The Coolest 2D Animated Commercials of All Time
Enjoy these genius examples of marketing animation
Trends may come and go, but animation is here to stay. It’s an artform with a history that stretches back centuries, and it has arguably never been more popular. We see animation and motion graphics everywhere these days—in movies, TV shows, on social media, websites and more. Of all the forms of animation, 2D animation is the one with the longest backstory, stretching back to the 19th Century. Here we’re going to look at one our favorite uses of the artform—2D animated commercials.
Traditional animation techniques creates the illusion of movement by using successive still images, each one a step forward from the previous one. Originally this was done using hand-painted cels, but it is now more commonly achieved via digital animation with 2D animation software.
Ever since Walt Disney took 2D animation into the mainstream via the big screen, it has captured the hearts of millions of people. Walt Disney Studios might have since expanded to focus more on 3D animation and blockbuster feature films, but 2D animation is still big business. Through advertising and marketing, 2D animation has the ability to define brands and products and make them stand out from the competition.
The following videos display some of the best 2D animated commercials ever created and show the huge impact that a well animated advert can have.
Seven of the Best 2D Animated Adverts of All Time
Red Bull Gives You Wiiings
It has to be said, the original Red Bull animated adverts are a masterclass in how to establish a brand message and identity with an ad campaign. This traditional animation series uses hand-drawn characters in a variety of situations, all with one thing in common—at some point they chug a can of Red Bull, grow wings, and do something extraordinary.
It’s an incredibly simple idea that the company has been able to squeeze a huge amount of mileage out of and create a whole series of animated videos around. The line drawings and minimal use of color give it a look that has become inseparable from the brand, and the omission of dialogue means that it has been able to easily travel between cultures and languages. Red Bull might have spread its tentacles out into many different kinds of marketing ventures, but these original animated commercials are still its most memorable and effective.
Coca-Cola: A coke is a coke is a coke
The NFL Superbowl is the single most watched broadcast in the United States every year, and it is one of the most viewed sporting events worldwide. For this reason, the commercial breaks are some of the most coveted advertising spots that exist, and companies clamor each year to produce the most memorable and eye-catching adverts for these slots. The fact that in 2019, Coca-Cola ran a 2D animated commercial for its spot shows that the animation market is as strong as ever.
Coca-Cola used a retro style of animation, added some deft modern touches, and combined them to reflect its idea that Coke is for everyone and diversity is to be embraced. The color palette is minimal and on brand, and the sound effects actually made us thirsty. This advert showed that 2D animation still belongs on the biggest of stages.
Nike: Dream Team
This animated commercial is from way back in 1992 and we love it for multiple reasons. It was made by Nike for the 1992 Olympics for the U.S.A. basketball ‘Dream Team’. 1992 was the first year that players who were active in the NBA league were allowed to play in the Olympic team, and the result was that the U.S.A. had a team that was unstoppable and demolished the opposition.
To mark the occasion, Nike turned the players into an anime style exaggerated versions of themselves. The character animation is amazing, and their over the top bulging muscles are really reminiscent of the era. We like how it uses the principles of animation to make the players do things that are physically impossible (like turning into a bull, or spinning the opposing players round on a basketball), but that we can totally imagine them doing. We’re not sure if this commercial had anything to do with the live action and animation Space Jam movie that came out in 1996, but we like to think it was the original inspiration.
If you think you recognize the voice that is singing in this Oreo commercial, then it’s probably because you do. For this 2D animated commercial, Oreo commissioned the musician Owl City to pen a song especially for it. You might think that the advert is aimed at children, but the creators made it with adults in mind. We guess they understand that adults also love insanely cute animated 2D cartoons.
The theme of the advert is basically asking what would happen if you gave an Oreo to an otherwise mean or scary creature—the big bad wolf, a vampire, and a great white shark. Of course, the result is that the creatures become friendly and cool. The color palette, animated lettering, and motion animation are all gorgeously executed, and we imagine that the animation team had an awesome time working on this commercial.
Nespresso on Ice
The best commercials are the ones that instantly transport you to another place and headspace. Inside a mere 30 seconds, this 2D animated advert for Nespresso on Ice takes you to the side of a lake, then overlooking a marina, and finally sets you aboard a yacht. The sound effects are so on point, with ice cubes rattling around in a glass while coffee is poured over them.
It uses bright colors and sharp vector graphics throughout, and it seamlessly glides from scene to scene with minimal movement. We think it’s a perfect example of how you can use digital animation to really bring a product to life and create a feeling around it. If you’re asking how you can make your own product a mood, then this Nespresso commercial should be your blueprint.
Rick & Morty: Sony PS5
Using celebrities and well-known figures to sell products is nothing new and is one of the most standard advertising and marketing practices we can think of. However, it’s not so often that the celebrities are animated cartoon characters (unless they are the mascots of the product, as with many breakfast cereal products). The way that Sony has used Rick and Morty to plug the PS5 console is incredibly smart and funny.
This commercial appeared on Adult Swim—which is like the Cartoon Network for mature audiences—and it really plays up to the market. It forgoes any kind of special effects or pizazz and it’s very meta in tone. Morty tries to explain some of the features of the console while Rick is in the background busily counting the money they have been paid to hawk the product. They expose the way advertising works, and in the process make an honest, authentic and effective commercial.
Gatorade: The Boy Who Learned to Fly
This isn’t as much an animated commercial as it is a short animated feature film. Produced by Gatorade, it shows the kind of boundary pushing creative marketing content that can be put out there by forward-thinking companies. The seven minute long 2D animation video tells the story of the life of Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world.
It’s an exhilarating and heartwarming tale that animation really brings to life and that shows the power of 2D animation at its best. To recreate this story using live-action actors would not only be very expensive but also extremely difficult. Also, it would be hard to recreate the scene at 5.30 when Usain runs on clouds… Hats off to Gatorade for making this short film happen and showing what an amazing storytelling technique animation can be.
I’m inspired! How do I make my own 2D animated commercial?
Hopefully now that you have seen just what can be achieved with 2D animation and realized the impact it can have for a brand. If this has inspired you to create your own 2D animated commercial, then we are delighted.
When you’re someone who already has a level of experience, learning how to animate can be a cinch—you can jump straight into using animation software and animation tools to get started. If you’d like a bit more guidance, you could take an online animation course or take part in the Vectornator Academy to push your skills to the next level.
So get out there and get started—you’ll be a cartoon animator in no time!