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2013 Video Advertisements: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Note: This post was updated in 2018 to remove broken links; many of these ads are no longer available. 

We see them every single day, yet very few seem to really stand out. In 2013, advertisers tried to grab viewers attention by making television and video ads longer, more meaningful, and especially heartwarming. However, 2013 was also the year of “badvertising” as brands tried too hard to make a name for themselves. Check out some of our top picks… for better or for worse.

The cuteness of this commercial is undeniable. Dogs doing human things? A puppy in a booster seat? Adorable. But Subaru didn’t just throw in cute puppies for lack of a better idea. Subaru has actually partnered with the Center for Pet Safety and is the leading advocate for pet safety in cars. Subaru has really figured out their target market and knows what’s important to them. But even if you don’t have a dog or don’t drive a Subaru, this ad is one that will leave you smiling.


Radio Shack
Radio Shack premiered this ad during the 2nd quarter of the Super Bowl, and viewers across the country asked their friends, “Radio Shack is still in business?” But if people had forgotten about Radio Shack before, they’re sure thinking about it now. It employed nostalgia perfectly, bringing back 80s characters recognized by people of many ages. After hooking you with humor, it spikes curiosity about what the new, reinvented store has to offer. Radio Shack proves it can laugh at itself, and that the 80s were great — but in the past.

Procter &Gamble
This ad from P&G really pulls at the heartstrings. It’s incredible that a company with a brand portfolio consisting of detergents and paper products can create such an emotionally charged ad. Although the ad is mostly product-free, it still creates a powerful brand connection to P&G and celebrates the person who buys their product: Mom. It is a wonderful tribute not only to Olympic mothers, but to mothers everywhere.

K-Mart tried to go viral this year, which may not always be a good thing. Their “Ship My Pants” ad spread like wildfire, but received a lot of negative criticism. This “GIF-ing” ad showed up around Christmas, and confused mostly everyone. They were targeting Internet fans by featuring a couple’s celebrations on a loop, much like a GIF file. However, they totally missed the mark because half of their consumers have no idea what “GIF-ing out” means, and the half that do felt K-Mart abused the term. Whether the commercial makes sense, it’s never a good idea to play an annoying sound on repeat. Better luck next time, K-Mart.

Apparently putting an ad in the Super Bowl was a last-minute decision for Subway, and it shows. Let’s reflect on the fact that Subway paid at least 4 million to air an ad about a Chicken Enchilada sub. First of all, it’s predictable. They rely heavily on athletes and celebrities to do all the promoting for their product, throwing in Apolo Ohno and Michael Phelps. We’re used to commercials touting their sub’s fresh ingredients and health benefits, but not this time. Jared didn’t even make an appearance, probably because nothing about this sub is low-fat. They’ve branded themselves to be a fresh fast-food option, and this contradicts their whole image. Let Taco Bell handle enchiladas, Subway.

It takes a lot for a commercial to be noticed, and it seems a trend of family-friendly, uplifting advertisements is on the rise. It will be interesting to see what the ads of 2014 have in store!