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Ads Worth Spreading: 10 great ads from 2014 that communicate ideas

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May
An image we love from one of our Ads Worth Spreading honorees.

An image we love from one of our Ads Worth Spreading honorees.

Today’s viewing audiences are far too sophisticated for advertisements full of fake doctors, the word “sale” flashing on repeat, and tight clothing on attractive models. Today, we want ads to actually speak to us—to connect to our hopes and dreams, to flip our thinking in unexpected ways and to reflect the world we’d like to see around us. And we know that advertising can offer this because, every once in a while, we find ourselves cracking up or reaching for a tissue after watching a commercial that connects with us.

For four years running, TED has honored 10 commercials that operate on this higher level, offering up bold ideas, real emotions and inspiring visions. Each year, a panel of TED speakers, staff and advertising industry insiders select 10 Ads Worth Spreading, honoring innovation and smart thinking in advertising. Below, check out our picks for 2014. From a movie made with atoms to a look at the strange relationship women can have with the camera, these ads were chosen in five categories—Storytelling, Social Good, Cultural Compass, Creative Wonder, and Learning. The reason behind thes selections is simple, says our Head of Global Partnerships, Ronda Carnegie. “Like the best TED Talks, this year’s Ads Worth Spreading enrich lives rather than disrupt them.”

As we prepare for TED2014, our 30th anniversary conference which is themed, “The Next Chapter,” we see great potential for ads like these to propel us forward.

First, a touching Olympics-themed spot from Procter & Gamble that celebrates the unsung heroes of the games — moms. It teaches us that falling only makes us stronger, and reminds us of the importance of encouragement.

Spot: Thank You Mom | Pick Them Back Up
Brand: P&G
Agency: Wieden + Kennedy, Portland
Categories: Storytelling

The ad above is a movie made with atoms, and holds the Guinness World Record for the World’s Smallest Stop-Motion Film.

Spot: A Boy and His Atom
Brand: IBM
Agency: Ogilvy & Mather, New York
Categories: Creative Wonder, Learning

With a surprise heartwarming twist, this Guinness ad embodies the best qualities of friendship.

Spot: Basketball
Brand: Guinness
Agency: BBDO, New York
Categories: Storytelling

This hilarious spot from Adobe shows us what can go wrong when we’re not paying attention to analytics.

Spot: Click, Baby, Click!
Brand: Adobe
Agency: Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, US
Categories: Cultural Compass

For more than a quarter century, Saroo Brierley searched for his family before finding his way home with the help of Google Earth. It’s an incredible true story of hope and determination.

Spot: Saroo Brierly: Homeward Bound
Brand: Google Earth
Agency: Storybox Films
Categories: Storytelling, Cultural Compass

A journey through women’s relationship with the camera—from self-conscious avoidance to pure joy in the spotlight. With this ad, Dove encourages women to be their own beautiful self.

Spot: Camera Shy
Brand: Dove
Agency: Ogilvy & Mather, UK
Categories: Cultural Compass

No one should pay for a mistake with their life. That’s the punchline to this powerful conversation between two men without enough time to react to a life-changing accident.

Spot: Mistakes
Brand: New Zealand Transport Agency
Agency: Clemenger BBDO New Zealand
Categories: Social Good, Storytelling

Virgin America redefines the safety video with this nonstop, foot-tapping piece, which moves through genres, decades and styles while delivering the safety information passengers need.

Spot: Safety Dance
Brand: Virgin America
Agency: Virgin Produced
Categories: Creative Wonder, Cultural Compass

This adorably quirkly ad uses sleight-of-hand to celebrate the curiosity of Honda engineers.

Spot: Hands
Brand: Honda
Agency: Wieden + Kennedy, London
Categories: Creative Wonder

Michael is the best at what he does—when top charities need an African child star for their ads, they call him first. This sarcastic piece reminds us of how ridiculous stereotypes can be, and why we need to throw them out.

Spot: Let’s Save Africa
Brand: Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund
Agency: iKind Productions
Categories: Social Good, Cultural Compass

Thanks to YouTube, many of the creatives and marketers behind these ads—who all demonstrated what we call “brand bravery”—will gather at TEDActive 2014 with some of our Ads Worth Spreading All-Stars. Together, the group will work  on some exciting challenges. Stay tuned to the TED Blog to see what they come up with.