The Next Chapter

Terry O'Reilly on 4 commercials that changed advertising

The host of CBC Radio's Under the Influence shares insider insights about the world of advertising in This I Know.
The host of CBC Radio's Under the Influence shares insider insights from his latest book about the world of advertising. (Sidney O'Reilly/Knopf)

Terry O'Reilly has spent more than 35 years studying the art of marketing. From the power of counterintuitive thinking to differentiating your business, O'Reilly is an expert when it comes to capturing customers' attention. The former copywriter continues to share his insights as the host of CBC Radio's Under the Influence and his latest book, This I Know: Marketing Lessons from Under the Influence, will help anyone understand the keys to good marketing strategy.

Here are the commercials that O'Reilly says forever changed the way we experience advertising. 

Coca-Cola gets sentimental in the 1970s

That is one of the all time classic ads in our business. I think the era it ran in, which was the early 1970s, was interesting. If you look at the people in that commercial, it is very diverse. It's women. It's men. It's people of different colours. It was coming out of the summer of love era of the late '60s and the Vietnam War was going on at that time. I think the sentiment of that ad was so powerful. 

Why the infamous 1984 Apple commercial was so effective

Apple is not in the computer business, Apple is in the personal empowerment business. That commercial created the platform from which Steve Jobs did everything. That commercial is about taking computer power from IBM and giving it to the average person. Ridley Scott directed that commercial. We, in the industry, had never seen scale like that before. He made one minute look like a movie. We never thought that a commercial could have that size, so that affected all of us.

How the Volkswagen Beetle became the world's most beloved Bug

I think that VW advertising of the early 1960s is the best advertising ever done because it took an ugly, cheap car — a German car in post World War II — and sold it to become the most beloved car in history. I love that ad because it was so simple. It really, in one image, said that Volkswagens were dependable. What is Volkswagen selling? Humble dependability. 

Why Michelin tires had it right the first time

The difference between "There is so much riding on your tires" and "The way forward" is that the first one is full of emotion. What it's saying is that those four patches of rubber are all that's between you and your family on the road. That is such a powerful statement to make. The best advertising creates an emotional response in people. It doesn't have to mean crying. It could be laughter. It could be affection. It could be worry. It has to be some visceral effect. 

Terry O'Reilly's comments have been edited and condensed.