The top 20 greatest TV adverts of all time, ranked

16 February 2021, 15:22

The best TV adverts ever
The best TV adverts ever. Picture: Levi's/Dairy Milk/Hamlet/Guinness/YouTube

By Tom Eames

TV adverts may be the point where you get up and make a cup of tea (or even fast forward if you've been clever enough to pause), but over the years there have been some classic commercials that made us smile, sing, and even cry.

From drumming gorillas to cute puppies to singing cats, we've picked just 20 of the most memorable TV adverts from yesteryear that deserve some recognition:

  1. I'm So Excited (Crunchie)

    Cadbury's Crunchie UK TV Ad

    We still feel peckish whenever we hear the Pointer Sisters.

  2. Singing cat and budgie (Freeview)

    Freeview TV Ad - Cat & Budgie #catandbudgie

    Such a cute and happy advert, where a cat and budgie not only put their differences aside, but fall in love too. Much to the surprise and joy of their owner.

  3. Singin' in the Rain (Volkswagen)

    VW GTI Commercial HD - Singing in the Rain

    For this Golf car advert, some clever computer graphics were used to remix Gene Kelly's famous Singin' in the Rain dance, complete with breakdancing and body-poppin'.

  4. Yes Sir, I Can Boogie (Dairy Milk)

    Yes Sir, I WILL boogie in the Office - New Cadbury Dairy Milk TV advert

    Dairy Milk continued their tradition of using classic tunes to their advantage, by giving logistics manager Keith a bit of a boogie, thanks to the Baccara classic.

  5. Secret Lemonade Drinker (R Whites)

    R Whites Lemonade Classic Advert

    We still walk down the stairs like this in the middle of the night, whether we're on the hunt for lemonade or not.

  6. 'Ology (BT)

    British Telecom advert from 1988 with Maureen Lipman - Ology

    Maureen Lipman created a TV advert legend as Beattie in this classic BT advert, where an auntie is highly impressed by her nephew's single exam success, of sorts.

  7. The Gold Blend couple (Nescafé)

    1987 Nescafe Gold Blend Lady at the door TV Advert

    Nescafé tried something different with this campaign, where they actually created a serial drama! Anthony Head and Sharon Maughan starred as Tony and Sharon, a couple who begin a slow-burning romance over a cup of coffee.

  8. Anticipation (Guinness)

    Guinness Ad Anticipation

    To show how good things come to those who wait, Guinness brought in Joe McKinney to dance around while his beer poured, to the tune of 'Guaglione' by Perez Prado. The advert's success saw the '50s mambo song reach the UK top five in 1995.

  9. Hoots Mon (Wine Gums)

    Maynards Wine Gums - Hoots Mon 1993 UK

    "There's juice, loose, aboot this hoose!"

  10. Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins (Cinzano)

    Cinzano Bianco Advert Leonard Rossiter

    Cinzano created an unlikely partnership between the glamorous Joan Collins and Rising Damp star Leonard Rossiter in this series of adverts, particularly this classic advert featuring a reclining chair on a plane.

  11. Aliens (Smash)

    Smash Mash Potatoes Advert

    Despite being nearly 50 years old, you can never get these little dudes.

  12. Photobooth (Hamlet Cigars)

    Hamlet Cigars Advert 1987: Photo Booth

    Never fails to make us giggle. Gregor Fisher at his finest.

  13. JR Hartley (Yellow Pages)

    JR Hartley Advert - Yellow Pages - Advert Commercial

    This sweet advert actually led to the publication of a real book called Fly Fishing by a JR Hartley, would you believe...

  14. Buy the World a Coke (Coca-Cola)

    Coca-Cola, 1971 - 'Hilltop' | "I'd like to buy the world a Coke"

    A true classic, so much so that it not only inspired a number one single by the New Seekers, but it formed the basis of the final moments of Mad Men. Sorry, spoilers.

  15. Laundrette (Levi's)

    Levi's commercial - Laundrette

    Nick Kamen became an overnight star after he took off all his clothes in a laundrette, while Marvin Gaye sang in the background. Simpler times.

  16. 'Ave it (John Smith's)

    Peter Kay John Smith's Advert Av It!!

    We love all the Peter Kay John Smith's 'No Nonsense' ads, but this simple one with Peter getting on with it on the football pitch is the best.

  17. Elton John (John Lewis)

    The John Lewis Christmas advert for 2018, starring Elton John

    Read more: All the John Lewis Christmas adverts, ranked from worst to best

    Out of all the John Lewis Christmas adverts, this one still hits the hardest for us (we're big Elton John fans, obviously) - where Elton looks back at his life and career, and how a gift of a piano started it all. Sniff.

  18. Boy on the Bike (Hovis)

    Hovis' iconic 1973 Boy on the Bike advert digitally remastered

    So simple, but so iconic. We get knackered just looking at that hill.

  19. Tick follows tock (Guinness)

    Guinness - Surfer (1999, UK)

    An unforgettable TV advert of the highest quality from Guinness, filled with stunning imagery, a pulsating soundtrack and a haunting voiceover.

  20. Drumming gorilla (Dairy Milk)

    Cadbury Dairy Milk Drumming Gorilla Advert

    Read more: The Story of... 'In the Air Tonight'

    It shouldn't work, it has nothing to do with chocolate bars, but watching a gorilla drumming to Phil Collins is always a winner in our book.