The best cinema ads of 2021

Digital Cinema Media has picked five of the best cinema ads of 2021 - so far - in celebration of the return of the big screen

The best cinema ads of 2021

September is usually when we celebrate the best cinema ad campaigns of the past year and reward the media agencies behind them with trophies and a fantastic party. This year, after the global pandemic shuttered cinema’s doors for nearly 16 months, the annual Digital Cinema Media Awards, run in partnership with Campaign, are taking a break.

However...we still want to showcase and champion the brilliant work that has made it to the big screen this year, so Digital Cinema Media has selected some of the best commercials that have run since audiences started returning to cinemas on May 17. One for each month that cinemas have been open.

The #BestSeatInMedia is back

There’s no better week to reveal these blockbuster ads than this, as the doors open on the delayed No Time To Die and Daniel Craig’s highly anticipated final outing as James Bond.

Even before this, point-of-sale ticket data delivered across DCM’s estate in real time from exhibitors such as Odeon, Cineworld, Vue, Picturehouse and Curzon shows that its audience numbers have hit 28 million admissions since reopening in May.

And these audience figures have attracted a range of advertisers across categories including telecoms, finance, automotive, food, drink, entertainment & leisure and travel & transport - all eager, says DCM CEO Karen Stacey, “ to take advantage of cinema’s unique, immersive offering, which delivers engaged and attentive young audiences.”

Picking just five of this year’s ads was “tough,” Stacey admits, noting a general trend for long-form copy as campaigns “truly maximise the power of the big screen and the cinema experience.

“It has been wonderful to get back to business and welcome brands back to the big screen; thank you to our industry friends and partners for the continued support,” she said. “The film slate for the rest of the year and into 2022 looks remarkable with a whole range of big cultural moments for brands to align with and continue engaging the diverse cinemagoing audience.”

The Digital Cinema Media Awards will be back in 2022.

Five of the best cinema ads of 2021 (so far)

Let us know what you think and join the conversation using #BestSeatInMedia

Brand: Ikea
Title: IKEA - Change a bit for good
Agency: iProspect

Ikea and a well-intentioned WALL-E Style robot call on consumers to do their bit to help save the planet

DCM chose this ad because…”The big screen is the best place to watch the greatest stories, and here IKEA has crafted a beautiful (and topical) narrative calling for a more environmental approach to consumption, even evoking Pixar’s WALL-E along the way.”

David Grainger, CSO, iProspect

Why cinema for this campaign?
“Ikea is for all of us, and its ad model is predicated on broadcast reach. Over lockdown, the rising popularity of subscription services has dented our ability to garner the attention of younger adults in linear TV. It used to be the case that cinema was too easy for a client or over-zealous planner to remove from the campaign, but with audiences returning to the big screen, it’s where IKEA want to be.”

What does it mean to have cinema back as a media option?
“Cinema is invitational. In a world of ad avoidance, it’s brilliant that we still invite the reel into our lives. Now cinema is back, I think we need to think hard about what we do with it. I’m bored of manifesto-style advertising. I really want advertising to be fun again.

"What I love about the IKEA ads from Mother is that they don’t waste a single frame; they pack so much in (including product). When we go to the cinema, we’re in escape mode, and I want to see more ads that dare us to dream, even if that dream is as modest as a new rug for the home office.”

Brand: BT Broadband
Title: Hybrid Connect
Agency: Essence

The ad marks BT’s latest offering - the UK’s first unbreakable home wi-fi, backed up by EE. It brings to life the frustrations of unreliable broadband in any scenario – whether you’re at home or at the cinema.
* The ad’s exclusivity rights only cover cinema, hence it is not included here.

DCM chose this ad because... “A bespoke cinematic content series, run in partnership with DCM Studios, was the perfect cinema exclusive campaign to welcome the return of the big screen, especially when over 88% of UK cinemas rely on BT broadband to bring the films you love to the big screen!”

Tim Irwin, CEO EMEA, Essence

Why cinema for this campaign?
“BT TV is all about giving people control to choose the content they really love. Cinema is the ultimate media for when people are excited about seeing something special [not just settling for the best of what happens to be on]. So, we wanted to talk to people in the moment when they're most excited about what they're about to see.”

What does it mean to have cinema back as a media option?
“We knew that people were super excited to get back in cinemas after all those months of staring at small screens and battling downloading issues. Given how BT broadband has such a major role in powering the cinema experience; we felt we could be part of that moment by welcoming people back to the best, most immersive experience in media. In a media world where lean-forward, wide-eyed attention is increasingly hard to come by, cinema is a great way for us to really reach people - not just interrupt them.”

Brand: Google
Title: Google UK: It Starts With Summer
Agency: OMD

Google’s summer campaign tells a story of freedom, anchored around its role in helping people find the answers – from the everyday to the epic.

DCM chose this ad because... “Another beautiful, emotive campaign which, when seen in its full two-minute glory on the big screen, was another reminder of cinema’s ability to showcase powerful storytelling!”

Laura Fenton, CEO, OMD

Why cinema for this campaign?
"With premium spots in the biggest movies of the summer, including Fast & Furious and Black Widow, we were able to add incremental reach, impact and stature to Google’s ground-breaking Search On campaign. The campaign celebrated the return to normality after lockdown and the role Google Search could play in providing inspiration for a summer of fun, so there was no better home than in cinemas, which were bouncing back to give the public unbeatable summer entertainment."

What does it mean to have cinema back as a media option?
"Cinema provides an unparalleled high-quality, surround-sound experience for audiences – and a captive widescreen canvas for long-form AV content. It allows advertisers to associate themselves with some of the most eagerly awaited cultural moments of the year – all the more powerful after 18 months of being starved of that big screen magic!"

Brand: KFC
Title: Love You Too
Agency: Mindshare

KFC’s latest campaign celebrates expressions of love for the brand, from KFC-themed weddings, colonel tattoos and fashion creations.

DCM chose this ad because… “Cinema is the most emotionally impactful medium, so where better to watch this celebration of the loving relationship with between KFC and its admirers?!”

Brand: Nike
Title: Play New
Agency: Mindshare

Nike’s “Play New” ad celebrates the joy of taking part in sport, reiterating that it’s not always the winning but taking part that counts.

DCM chose this ad because…”Cinema is great at creating cultural moments that are key drivers of conversations, and this 90” spot by Nike deserved to be seen on the big screen, inspiring cinemagoers to ‘Play New’ during the summer’s football frenzy!”

Jem Lloyd-Williams, CEO, Mindshare

Why cinema?
“Cinema provides this perfect storytelling stage – and, of course, delivers valuable incremental reach against our TV and VoD activity.”

What does it mean to have cinema back as a media option?
“The fact that cinema is back is great news. We have traditionally been a big supporter – relishing cinema’s drama and impact as a stage to tell brand stories. Planned well, cinema delivers hard-to-reach audiences and can deliver value for money, in terms of fame and scale. Consumers come to the cinema to be entertained – so we want to tap into that mindset for our clients.”

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