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10 of the best UK TV adverts from the last 10 years, from Compare the Meerkat to Maltesers

10 great UK TV adverts of the last decade

For anyone who follows us on Twitter, you may have noticed our hashtag #GreatAdverts from time to time. There have been some awful television ads on UK television over the years, but for every doozy that sends a marketing team back to the drawing board, you have the success stories that catch the jaded British public by surprise, and are recalled and revered for years to come.

Below is a list of ten great UK television adverts, old and new, that have grabbed our attention over the years with their creativity and genius.

Compare the Meerkat – CompareTheMarket.com

Arguably the most memorable advertising success story in the last five years, the ad-agency VCCP created a TV spot for CompareTheMarket.com back in 2009, featuring Aleksandr Orlov, the CGI aristocratic Russian meerkat and founder of CompareTheMeerkat.com. The campaign centres on his frustration that internet users confuse the two sites and points out the difference: ‘meerkat’ and ‘market’.

Signing off with the catchphrase ‘Simples’, they had created a financially lucrative monster. In 2014 we still compare meerkats on the joke site, enjoy meeting the cast of meerkat friends who regularly feature in the ads, and even buy car insurance just to receive our complimentary stuffed meerkat toy.

Not so simples, but top grade marketing.

#WelcomeToCoffee – Taylors of Harrogate

“The world of coffee advertising has gone stale,” says the official Taylors Coffee YouTube channel, which is why they chose to make their coffee advert a bit… different. Good different, mind. We’re not sure if this is for some special new mescaline-infused brew, but personally we love this ad. The best on the telly at the moment, in fact.

The music reminds us of Jack Nitzsche’s hauntingly lovely soundtrack for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but the visuals are reminiscent of Disney’s Fantasia. Utterly memorable – which is very unusual for coffee ads, which tend to blend into one bland entity.

Flash Mob – T Mobile

“Life’s for sharing,” T Mobile told us back in 2009 when a Flash Mob took over Liverpool Street Station for this highly popular advertisement for the mobile network. While Flash Mobs had been occurring beforehand, this ad arguably popularised the craze in the UK, and while the idea has more recently been dumped for the next craze (Twerking, the Harlem Shake etc.), people still recall the T Mobile advert fondly five years on.

Why? Because it was fun. The tag-line was physically represented by a group of normal commuters (seemingly) in a train station, who come together for an epic dance number, one that could be recorded on phones and shared with friends and loved ones. Share, indeed.

Mini in Chelsea – Made in Chelsea

How do you advertise a ‘reality show’ about squabbling socialites from the high class of London? You hire mini versions of them to act out a typical scenario from the show, and watch the fans and trolls alike laugh and coo over their adorable impressions. Whether you watch Made in Chelsea or not, you cannot deny that hiring children to mock the cast, is a genius marketing move. However much you might dislike MiC, it’s hard not to fall for the mini version.

They get every detail down to a tee, from the Spencer and Andy showdown over Louise, to Victoria’s disdain for high street fashion.

“Will they ever learn to play nicely?” the narrator asks. Doubtful.

Kevin Bacon Film Store – EE

Don’t you love it when a Hollywood actor is willing to take the mickey out of himself? Kevin Bacon has starred in the EE phone network’s advertising campaign for the last year.

Our favourite televised ad so far though promotes the EE Film Store. Foot Loose Bacon, A Few Good Men Bacon, Friday the Thirteenth Bacon, Hollow Man Bacon and Apollo 13 Bacon sit around a breakfast table trying to decide which movie to download from the Film Store, poking fun at their characterisation.

Remind the public of your most iconic work, whilst starring in a series of advertisements which many people would take to mean his career is flagging. We applaud the irony. Modern Day Bacon’s still got it.

The Drumming Gorilla – Cadbury

What happens when a gorilla plays the drums to a Phil Collins classic? People will reminisce about it for years to come. Cadbury released this advert back in 2007, but why is it still a classic? Is it the novelty of the gorilla playing the drums? Does everyone just love that song, In The Air Tonight?

To an extent yes, but what are advertisements supposed to do? Create intrigue. For the first half of the TV spot, extreme close-ups of the gorilla tell us very little about what’s going on. His eyes are closed, he’s seemingly swept away by the music and we are with him. Then the gorilla snaps into action, plays the drums before him in time to the song’s beat. Only then are we told it’s a Cadbury ad. And we should have guessed, right? The clue was in the shade of purple on the wall behind him.

Catch the viewers attention, and then plug the product. It’s textbook. Another classic from creative powerhouse Juan Cabral.

#SingItKitty – Three

There are noticeable trends in television ads these days: cute animals, nostalgic pop songs and comedy. Many Television ads use a combination of the three to attract our attention away from our phones, games and apps. Like this ad for the network, Three.

“We built this city on rock and roll!” sings the little girl on her bike lapping her cul-de-sac.

It’s difficult to pinpoint which aspect of this ad made us pay attention first: was it the little girl singing a song from a completely different era? The horror of hearing that song by Starship again? More likely is the presence of the cat rocking out in her bicycle basket, actually. And Three certainly anticipated the headline, because they released the ad with the pre-planned hashtag #SingItKitty and encouraged us to make a music video with our own cats.

Three Little Pigs – The Guardian

We all know the tale of the Three Little Pigs. They build three houses made from straw, wood and bricks. But when the Big Bad Wolf comes along, he huffs and puffs and blows two of the houses down, until he is defeated by the sturdy structure of the brick house.

The tale has embedded itself in western culture over the years, and The Guardian reaffirmed its relevance when they imagined how they would cover the story in print and online. The narrative follows the story through front page headlines, social media discussion, journalistic investigation and finally an unexpected but modern conclusion that’s both relevant and relatable.

Unsurprisingly, this advertisement was a Cannes Lion Award winner and was named Ad of the Year 2012. Which fairy tales could you reinvent for advertising?

#TheSnowman – Irn Bru

Festive fun from the Irn Bru team. Up until 2006 the Scottish brand had never released a seasonal advertisement. But then they decided to combine their brand with an iconic British childhood favourite, The Snowman, for an amusing twist, by adapting the lyrics to the song Walking in the Air.

“We’re walking in the air, I’m sipping on an Irn-Bru,” the song goes and ends comically when the kid flying through the air, won’t allow The Snowman a sip: “Now I’m falling through the air, I wonder where I’m going to land. He nicked my Irn-Bru and let go of my hand.”

It certainly gave us a chuckle. And since The Snowman and the Snow Dog was released two years ago, perhaps the ad could even get a reboot?

Feeling Naughty? – Maltesers

Maltesers are intended to be a cheeky product for women, with a cheeky advertising campaign to match.

Interestingly, back in 1936, the sweet confectionery from Mars were promoted as ‘energy balls’ for women trying to slim down. Nothing changes there. The modern ads highlight the minimal calorie intake per packet in most variations of the TV slot. This is usually followed up by the actresses on screen declaring that they don’t feel naughty enough now they know the snack isn’t as bad So they do something mischievous to make up for it.

Flashing a co-worker and pretending your friend has shrunk her jeans, are classics that got us all chuckling.