Advertising is an art.

There’s a necessary element of creativity that allows good advertisers to create a real connection with an audience. They create campaigns that not only spark interest but stick with people for a long time afterwards. And of course, meet a client’s campaign or branding goal.

We put together a list of 20 of the best videos and documentaries to spark your creativity as an advertiser. Through various angles, they all highlight the importance of a curious and creative mind. Whether you are in the advertising space are not, check out these great docs.

1. Art & Copy

“I think there’s always an innate human urge to put something out there and see what people are going to make of it.”

Where does inspiration come from when creating copy or art for ads? Doug Pray’s 2009 documentary Art & Copy introduces viewers to the advertising geniuses whose ideas changed our culture and who’ve received relatively little mainstream recognition for their iconic ideas.

From “Got Milk” to “Just Do It,” if you’ve ever wondered where and how these concepts originated, this doc has the answers. The film’s overarching message that creativity is the root solution of advertising still rings true.

“Creativity can solve everything.”

2. The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

Morgan Spurlock’s 2011 documentary explores the field of product placement by financing the movie itself entirely through sponsorships. With the fitting tagline “He’s not selling out, he’s buying in”, the film includes product placement for brands like POM, Trident, JetBlue, TedBaker, and Old Navy.

Besides the gimmicky concept of the meta-documentary style, a bigger takeaway for viewers is the skills of the filmmaker himself. As Spurlock goes from brand to brand requesting their involvement in the film, his enthusiastic pitches push marketing directors to think differently about their strategies.

3. The Secret of Coca-Cola Marketing

Every day, almost 1 in 4 people buy something from Coca-Cola. They are constantly innovating their advertising strategy. Coca-Cola’s branding strategy is one that agencies have looked to for inspiration throughout the years.

According to this documentary by ThoughtCatalyst, the secret to Coca-Cola’s marketing success is in its ability to tap into our empathy and humanity. An example is their long-running Share Happiness campaign, which aimed to “speak to fans at eye level” through storytelling.

Or when they replaced their brand label with people’s names. In the first 6 months of the campaign in Australia, the campaign drove an 870% increase in the brand’s Facebook traffic, and 2 out of 5 Australians bought a “Share A Coke” pack.

4. To Inform and Delight

With a resumé including iconic concepts such as “I (Heart) New York” and Bob Dylan’s 1966 tour poster, Milton Glaser is a legend in the graphic design and advertising space. To Inform and Delight offers a retrospective of the late artist’s significant impact on graphic design in advertising.

The filmmaker explored Milton’s inner workings and how he produced the sheer volume of brilliant creative work that he did.

Milton shared his trick for interpreting abstract concepts in a way that will intuitively stick with consumers: “In terms of understanding communication, the creation of a puzzle is one of the tools that you have to make people understand things. When they are activating the problem-solving impulse of the brain – it’s stuck in people’s minds. They saw it once, and they remembered it.”

5. Ryan Daniel Moran on Kylie Jenner’s Billion-Dollar Advertising Strategy

Marketing expert Ryan Daniel Moran teaches a seminar on advertising using the case study of billionaire makeup mogul Kylie Jenner. He examines the branding power of the young celebrity through her unique strategy: Kylie Jenner’s marketing strategy relied on creating a persona rather than selling to one.

By embodying her vision, she became the persona that her young audience aspired to be. She is the brand.

This video can help advertisers understand the power of influence in the age of social media. Whether or not you choose to “keep up” with the Kardashians, there’s a lot to learn about marketing from the Kylie Cosmetics branding formula.

6. The Psychology Behind Good Advertising

Hardly a moment goes by during our day-to-day when we don’t encounter or interact with advertising. This video explains how iconic ads and campaigns shape the way we see the world and, consequently, influence what we buy.

As they quote Don Draper, “Advertising is based on one thing: happiness. And you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear; it’s a billboard on the side of the road that screams with reassurance, ‘Whatever you are doing is ok. You are ok’.”

7. The Naked Brand

This segment of The Naked Brand from A Design Film Festival in 2013 covers the marketing strategies of Zappos, an online shoe retailer. Rather than spending on paid advertising, the brand prioritized customer service with free shipping, positive workplace culture, employee benefits, and regular parties for staff.

“The company’s culture and the company’s brand are really just two sides of the same coin.” – Zappos Founder, Tony Hseih

The takeaway here is that the culture becomes intertwined with the brand. The culture built between office walls can be the strongest part of a company’s promotional strategy.

8. The City That Sold America

The City That Sold America, directed by Ky Dickens, looks at Chicago’s place in the history of advertising in America. Thanks to the many people who immigrated to Chicago from other countries and states, the city found a boom of diversity and multiculturalism that helped establish it as a unique milieu for creatives and artists working in ad design.

This doc is great for anyone interested in learning about the history of advertising and how it intersects with a city’s culture.

The city that sold america movie poster - spark your creativity as an advertiser

9. The History of Advertising in 60 Seconds

Short on time but want to learn more about the history of advertising? This one-minute video will give you an overview of the evolution of marketing in the advertising industry. What’s the deal with ad agencies? How does brand-building work? What exactly is branded content?

It’s all here in this short and easily digestible advertising documentary by Mashable Brand X.

10. Top 100 Guerilla Advertising Billboards and Physical Marketing

An important aspect of any marketing strategy is knowing when and how to think outside the box. Guerilla marketing is a popular way to garner attention for your product. It’s also a way for advertisers and creators to interact with city landscapes and existing environments.

From Polaroid’s taxi window film ad to Braun’s Oral B street sweeper toothbrush, this video shows some of the most innovative and genius guerilla marketing ads ever.

11. Minimalism

With the rise of ethical consumerism and Marie Kondo’s “Spark Joy” movement, minimalism is the trend we all need. As our consumerist mindset evolves, how do you attract customers who are looking to reduce consumption?

This Netflix documentary, Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things, discusses the ways people engage in a minimalist lifestyle. It looks at how people thrive with less.

As an advertiser whose job it is to sell, it’s essential to understand different perspectives on buying and consuming that customers take on. It may mean upping your game in value perception or updating your positioning.

12. Exit Through the Gift Shop

In this 2010 documentary, well-known street artist Banksy documents the rise of French-born street artist Thierry Guetta, otherwise known as Mr. Brainwash. Exit Through the Gift Shop looks at the population’s organic consumption of culture and pop art. It takes on the perspective of a pessimistic creator whose own work gained success through the infamy of mysterious anonymity.

Watching this documentary (or mockumentary) through the lens of advertising can allow viewers to ask the big question: What is art, and how does it affect what we buy or consume? Is art only what we see in museums and gallery frames, or is it also billboards, bus ads, and even spray paint on the side of a building?

13. What is Branding? A 4 Minute Crash Course

“A brand is not a logo. A brand is not a product. Branding isn’t what you say it is; it’s what they say it is. ”

This crash course interview with graphic designer Marty Neumeier asks, “What is branding?”

Even some working in the advertising space may not have a clear understanding of what branding means. This video offers a concise take on branding. While some associate branding with a logo, colors, or a tagline, Neumeier’s description of branding explores “a customer’s feeling about your company.”

14. The Art of Copywriting and Advertising

This video from YouTuber Alex Berman’s series on “Selling Breakdowns” looks at copywriting and advertising. The short video puts an emphasis on the significant influence of David Ogilvy, whose namesake agency employs about 25,000 people around the world.

“You cannot bore people into buying your product. You can only interest them in buying it.” – Ogilvy.

One of the most iconic admen in history, Ogilvy wrote the book on how important it was to keep advertising interesting. He relied on the truth of the product and exceptional copywriting to connect with his audience.

15. 10 Famous Funny Commercials

What better way to feel inspired than a giggle session? Humor is one of the greatest forms of storytelling. And when you have only 30 seconds or less, if you can get a laugh, you’ve managed to break through the noise.

This video showcases some of the funniest commercials to ever grace the airwaves. With concepts such as “why baked beans aren’t for astronauts” or using dachshund dogs in a Heinz ketchup ad, the humorous possibilities are endlessly entertaining.

This clip is a great video to inspire creators to insert comedy into advertising.

16. Big Think: How Apple and Nike Have Branded Your Brain

“Coke is just soda and Levis are just jeans… yet consumers go out of their way to select these specific brands over others.”

This video dives into the power and influence major brands like Apple can have on consumers’ ability to make decisions. How do we decide what to buy? What influences our everyday choices?

How does branding affect the brain – and how, as advertisers, can we tap into that psychological realm of brand building?

17. What is Creativity?

When we make art or something of beauty, what are we actually doing? Aside from being a visual inspiration in itself, this video asks what “creativity” truly is and what universal powers are we harnessing when we access it.

For those hoping to find sources of inspiration, this spoken-word-esque video by Jason Silva may inspire a whole new way of thinking. Rather than looking for outside forces or objects to inspire us to be more creative, is it possible to take what we’ve already seen and experienced and translate that into something beautiful?

Is creativity about “transcribing” what we’ve taken in from the world around us?

18. Creativity for All

Looking for some motivation? This video compilation puts together snippets of speeches, quotes, and talks by disruptive creators throughout history. This short video offers inspiration and motivation for better creativity.

“Not every project will survive. A life in the arts is sometimes like putting messages in bottles on a desert island and hoping that someone will find it and read it.”

This video is great to watch to help inspire a passion for creativity and continuing to persevere through both failed projects and success.

19. The Century of the Self

Do Freud’s theories of our deepest thoughts and desires play a part in advertising and marketing? Of course!

The “Happiness Machines” installment of the series, The Century of the Self, looks at how people and corporations in power used psychology and human behavior to produce desired outcomes. How do you make people want things? Tap into those good old unconscious desires!

20. MasterClass: Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein Teach Advertising and Creativity

“It’s the business of rejection. You have to expect it every day.”

Advertising veterans Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein teach this valuable MasterClass on creativity and advertising. From pitching ideas and branding to breaking the rules and thinking with innovation, this video class promises to teach you to create your best and most creative work ever.

“Any commercial starts with finding the truth within the problem.”  It’s not about convincing someone to buy something they don’t need but creatively helping them see why they do and how your product can help.

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Bonus: What Women Want

The corny millennium-era rom-com follows Nick Marshall (played by Mel Gibson), a powerful advertising executive who acquires the magical ability to hear women’s thoughts.

As he tries to outwit colleagues with his new insight, he learns that advertising (and love, of course) isn’t just about fulfilling a need – but that without integrity and authenticity, it will fall flat.

These documentaries include some of the best video content on advertising and should help inspire your creative ideas. Did we miss any of your favorites? You can always let us know via Twitter: @rvwstudio

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