Today at work I wrote about a countdown show that spotlighted the twenty greatest ads of the decade as chosen by, I assume, a panel of Brits. (I write market research questions about prime-time programming that airs in the UK.) It was fun, and made me think a lot about my friend Bob O'Brien, one of the only people I know who really knows advertising. Back when we worked together as copywriters he taught me a lot about why certain ads work: color schemes, celeb appearances; not just concept. (Of the T-Mobile ads that were airing at the time, I remember him saying, "I don't like Catherine Zeta-Jones doing those -- she 's too famous." And I kind of feel the same way now that Luke Wilson is doing AT&T ads. You know you saw a phone company ad that used Luke Wilson, but you're not sure which company it was, because you were distracted by the spectacle of Luke Wilson.) Anyway, I didn't know many of the ads that were in this countdown and I was happy to learn about them. The one wherein bakers made a car out of cake, for example. And the one where parts of a car (a different one) are a Rube Goldberg device that eventually starts the actual, put-together car. The two ads for a Sony flatscreen that do things with color: one sends thousands of Superballs down an empty San Francisco street; the other makes paint explode all over a drab tenement building.
The ad that won the title, ultimately, of "Ad of the Decade" was for Hovis bread and was an homage to a classic British Hovis ad from the seventies featuring an old-timey delivery boy. For this version they reenacted things that might have happened on streets throughout over a century of history (uniquely English things: celebrating after the 1966 World Cup, carrying belongings after the Blitz, etc.) and ended with the kid coming home to eat bread in his house. This is the ad and this is the classic ad it was based on, directed by Ridley Scott.