My Favourite Five Ads: Kate Cox

To celebrate the IPA's centenary this year, we are asking adland's finest to pick their top five ads from the past century. This week Kate Cox, CEO of Bray Leino, shares the five ads that had the greatest personal impact on her.

Despite other very obvious contenders, I’ve chosen films that launched once I was involved in the industry (not those that leap out when looking back through the advertising archives). These had more impact on me personally, because of the time of my life on a personal level, or the way they made me view our craft. No surprises in here, I’m sure, but then great is simply great.

Guinness, ‘Surfer’

This spot broke within six months of me entering the wonderful world of communications, so it struck me hard. Bang. Wow! It was simply spectacular on a level that I had never been seen before, both technically and in terms of cinematography. But equally, of course, so much more. Strategically brilliant, utterly single-minded, brave, beautiful, the timing, the music, the cast… everything. Every single element was perfectly executed. Not to mention brand - there was never any doubt that this was for Guinness. Film gold.


Honda, ‘Cog’

I’m not one bit interested in cars. Not a jot. But ‘Cog’... well, that made me sit up and take note. For me, despite the accusation of plagiarism, it was an utterly ground-breaking, influential and inspirational ad. It was important to me because of the time it broke. Only a few years into my career, this piece of work showed me I had to be better. I reappraised both what was good and my ambitions. It made me change what I aimed for and how I would get there, how I briefed, how I sold work to clients, and what I believed was possible.

The ad was a piece of perfect engineering in its own right, it was utter precision (requiring negligible post) - two minutes of beautifully created film. Clever, memorable and watchable, with great execution and impeccable sound engineering. I also love the fact that a car was destroyed to make a car ad, as that appeals to my sense of humour. I’m still not interested in cars but I remember this ad like it was yesterday.


John Lewis, ‘For gifts you can’t wait to give’.

This ad launched at a time when my husband and I were discussing whether to have children or not. And bang - this little man appears on screen,making my face light up and my heart melt. I just love it; for the storytelling, for the touches of humour, for the twist you don’t expect, for the music, for the fact I can watch it over and over again and for that wonderful little chap.


Always - ‘Like a girl’

Huge personal impact, bringing back all the confusion and insecurity that I, along with most women, felt through puberty. I love the thinking behind this piece as much as the treatment. A brilliant insight (girls' confidence declines as they hit puberty) crafted into an incredible brief ('to build a fresh and more meaningful understanding of confidence to resonate with the next generation of consumers’). An execution so powerful that it changed the well-known phrase ‘like a girl’ from an insult into a term of empowerment. What’s more, this brand campaign helped catapult International Women’s Day to a whole new group of women…what’s not to love?


Metro Trains - ‘Dumb ways to die’

This one is cheating as it’s not a TV ad, but it is a truly engaging and well-thought-out piece of film and the results speak for themselves. In order to talk to a hard-to-reach young audience about rail safety awareness (dry!), all of the obvious approaches were binned. Instead we see a category-bolting piece of work.

It’s a great idea that bravely takes a comedic approach, and is brilliantly executed in both animation and audio terms. Utterly memorable. The second I saw this work I had to ensure the whole agency saw it immediately - send, send, send! When asked to choose my five favourite ads, this was the first piece of work that jumped into my head. So, despite not being a TV ad, it’s rightfully getting a place.


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