Just look at you, getting all choked up in the middle of your Duck Dynasty marathon, because an insurance ad — yes, an insurance ad — managed to hit all the right buttons. What kind of grade-A sucker are you?
Well, you're our kind of grade-A sucker. Honestly, we love a good 30-second spot that brings forth tears of joy and sorrow. There's nothing like those miniature tours through themes of life, death, love, and triumph to get us out of our day-to-day cynicism and feeling some actual feelings.
Well, we hope you've got some hankies handy, because we rounded up our favorite happy-sad cry-time commercials. Get ready to feel all the emotions — every single one of them.
What we've got here is a prime example of the ol' "time flies" commercial trope. You know it: A couple do a meet-cute on the street and, after some nifty camera work, makeup, and CGI, watch their daughter play with their grandchildren 15 seconds later, because they always had Allstate insurance looking after them. This format works gangbusters when it comes to coffee ads for Father's Day, graduation-themed pitches, and, here, Mother's Day. Throw in a cover of Yaz's "Only You," as performed by a very Iron and Wine-ish Joshua Radin, and you've got tear-stained gold!
Speaking of mothers, we definitely got all kinds verklempt the first time we saw this emotional reminder that behind most great Olympians (and most bad ones) is a dedicated, loving mom. Now, granted, P&G dropped the ball — so to speak — here when it called being a mom a "job." Nonetheless, we all wanted to thank our mommies after watching this baby (and wiping the snot from our noses).
We're not running that Sarah McLachlan ASPCA commercial. We love you too much. Instead, here's a doggie-adoption spot from Pedigree that actually shines a ray of hope on the whole issue while, of course, still making you weep like a baby. Who wants to go down to the shelter right now?
Now here's a father-daughter take on the "time flies" formula. With so many solid examples of the trope out there, it's actually getting pretty stale (though this modified one is a goodie). The gum spot in front of you, however, has a great little ending that made us gulp so hard, our throats hurt for hours.
Here's another dad ad — again, with an adorbs little girl — that'll give you a decent case of the blubbers. As you push through this list (and slowly dehydrate as you sob), you'll notice that father figures are big in the weepy-commercial genre. Is it because, traditionally at least, dads are the more absent parent? Something to think about.
And while we're on the subject of absentee fathers, here's the absolute winner. Expedia gets us right in the gut with a dad talking about his "expectations" for his daughter, his misapprehensions about her wedding to another woman and — gulp — his eventual heartwarming acceptance. Tears!!!
Unlike the previous gay-marriage-themed ad that was selling cheap airline tickets, this gay-marriage-themed ad is selling, well, gay marriage. Perhaps, if you're against extending marriage rights to everyone, you won't tear up. Then again, if you're against extending marriage rights to everyone, you're really missing out on a lot of opportunities to weep with joy, aren't you?
"Are you Santa Claus?" Are you serious? How are we supposed to watch RuPaul after this?
Pregnancy, babies, and marriage always give us a case of the sniffles. Is it that so many of us aspire to experience those things? Is it that we've been conditioned to care? Is it that...oh, sorry, we've got something in our eyes here. Look, whatever, just give us five ultrasound machines.
Again with the babies! Google, as you'll learn later, is particularly good at squeezing tears out of us in the name of promoting web services everyone already uses. It's cruel in a way. In any case, if you knew someone who was totally Googlizing their daughter's entire childhood, you'd probably hate them. Within the context of 90 seconds, however, it's so adorable that we could die.
We haven't quite zeroed in on what makes this animated Chipotle commercial a three-hanky affair. The imagery and message are certainly on-point, and the whole thing gushes with hope. Honestly, though, the most likely culprit is the Willie Nelson cover of Coldplay's "The Scientist." It's also remarkable how a commercial for tacos manages to avoid tacos altogether.
Hugs are great, particularly when the huggers (huggies?) haven't seen each other in forever. This is what makes the arrival area of airports showcases for intense positive emotions, despite the fact that they're always located in the middle of, you know, airports. Anyway, there are so many hugs in this airline ad that we wound up needing one (go figure).
Is this now-legendary, progressive Cheerios commercial an actual weeper? On paper, it's just another one of the brand's cute, low-cholesterol-touting spots. But when one adds in the political and racial context behind it, and it's subtextual message — that interracial families are just as loving (and cute) as any other — the tears come. Adorableness 1, racism 0.
Oh, good God — our liberal hearts are just drowning in sweet, salty tears. Now, this spot underlining the fact that there's a 1-in-5 chance that children without clean drinking water won't reach age 5 would be unbearably maudlin if not for its star, Nkaitole, who's such an adorable little munchkin. Yes, every kid, everywhere, should have access to clean drinking water, and the chance for a long, colorful life. They should also all be this cute.
Ooof. Now maybe this one will pass you by if you're not the son of a father (or the father of a son), but it totally took us out. The big turnaround reveal on this is kind of obvious, but it's still dead-on. Damn you, Robinson drinks!
Did you know that Skype has done ads? It's true! It's also managed to reach deep into our chests and rip out our hearts with this tale of an "impossible" family portrait brought to life with its service and a projector? Normally, we wouldn't be cool with using genocide to sell things, but we're so swelled up with good feelings, we can't even be bothered to object.
We're not sure how this mix of childhood whimsy and Gene Wilder made us all red around the eyes, but it did. Quit looking at us like that!
Okay, quick explanation: It seems that epic, gritty, emotionally devastating commercials that tap into the best (and heart-wrenchingly worst) parts of familial relationships are like a thing in Thailand. Whereas in the United States, pinning a sales pitch for health insurance to a narrative featuring a deaf/mute father, a troubled daughter, and an attempted suicide would be morally reprehensible, in Thailand, it's just another Tuesday in prime time. Prepare to gush and hate the Thai insurance industry.
How're you doing after that? Okay? We know — it was rough for a while there. Well, maybe you'll want to grab another beach towel to soak up your tears, because here's another Thai insurance commercial. Frankly, we'll give you respect if you get through the first 30 seconds.
Yeah, sorry about that. We're going to wrap up our Thai triple feature with this awe-inspiring, Oscar-worthy tale of triumph over adversity that will make you want to call your father, chase your dreams, and buy shampoo.
Okay — enough with the mopey Thais. Let's get back to America, blue skies, and puppies! Here we learn that inside every good dog is a great dog, and that inside every one of us is a weepy sucker who falls for this kind of stuff every goddamn time.
With a backing track of Band of Horses' "The Funeral," this entry already starts out pretty high on the emotional-manipulation scale — but it's all for a very good cause. In terms of ads that make you cry and make you think, this example comes second to none.
Okay, this one starts out a lil' bit on the creepy side. But you have at least half a brain, so you can see where it's headed (that is, a supersweet, teary, last-second reveal).
Look, whatever your personal feelings about the wars we've fought (and the one we may be about to fight), we can all agree that most of the people in our armed forces deserve more respect than they actually ever receive for doing what is asked of them. No matter where we send them, all their homecomings should be at least as good as this.
It's kinda sweet and touching when you're too filled up with emotion to say what you really feel. Luckily, there's the postal service. Thanks, guys!
As you're learning, love and death have a strange way of bringing forth the happy tears. This one's a real killer in that respect. Honestly, this lady is so charming when speaking about her late husband and their relationship, we kinda want our funerals to play out this way (except for the whole dying-early thing).
Tinkling pianos. Parisian love. Long-distance relationships. Connective technology. Babies! This one's got it all, except pictures. Making us well up without even showing us an image of some doofy American dude and a French fille progressing from first date to delivery room? Well played, Google. Well played.
And here's Google messing with your heart again, thanks to a daughter at college, a widowed father, and some very touching Gchats. Too much death! Too much love! Too much Nick Drake!
Singing! Joy! Togetherness! We want to go to there!
And here we are folks, the most bittersweet and cry-tastic commercial out there. Every little bit of the formula is put to work here — everlasting love, aging, lovely cinematography, cute dogs, hope, death, flowers, music obviously written by a particularly sad Chris Martin, beautiful European locations, cured meats. It's practically a poem. It makes us want to hug all the people, and buy all the things.