"1971, and a pair of chimpanzees dressed as removal men carry a piano down some stairs. 1974, and a bunch of cackling Martians are sitting in a spaceship discussing mashed potato. 1993, and pianos fall out of the desert sky while a fat man painted gold strews marbles in front of a speeding car. 1999, the crests of waves transform into gigantic white horses. Move over Dali, the admen are in town."
From an article in Campaign which asks the question:
Is using surrealism in ads the work of lazy creatives or a genuinely effective way of getting a message across?
10.Orangina 'animal lust' by FFL
Anthropomorphised creatures straddling spouting bottles of Orangina, from the dark wit of the Paris-based duo Fred Raillard and Farid Mokart.
9. Cheestrings ‘Mr Strings’ by Fallon, 2009
One of the more recent ads out of the surrealist stables, the ominous presence of 'Mr Strings' makes for bizarre viewing
8.Tango ‘orange man’ by HHCL, 1992
A prime example of the humorous power of surrealism, this HHCL ad became a classic of its time
7.Starburst ‘bus stop’ by TBWA\Chiat\Day New York, 2007
Proving itself to be full of surrealist ideas, this spot from TBWA\Chiat\Day featured a very lively singing elf with a passion for berries and cream
6.Guinness ‘surfer’ by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, 1999
5.Cadbury Dairy Milk ‘gorilla’ by Fallon, 2007
Proving surrealism was the order of the day for awards juries, this ad, featuring the now famous drumming gorilla, scooped all the top gongs in 2008
4. Skittles ‘touch’ by TBWA\Chiat\Day New York, 2007
The surreal tale of Tim, who turned everything he touched to Skittles, went on to win gold at Cannes
3. Guinness ‘fish on a bike’ by Ogilvy & Mather, 1997
A combination of tanned surfers and CGI technology made for an award-winning, visually confounding ad
2.Stella Artois ‘bench’ by Lowe London, 2005
Three men suffer surreal fates when they give in to the temptation of tasting Stella's forbidden fruit
1.Benson & Hedges ‘iguana’ by CDP, 1978
A helicopter, an iguana - all unexplained but an ingenious way of avoiding restrictions from the golden age of CDP
Surrealism in advertising is not a recent trend it's been roaming around adland since the 1930s.
Companies such as Shell and Ford were already referencing surrealist art in their poster campaigns, with Ford's V8 ad carrying a Rene Magritte-esque eye, and Shell's 1938 "zero" poster featuring similarly inspired imagery.
"Surrealism in advertising is nothing new, but this shouldn't surprise anyone, should it? British culture has always been in love with the absurd. From Alice In Wonderland to The Goon Show, to Monty Python to The Mighty Boosh; the ridiculous and the surreal has formed the bedrock of our sense of humour for hundreds of years. Our Germanic cousins laugh at fart gags, the French love slapstick but show a Brit two grown men hitting each other with oversized fish and we'll be rolling in the aisles. Using surrealism in advertising isn't some clever, modern trick or trend, it's just writing that plays to the uniquely British love of the absurd. Perhaps it's because absurdity is so fundamental to our culture that it took the French to intellectualise it and give it a name. To the British, "surrealism" is frequently just another word for "funny".
Not sure about that one, surrealism = funny. I think there's more to it than that, but I do agree with a fascination with the absurd.