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Choosing the 10 best ads of 2012 is a tough task. The line between "the great" and "the absolute best" is thin indeed.

As usual, there's a broad mix of comedy, drama and eye-popping special effects. Overall, it reaffirms our faith that the ad business holds some of the most talented creative people on the planet. Most of these ads are way more interesting than anything you'll see on TV or at the movies.

This ranking is entirely subjective: we looked at originality, entertainment value, and success stories. These were the brands and the campaigns that stood out. Congratulations to everyone who made the list. 

Some of the winners will be familiar. But seven of them are more obscure and you'll see them for the first time here, because broadcast TV in the U.S. is no longer the premier showcase for the world's best work. (Following the Top 10 list is a compilation of runners up that nearly made the cut but were ultimately rejected.)

The surprise at No.1? Well, if you haven't seen it -- and most people have not -- you're in for a treat.

 

10. Cartier: "L'Odyssιe de Cartier"

Beautifully crafted. Exquisitely shot. Epic in scale. Incredible attention to detail. And wonderfully silly. This story of a snow leopard's quest via golden dragon, giant Dali elephant, and 19th Century flying machine to meet the bejeweled Parisian babe of its dreams is completely entertaining.

9. Samsung: "The Next Big Thing Is Already Here"

This was the ad that perfectly positioned Samsung as the anti-Apple with the introduction of the Galaxy S III. The big, flat phone made iPhone 5 look small and dated, and this ad infuriated Apple fanboys worldwide.

8. Old Milwaukee: "Will Ferrell Super Bowl Spot"

Old Mil' never bought a Super Bowl ad, and aired this Ferrell skit only on local TV in the middle of nowhere. Yet it's been seen by millions on YouTube and elsewhere. The climax of an hilarious hidden-in-plain site media strategy by the brewer

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7. Chrysler: "Halftime in America" 

Chrysler won the Super Bowl in 2012 with this halftime ad that cleverly played off three themes: "Detroit in recession" from last year's Eminem ad; the presidential election campaign; and the Big Game itself. Republicans hated it. The fact that Clint eventually turned out for Mitt Romney and looked weird and crazy in the process proved that W+K successfully harnessed Eastwood's special brand of insanity in way that others could not.

6. Procter & Gamble: "Best Job,"

This was the ad that had the planet wiping away its tears during the Olympic games
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5. TNT: "A Dramatic Surprise On A Quiet Square"
It's the viral video of the year: 38 million people have viewed this candid camera epic in which innocent bystanders in a small Belgian town are subjected to an onslaught of American action movie cliches, simply because they pressed a button marked "Push to add drama."

 

4. Water Is Life: "#FirstWorldProblems,"

This spot was massive on Twitter in the days after it launched because it combined a social media strategy  the war on self-indulgent Twitter jerks  with a guilt-inducing message about real life in our Third World neighbor. And it didn't use the usual cliches (skeletal kids surrounded by flies) to do it. Instead, the spot credits the people it's trying to help with a level of ironic media literacy necessary to talk directly to the American cynic.

3. Nike: "Jogger," 

Nike wasn't an Olympic sponsor but it ambushed the games with this brilliant but simple commercial. We said when it launched that "this thoughtful, unexpectedly moving video of an overweight pre-teenager, Nathan, forcing himself to run down a lonely road in London, Ohio, is fantastic. Note that it's filmed in a single, unedited take."

2. NSPCC: "The $#*! Kids Say," 


1. The Guardian: "Three Little Pigs," 

What would happen if the fairy tale of the Three Little Pigs was a real, modern day event? Blown out of proportion by the media, and then fact-checked by bloggers and social media, it turns out that the "blow your house in" scandal has its origins in the mortgage crisis. Easily the most original idea of the year. Bravo
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