Welcome to the era of non-ad ad films

16 December 2020 | Radhika for Red Bangle

Ad films that are not ad films

1960 – the beginning of what is now credited as ‘the golden era of advertising’ saw some of the most innovative campaigns ever produced. With USP driven narratives, personalization of ads took a giant leap. Storytelling was at the forefront like never before. Ever since, the advertising industry has been mutating with rapid advancements – starting with the advent of internet-driven ads, moving on to ads for adaptable screens such as mobiles and tablets – and now, advertising to a new breed of users – the digital natives.

However, somewhere along the way, ad films lost their charm – marketers focused more on mimicking what worked for a different brand like there was a set formula to video ads. So much so, that now, we hate being interrupted by these pesky little attempts at advertising. Think about it – how many ‘skip ad’ buttons have you clicked today?

Everything is not lost though. Shining a glimmer of hope is a format that seems like a homage to the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s with a 21st-century twist – Branded Narratives. These are ‘ads’ that are breaking out of the traditional obsession of centering narratives around the brand, and lean more towards connecting with the audience at an emotional level. Brand names are almost an afterthought. These are ads that entertain just as much as they inform.

Why are traditional ad films not working anymore?

With digital media invading our lives at a highly personal level, there is an influx of ads – as video content, static posts, or audio clips. These ads are strategically placed between videos we are intently watching or appear as those annoying pop-ups we all dislike. 

Nobody wants to be interrupted and nobody wants to be told repeatedly what to buy or which brand to consider for their toilet paper. And the way the algorithms works: you’d see the same ad on your newsfeed almost every time you open your application. 

According to this article, 7 out of 10 people find ads annoying and take steps to avoid advertisements. In short, the traditional ad films are just not working anymore.

Bad news for marketers and advertisers?

Oh come on, it’s not all gloom and doom. The way around this is producing some kickass potentially viral branded narratives.

The workaround is to produce ad films that trick your brain into thinking that it’s watching a piece of art – a story that is so engrossing that it engages the target audience emotionally, tying it all in at the close with a single brand proposition.

Here are my pick of 6 brands that got this format right:

Renault The New Clio (2019) Ad Film


The story follows 2 girls who grow up together and later realize that they are in love with one another. The ambient sounds of laughter, the father berating his daughter, church bells ringing, rain, etc. are overshadowed by a rendition of The Wonderwall, originally by the Oasis.

The first car visible is an older Renault model, a hatchback used by one of the girl’s fathers and the film ends with the couple unloading the latest release (Clio). It’s only around 1:53 that the Renault logo shows up in the bottom-right of the screen and at 2:04 that you realize that it was an ad film you just saw.

One can argue that the brand did make its appearance as a logo on the father’s car from time to time. But it was never in focus and got overshadowed by the emotions, the music, and the subtle-yet powerful visuals.

The mood that the film sets, is something we are familiar with. We’ve seen countless love stories with similar narratives and so our brain does not reject it as immediately as it would a traditional ad film. The ad garnered 3,508,281 views on YouTube and was made viral on social media. 

Zain (2017) Ad Film


This ad-film has 2 contrasting moods: the darker that follows what appears to be a suicide bomber getting ready to commit an act of terror, and the other is full of hope, represented by visuals of a couple getting ready to get married, a grandfather playing with a child, and so on. 

It approaches advertising like musical theatre does – where victims of real bombings and terror attacks are trying to convince the bomber that violence and terror is not the way. Rather, the path to worship is through love and peace. 

The footage from the bombings and the shots of victims looking straight at the camera is powerful and quite frankly, gave me goosebumps.

It’s only at 3:07 of the film that you realize it’s an ad by Zain, a Kuwait-based telecom giant. This film got 22,067,704 views on YouTube. What surprised me while watching this was that it ended up being a brilliantly conceptualized piece of advertising, after all.

Bouygues Christmas Commercial (2018)


This ad film follows a father and son through their relationship over the years where the father is a charming and eccentric man trying to help his son navigate life.

This narrative is not unique. There have been many films in popular culture that deal with the father-son relationship. But what makes this ad work are 2 things: the first would be the dad’s signature step to Redbone’s Come and Get Your Love that endeared him to me, and the other is the sound engineering. 

Notice how the track is mixed – sometimes appearing in the foreground and other times pushed to the back almost as though the music is coming from a closed room. The song is not ever-present. It is as much in the minds and hearts of the protagonist as it is in ours. 

And for me, that does the trick and I watch till the end only to find out that it’s a Christmas ad by Bouygues Telecom.

The Visible Invisible Ghost by Ikea (2020)


When I started watching this, it seemed to be a short film filled with trepidation. It had all the elements: the darkened color grading, the terror in the actor’s face, the door shutting itself, etc. In the end, it turned out to be an Ikea ad and it was nothing short of a horror film. This ad addresses a real problem in the lives of many women: domestic abuse.

The message is simple: every home should be a safe place. And Ikea’s logo shows up only 3 seconds before the ad ends. The brand really drives the message home and I, for one, will always remember this ad film.

Ghar Wali Diwali by Pepsi (2014)


Pepsi is known to make some beautifully creative advertisements. This 7-minute digital ad film evokes all the emotions of people living away from home during Diwali experience. The magic lies clearly in the performances, the scripting and the sepia tone of the flashback shots.

More Together (Pooja Didi) by Facebook (2020)


I can’t not bring up this ad film by Facebook that went viral. 7 and a half minutes and digital-first, we follow the story of Pooja, a young girl who runs a dairy center in Amritsar. She provides employment to those who’ve been left jobless during the Coronavirus pandemic.

This story could just as well be real. With everything happening around us, a ray of positivity is needed and this ad film does just that.

Our mission at Red Bangle is to revolutionize storytelling around the world. We specialize in producing films with disruptive narratives and a compelling story line. In short, we make ad films that establish brands as winners in the crowded marketplace. Here’s some of the work we’ve produced. Excited about the possibilities? Why not explore them together? Write to us at [email protected] today and let’s make an ad film!