My Favourite Five Ads: Nicky Unsworth

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 Nicky Unsworth, Chief Executive of BJL Group and the re-elected Honorary Secretary at the IPA, chooses her favourites which feature white horses, a gorgeous animation and Joan Collins...

Guinness, Surfer

Ads are always very personal and subjective, but for me, ‘Surfer’ is as close as it gets to the perfect TV commercial. From the moment it started, with a full-face black and white shot of a man looking past the camera, I knew it was unlike anything I’d seen previously. Its rich cinematic quality, its deep pulsating music track and the brilliantly written ‘tick, followed tock, followed tick, followed tock’ script, which ebbs and flows with the sound and vision beautifully. I was hooked even before the white horses leapt out of the foaming sea. But the ad is so much more than a visual masterpiece from Jonathan Glazer. It brings Guinness to life.

The storyline is the perfect dramatisation of ‘The best things come for those who wait’ strapline. Back in 1998, this 60 second commercial went on to win numerous awards including D&AD, Cannes Lions and in 2002 was voted the "Best ad of all time" in a poll conducted by Channel 4 and I certainly agree it’s high up there with the very best of the best.


Dove, Campaign for Real Beauty

I love campaigns that break free from advertising conventions. Dove’s ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’ is a fine example of this, effectively taking on its own beauty category and changed it, for the better. The campaign was built on powerful insight and was embraced by a diverse range of women. It broke the mould of featuring unattainable supermodels and celebrities and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with real women, of all shapes and sizes.

Giving women confidence, because the way we were being portrayed simply wasn’t right. Dove also paved the way for today’s current wave of ads being more than just ads, but brands being a force for social good. Indeed, today’s campaigns like ‘This Girl Can’ – with a moral or social responsibility a their heart – owe a great deal to the foundations laid down by Dove’s early work.


Honda, Grr

Again, this is another favourite of mine that at the time, looked and felt like nothing else in its category. ‘Grr’ brings to life Honda’s tireless pursuit of continuous improvement. It’s based on the simple insight that if you hate something, you can be inspired to change it and make it better.

Apparently the idea was born out of Honda’s chief engineers’ hatred of diesel cars. He pledged to change noisy, dirty, expensive engines for the better. This story of positive hate led to this ‘hate something, change something’ campaign. And it’s a perfect rendering of our BJL philosophy: taking a stand. But it’s not executed in the usual gritty, 'look at us, aren’t we edgy' way. It has a warmth, charm and lightness of touch, using an engaging and colourful animation that’s gorgeous. Combined with the amazing voice work of Garrison Keillor and a song that you’ll find fluttering in our head, more than a decade later.


Apple, Crazy ones

I've talked about ads that can go beyond advertising, to redefining their categories and changing perceptions. My next choice is an advertising campaign that actually helped to shape a company into the world’s biggest brand, giving them something to drive for and rally behind. ‘Here’s to the Crazy Ones’ defined what Apple stood for back in 1997. Initially voiced by Steve Jobs himself, although Richard Dreyfuss’s voice overlaid the final edit, the advert formed part of the ‘Think Different’ campaign.

Referencing iconic figures from politics, religion, celebrity, TV, film and sport the advert was suspected to be a response to IBM’s ‘Think’. "Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently". This advert could have not only influenced Apple, but on occasion, the hiring policy at BJL too.


Snickers, You're not you when you’re hungry

My final choice in my best ads of the past 100 years is this Snickers campaign. It's just a brilliantly simple and funny central idea and line that allows PR, TV, Press, Experiential and Social all to do their own thing (e.g. Sports Illustrated covers, Clarkson post-resignation box of Snickers). Clever celebrity casting of Joan Collins in a men’s locker room and Rowan Atkinson (aka Mr Bean) as a ninja really bring home the brand’s message.

Over the past six and a half years, 'You’re not you when you’re hungry' has won every major award you can think of in advertising – including Cannes Lions, D&AD and the Emmys. It’s also scooped every major effectiveness award, including two Effectiveness Lions, IPA gold and global and local Effies. Now in its seventh successful year, the strapline still holds strong proving that sometimes advertising is a ‘Marathon’ and not a sprint.


Last updated 21 January 2022