Best Movies About Advertising - Hero

The best movies about advertising and marketing of all time

TV shows and the best movies about advertising paint an interesting picture of the marketing world. Some take a documentary-style approach, shining a light on the genuine challenges marketers face every day. Others elaborate on how cut-throat the industry can really be.

Whether they’re designed for entertainment only (and success at the box office), or they’re brimming with educational nuance, many of these productions offer significant value. They can teach us how to reach our target audience, and think outside of the box in ad campaigns. 

The best tv shows and advertising movies are compelling because they demonstrate exactly how much work goes into ensuring brands can connect with their customers. 

Today, we’re going to list some of the best movies and TV series about advertising worth watching if you’re entering the promotional world. 

The best movies about advertising

Movies about advertising don’t have to focus exclusively on marketing. There are plenty of great examples out there with separate sub-plots. For the sake of entertainment, we’re not going to focus only on marketing documentaries in this list. 

Instead, we’re covering all of the top box office hits that offer viewers a taste of the versatile advertising industry. 

Let’s dive in. 

Best Movies About Advertising

1. What Women Want

Release date: December 15, 2000

Film studio: Paramount Pictures

Director: Nancy Meyers

IMDB reviews:

Cast members: Mel Gibson, Helen Hunt

Where to watch: Amazon

In 2000 smash-hit, “What Women Want”, Mel Gibson plays the star, Nick Marshall, a talented employee hoping to be promoted in his advertising firm. He’s struggling to get ahead of a new female employee, “Darcy”, who promises to bring a female perspective to the company. 

Nick’s managers pass an important woman’s clothing campaign over to Darcy, assuming she’ll do a better job for the brand. Nick frustrated decides he needs to understand women better, so he can compete. Fortunately, an electric shock grants him the ability to hear women’s thoughts.

Nick uses his new-found powers to undermine his coworker and re-establish himself as the leader at the firm. Fortunately, he does develop a conscience along the way. Whether you love it or hate it, the movie shares a great message about the value of understanding your audience

Best Movies About Advertising

2. How to Get Ahead in Advertising

Release date: May 5, 1989

Film studio: HandMade Films

Director: Bruce Robinson

IMDB reviews:

Cast members: Richard E. Grant, Rachel Ward

Where to watch: Amazon

This British black comedy film, directed by Bruce Robinson isn’t quite the same lighthearted romp as “What Women Want”, but it’s definitely worth checking out. Richard E Grant, the protagonist in the film, suffers a breakdown when supervising a TV advert for pimple cream. 

He goes on to rail against the dubious ethics of advertising, and eventually ends up with a huge growth on his shoulder. The growth develops a personality of its own, highlighting the character’s deteriorating mental state. 

This movie might not teach you much about how to master advertising, but it does offer an interesting look at how stressful the role can be. 

Best Movies About Advertising

3. Thank You for Smoking

Release date: September 9, 2005

Film studio: 20th Century Fox

Director: Jason Reitman

IMDB reviews:

Cast members: Aaron Eckhart, Cameron Bright, Maria Bello

Where to watch: Amazon

Some of the best movies about advertising focus on satirizing the industry, and “Thank You for Smoking” is no exception. This adaptation of the 1994 novel by Christopher Buckley is exceptionally entertaining, and looks at the power of advertising from a new lens. 

A spokesperson for a Big Tobacco Company (Aaron Eckhart) is challenged with the task of selling cigarettes to a younger market with product placements in movies. When he’s kidnapped by anti-smoking activists, he doesn’t suddenly change his ways as you might expect. 

Instead, the character “Nick Naylor” seems to go in the opposite direction, launching a new advertising agency working with fast-food, oil, and biohazard clients. 

Best Movies About Advertising

4. Lover Come Back

Release date: December 20, 1961

Film studio: Universal Pictures

Director: Delbert Mann

IMDB reviews:

Cast members: Rock Hudson, Doris Day, Tony Randall

Where to watch: Amazon

Released in 1961, two years after the success of the movie “Pillow Talk”, Lover Come Back is a fun comedy, positioned in the advertising industry. Doris Day and Rock Hudson have amazing chemistry in this film, making it a worthwhile watch for any cinema fan. 

The movie tells the story of an arrogant advertising executive who pitches a campaign for a product that doesn’t actually exist. Desperate to find something he can sell, he hires a chemist to create something new, all while trying to romance an executive from a rival agency. 

Lover Come Back is filled with interesting tropes, outlandish coincidences, and a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor. It almost feels like an episode of Mad Men, without all the alcohol.

Best Movies About Advertising

5. Spinning Boris

Release date: October 23, 2003

Film studio: More to Explore

Director: Roger Spottiswoode

IMDB reviews:

Cast members: Jeff Goldblum, Anthony LaPaglia, Liev Schreiber

Where to watch: Amazon

2003 American film “Spinning Boris” is a comedy which claims to be based on the true story of three American political consultants. These consultants were apparently asked to assist with the re-election campaign of Boris Yeltsin (the Russian President), in 1996. 

The movie tells the story of a rebranding campaign, designed to help the president improve his problematic image. Although this movie is definitely a little outlandish, it does offer an insight into the power of research and presenting the right brand image. 

As an added bonus, this movie is packed with A-list stars like Jeff Goldblum, and it’s brimming with funny moments that are sure to resonate with any struggling marketer. 

Best Movies About Advertising

6. Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?

Release date: July 29, 1957

Film studio: 20th Century Fox

Director: Frank Tashlin

IMDB reviews:

Cast members: Tony Randall, Jayne Mansfield, Betsy Drake

Where to watch: Amazon

A spirited comedy starring Tony Randall as a TV commercial writer, “Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter” is sure to appeal to any marketing professional. The mild-mannered protagonist is struggling to save his firm, which is about to lose its biggest client. 

This satirical comedy includes Jayne Mansfield, playing a famous actress who might be able to save the account. However, Randall needs to first find a way to sign her as a spokesperson. It’s a great movie, packed with satire, wit, and delightfully fun moments. 

There’s even a montage at the beginning of the film, which shows a selection of fake television advertisements for expensive (but problematic) products. 

Best Movies About Advertising

7. Looker 

Release date: October 30, 1981

Film studio: Warner Bros.

Director: Michael Crichton

IMDB reviews:

Cast members: Albert Finney, James Coburn, Susan Dey

Where to watch: Amazon

If you’re looking for advertising movies that will get your heart racing, search no further. Looker, directed by Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park), stars Albert Finney as a Beverley Hills plastic surgeon. He believes a mysterious advertising firm is digitally copying fashion models and killing them. 

The doctor discovers that an antagonist is also developing a way to hypnotize customers into buying the products he advertises. The movie draws attention to many fears consumers had about subliminal messaging and unethical advertising practices in the past. 

Though Looker isn’t as popular today as it once was, it was the forerunner for a number of similar Hollywood movies where TV advertising is used to control users. Just look at “They Live”, for instance, released in 1988. 

Best Movies About Advertising

8. Putney Swope

Release date: July 10, 1969

Film studio: All Channel Films

Director: Robert Downey Sr.

IMDB reviews:

Cast members: Arnold Johnson, Stan Gottlieb, Allen Garfield

Where to watch: Amazon

Directed by Robert Downey Sr, this counterculture satire stars Arnold Johnson as the title character. Another satire for the advertising world, Johnson plays the lone black man on the executive board of an advertising firm. He’s accidentally put in charge of the company during a secret election. 

Johnson renames the agency “Truth and Soul” and fires his fellow board members. He also institutes a new policy preventing them from accepting business from companies that manufacture war toys, tobacco, and alcohol. 

Eventually, the U.S. Government takes notice, and declares the firm as a threat to the security of the nation. This is one of the best films from an aesthetic perspective. Though it’s shot primarily in black and white, the commercials in the movie appear in color. 

Best Movies About Advertising

9. The Agency

Release date: September 5, 1980

Film studio: Films RSL

Director: George Kaczender

IMDB reviews:

Cast members: Robert Mitchumm, Lee Majors, Valerie Perrine

Where to watch: Amazon

Another film with similar themes to “Looker”, The Agency, produced in 1980, stars a copywriter who discovers the agency he’s working for is brainwashing the public. Otherwise known as “Mind Games”, The Agency was based on a novel by Paul Gottleib. 

The Canadian Thriller didn’t get the best reception in theatres, but it offers an interesting insight into the power of advertising. The protagonist uncovers the subliminal messaging his company is using to force the public to support a sinister candidate in the Presidential election. 

Despite a relatively downbeat ending, we’d recommend watching this piece simply for the incredible acting of the main character in the movie. 

Best Movies About Advertising

10. The Social Network

Release date: September 24, 2010

Film studio: Columbia Pictures

Director: David Fincher

IMDB reviews:

Cast members: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake

Where to watch: Amazon

While the documentary-style movie, the “Social Network” might seem a little outdated now, it’s definitely something worth watching if you’re an entrepreneur or business owner. The movie tells the story of the rise of the world’s biggest social media brand. 

Throughout the film by David Fincher, we get an interesting insight into the challenges of naming a business, building a brand, and capturing customer attention. Plus, we also discover just how difficult it can be for entrepreneurs to stay humble when they discover a new, high standard of living. 

Though this movie focuses more on business development than the marketing industry, there’s a lesson or two to take away for advertising pros. 

Best Movies About Advertising

11. The Incredible Shrinking Woman

Release date: January 30, 1981

Film studio: Universal Pictures

Director: Joel Schumacher

IMDB reviews:

Cast members: Lily Tomlin, Charles Grodin, Ned Beatty

Where to watch: Amazon

Combining comedy, satire, and plenty of sci-fi, the Incredible Shrinking Woman is based on Richard Matheson’s classic novel. The movie follows Lily Tomlin, playing an average American woman, whose exposure to household chemicals cause to shrink from view. 

The husband of the main character in the movie, Charles Grodin, plays an advertising executive. He’s so busy trying to pitch new products to customers during the film, that he almost doesn’t notice his wife shrinking to the size of a Barbie doll. 

Probably the main lesson to take away from this movie is how easy it is for marketing professionals to lose track of what’s going on around them. 

Best Movies About Advertising

12. Cujo

Release date: August 12, 1983

Film studio: Warner Bros.

Director: Lewis Teague

IMDB reviews:

Cast members: Dee Wallace, Daniel Hugh Kelly, Danny Pintauro

Where to watch: Amazon

Everyone who watches Cujo tends to pay the most attention to the ultra-aggressive dog in the film. However, this movie adaptation of a horror novel written by Stephen King shares some insights into the marketing world too. 

In the film, an innocent executive at an advertising firm finds himself struggling to preserve his brand image after a production mishap. A small batch of red food coloring makes its way into the company’s cereal, causing children to vomit something that looks like blood. 

The press picks up on the issue and immediately start making matters worse. Even the company’s advertising slogan becomes the target of TV comedians. It’s a great insight into how a small mistake can quickly lose customer trust

Best Movies About Advertising

13. Crazy People

Release date: April 13, 1990

Film studio: Paramount Pictures

Director: Tony Bill

IMDB reviews:

Cast members: Dudley Moore, Daryl Hannah, Paul Reiser

Where to watch: Amazon

Another tale of an ad man struggling from mental health issues, Crazy People, released in 1990 covers the story of an advertising executive after he suffers a nervous breakdown. Overworked and overwhelmed, he starts creating campaigns using brutal honesty. 

Dudley Moore, the protagonist starts coming up with fun slogans to capture his audience’s attention, like “Fly United, most of our passengers get their alive”. Unfortunately, the somewhat comedic quotes lead to even more trouble for the exec. 

Eventually, he’s placed in a mental institution. Fortunately, the public responds positively to the ads, and the company starts to achieve amazing success. 

Best Movies About Advertising

14. The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

Release date: January 22, 2011

Film studio: Sony Pictures Classics

Director: Morgan Spurlock

IMDB reviews:

Cast members: J.J. Abrams, Peter Berg, Paul Brennan

Where to watch: Amazon

7 years after his troubling documentary into the health issues caused by fast food company, McDonald’s, Morgan Spurlock returned to the movie theatre. “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” was created with funding from corporate sponsorship, just to make things more interesting. 

The documentary film covers all of the issues with product placement and unethical ads in the modern world. It looks at just how desperate companies are to capture audience attention in the modern world, shining a light on the complexity of modern advertising. 

Although the movie didn’t get the best reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and similar channels, it’s still considered by many to be an eye-opening film.

Best Movies About Advertising

15. The Devil Wears Prada

Release date: June 22, 2006

Film studio: 20th Century Fox

Director: David Frankel

IMDB reviews:

Cast members: Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep, Adrian Grenier

Where to watch: Amazon

Known for the memorable quote “Florals? For Spring? Groundbreaking”, the Devil Wears Prada focuses heavily on the importance of branding and marketing. 

Although there are plenty of sub-plots about a woman trying to fit in with the crowd, and rediscovering love, there are valuable lessons to learn from this movie too. The movie provides an insight into the work that goes into creating the right marketing campaign. 

Throughout, we see examples of various characters, including both Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway, losing their identity as they struggle to hold onto brand equity

Best Movies About Advertising

16. Passion

Release date: September 7, 2012

Film studio: Entertainment One

Director: Brian De Palma

IMDB reviews:

Cast members: Rachel McAdams, Noomi Rapace, Karoline Herfurth

Where to watch: Amazon

2012 movie “Passion” is an erotic thriller written and directed by Brian De Palma. It stars Noomi Rapace and Rachel McAdams, in a tale all about the cut-throat industry of advertising. Unlike other movies about advertising, this one is a lot more aggressive. 

Noomi Rapace plays a mild-mannered copywriter whose boss steals credit for her viral ad campaign. This sets a gruesome series of murders in motion. We won’t give the full plot away, but there’s a lot of drama to look forward to in this story. 

You probably won’t walk away with any tips on how to create a compelling ad campaign after watching this film. However, it does show us just how dangerous advertising can be. 

The best TV series about advertising

While there are definitely plenty of great movies out there showcasing the behind-the-scenes work of the advertising industry, let’s not forget about TV. Television shows about advertising are almost as common as advertising movies. 

If you’re looking for something binge-worthy, here are a few TV shows about advertising worth watching in the months ahead. 

Best Movies About Advertising

1. Mad Men

Release date: July 19, 2007

Film studio: Weiner Bros. Productions, Lionsgate Television

Producer: Matthew Weiner

IMDB reviews:

Cast members: Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser

Where to watch: Amazon, AppleTV

Probably the one of the most famous shows about advertising of all time, Mad Men has won numerous awards over the years for its amazing storytelling. It’s part history lesson, part advertising school, and part philosophical debate, all rolled into one. 

The show primarily focuses on executive Don Draper, played by Jon Hamm. He introduces us to the political pressures and ethical issues influencing the advertising industry in the early years. You’re bound to learn a lesson or two about the power of influence here. 

Best Movies About Advertising

2. The Apprentice

Release date: January 8, 2004

Producer: Mark Burnett

IMDB reviews:

Cast members: Alan Sugar, Nick Hewer, Karren Brady

Where to watch: AppleTV

The Apprentice is one of the most popular shows in the world for a reason. It’s a documentary series which stars Alan Sugar, and 16 hopeful entrepreneurs hoping to get a great job. Most of the show focuses on the absolutely terrible decisions some of these contestants make. 

However, there are plenty of lessons to be learned here for marketers. The apprentice provides insights into how important it is to do your research, plan carefully, and collaborate in the advertising landscape. It’s well worth a watch.

Best Movies About Advertising

3. Keeping up with the Kardashians

Release date: October 14, 2007

Film studio: E!

Producers: Ryan Seacrest, Eliot Goldberg

IMDB reviews:

Cast members: Khloé Kardashian, Kim Kardashian, Kourtney Kardashian

Where to watch: Netflix, Amazon

Love them or hate them, you can’t deny the Kardashians are all about marketing. Kris Jenner is one of the most successful business owners out there. Plus, the various Kardashian kids know a thing or two about how to create a social phenomenon. 

Although you might not agree with all the things that the Kardashians use to build and maintain their fame, they have a lot to teach the advertising industry. Primarily, this show tells us just how important the right personal branding really is in the modern world. 

Best Movies About Advertising

4. Emily in Paris

Release date: October 2, 2020

Film studio: ParamountTV

Producer: Darren Star

IMDB reviews:

Cast members: Lily Collins, Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu, Ashley Park

Where to watch: Amazon

The comedy drama series, “Emily in Paris” hasn’t gotten the best reviews from every viewer, but it continues to produce new seasons, so it must be doing something right. In the show, the titular character, Emily works as the American representative in a marketing department in France. 

This show has some problematic areas, but it does offer some important insights to marketers about the value of social media and building your brand online. Emily also shares some important messages about the importance of engaging customers, and creating the right content. 

Best Movies About Advertising

5. The Crazy Ones

Release date: September 26, 2013

Film studio: CBS

Producer: David E. Kelley

IMDB reviews:

Cast members: Robin Williams, Sarah Michelle Gellar, James Wolk

Where to watch: Amazon

Not to be confused with “Crazy People”, above, “The Crazy Ones” is an American sitcom starring Sarah Michelle Geller and Robin Williams. If that’s not enough of a reason to watch it, we don’t know what is. The single-camera series earned a lot of attention over the years. 

In this show, we get a behind-the-scenes insight into the crazy world of the marketing industry, as the leading advertising executives try to connect with new clients. It’s a fun look at the complexities in the advertising landscape, and how difficult it can be to capture attention from businesses. 

Best Movies About Advertising

6. The Bold Type

Release date: June 20, 2017

Film studio: Freeform

Producer: Sarah Watson

IMDB reviews:

Cast members: Katie Stevens, Aisha Dee, Meghann Fahy

Where to watch: Amazon

If you’re looking for something a little more lighthearted (and a touch raunchy), “The Bold Type” might be the best series about advertising for you. It aired on a lot of platforms initially, including Amazon Prime and Netflix. The show is also inspired by the career of Joanna Coles. 

This show covers the lives of three women working for a magazine, and the advertising issues they face along the way. Obviously, there’s a lot more than just lessons on advertising to take away from this show. We get insights into relationships and friendships here too. 

Best Movies About Advertising

7. Marketing.Media.Money

Release date: May 6, 2016

IMDB reviews:

Cast members: James Wright, Tania Bryer, Karen Tso

Where to watch: CNBC

Finally, Marketing.Media.Money was a CNBC series produced in 2016. This is probably one of the most educational TV shows about advertising out there. The show covers behind-the-scenes interviews with genuine marketers and advertisers. 

Host Julia Chatterly speaks to a variety of executives for some of the biggest brands in the world, discussing the trends they’ve seen, and how they approach their work. The show’s library covers everything from media consumption habits to technological breakthroughs in advertising. 

Incredible advertising movies and shows

While not all of the television shows and movies about advertising mentioned above will teach you how to become a promotional expert, they’re still worth watching. 

Whether you’re looking for an insight into the hard work marketers need to do, or you want to learn more about how marketing strategies have evolved over the years, there’s something for everyone. 

The wide range of movies and advertising tv shows available in the world today shows just how compelling the world of advertising is. If nothing else, the examples above will give you a new perspective on this ever-changing industry. 

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