The 12 Types Of Commercials

Like con artists, TV ads love to come up against a naive mark who thinks he’s above their eerie powers of manipulation. But don’t worry–Slate is here to ruin your innocence, and make you all the tougher for it. Their slideshow, “There are 12 Kinds of Ads in the World,” draws back the curtains of modern advertising to reveal a classic piece of insider knowledge from one of the industry’s most famous ad men, Donald Gunn, one-time creative director for the renowned Leo Burnett ad agency.

We’re somewhat partial to the ads that tell little stories–or, as Gunn calls them, “exemplary story” ads, which he illustrates with the recent Volkswagen “car crash” spots:

It’s shocking and violent, but at heart it’s really just an exemplary story spot. Once upon a time, some people went for a ride in a Volkswagen, gabbed about trivial matters, got into a scary accident, and emerged unscathed–thanks to the VW’s excellent safety features. The end.

We like to think we’re pretty impervious to the effects of ads, and yet still we develop irrational affinities toward certain brands. (We even rooted for the Geico caveman before he got his own sitcom.) At least now, armed with this insider’s guide to the DNA of most every ad on TV, we can pick apart the mechanics while still laughing at that crazy gopher, lusting after that sexy cookie, or crying over that magic bottle of shampoo.

It’s not quite a peek at the inner workings of the Skull & Bones society, but it’s arguably far more useful for the average consumer. Check out the slideshow, and then you’ll be armed with one more tool to help endure another 2:20 break without being secretly zombified. (Disclaimer: you’ll probably still be zombified.)

There Are 12 Kinds Of Ads in The World [Slate]
(Photo: Nathan Callahan)


Edit Your Comment

  1. endless says:

    my brothers middle name is stephen donald gunn. kinda cool.

    i found that pretty interesting.

  2. endless says:

    @endless: errr.. his full name is stephen donald gunn.

    forgot to completely erase my first thought….

  3. CreativeLinks says:

    I have Tivo. Haven’t seen a commercial in years.

  4. DamnGn00bs says:

    Now, this just aggrivates the hell out of me. Due to reasons outside of my control I am still on dialup. There is nothing that this video presentation can not convey using just text, and yet I can not watch it because they just have to tell the whole thing on a youtube video. Hell, it wouldn’t even be *that* bad if they included a “download this clip” link, but they don’t even do that!

    It’s starting to feel like ’97 again with everyone assuming you have X, Y, and Z, and enjoy the blink tag… :(

    (Anyone care to summarize?)

  5. @DamnGn00bs: The 12 types are…
    1. The Demo
    2. Show the need or problem
    3. Symbol, analogy, or exaggerated graphic to represent the problem
    4. Comparisson
    5. Exemplary story
    6. Benefit causes story
    7. Tell it (presenter or testimonial)
    8. Ongoing characters and celebrities
    9. Symbol, analogy, or exaggerated graphic demonstrating benefit
    10. Associated user imagery
    11. Unique personality property
    12. Parody or borrowed format

  6. SpaynNeuter says:


    I feel your pain still being on dialup. The wonderful people who write Firefox extensions have solved our problem. To download any YouTube or Google videos, get Mozilla Firefox browser (if you don’t already have it), get extension called DownloadHelper, & learn how to use it (very easy). Then you will have to get an FLV player to play the videos. Google “flv player” and you’ll find plenty of free options.

    @Rectilinear Propagation:

    That was nice of you to post those points for DamnGn00bs!

  7. DamnGn00bs says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation:

    Thanks, man! Just the points alone are enough to tell what’s going on…

    (Suck that, YouTube!)

  8. andrewsmash says:

    At this point in my life, I have seen so many ads that when I am not analyzing them for content (Ex: the new scion ads with the sheeple – are we supposed to be rooting for the little demon guys?), I usually have no idea what product is associated with which ad. I know that I am not the average, but does advertising actually persuade anymore, or does it just reinforce the idea of “The products I use are cooler than the products you use”?