The League of Evil. However evil these supervillains are, they cannot compete with mobile phone companies. They are shocked by the small print on the contracts, the extortionate monthly fees, and the $180 cancellation charge. The strapline on each ad is: “NO BILLS, NO CONTRACTS, NO EVIL – SWITCH TO NET 10”. The ads are a brilliant mix of entertainment and hard sell. Everything lazy people will tell you can’t be done.

Geico, 'Happier than a Camel on Wednesday'

Geico wanted to get people to phone in for an insurance quote and the incentive was simple - “15 minutes could save you 15%”. With such a strong offer all you need to do is get the message off the screen and into the language. So they used a simple, timeless human truth: Monday and Tuesday are the toughest days of the week. But Wednesday marks the halfway point towards the weekend, when you’re over the hump. So they had a camel walking through an office, annoying everyone by continually asking what day it is. Until eventually someone answers “it’s hump day” and the camel cheers.

The voiceover then says “people who save hundreds of dollars with Geico are happier than a camel on hump day”. They invented a day which got into the language, so much so that shouting it out had to be banned at high schools all over America. Every Wednesday people circulated the ad for free.

Moreover for me, Geico are the only client that understand how to use social media.

Toyota Hilux, Bugger

New Zealanders are people of few words. In this case just one word: “Bugger”. In fact it’s the only word in the entire commercial.

A farmer uses his truck to raise a fence, but pushes the entire fence over: “Bugger”. Another farmer tries to pull up a stump, but it flies through the air and demolishes an outdoor toilet: “Bugger”. A farmer tries to yank a cow out of the mud, but the cow’s head comes off: “Bugger”. A farmer pulls away too fast and mud covers his wife’s clean washing: “Bugger”.

Then the strapline – “The new, more powerful, Toyota Hilux.” Again, reduce the reason to buy to a simple, single reason, then deliver that reason in the most entertaining, memorable way.

The IPA are celebrating their centenary this year - join in the conversation on Twitter using #AdFest100 and #IPA100. You can catch up on all the photos, videos and other content from the IPA's Festival of British advertising here, including Sir Martin Sorrell, Sir Alan Parker and a virtual tour of the Exhibition.

Last updated 21 January 2022