Farewell, 2018! There are many reasons we're happy to see you go, but it was also a breakout year for creativity. To ring in the new year, the editors of Ad Age's Creativity are counting down the best brand ideas across a range of categories.
We begin with a look at the TV and film category, which was full of irreverence, expert craft, ingenuity and even some daring, which has been in otherwise short supply. These ads, for an array of brands in categories ranging from retail and cleaning products to tourism and femcare, defied convention and ultimately showed how the scariest moves can be the most powerful.
10. 7-Eleven, The Land of Chlamydia
Agency: Morgenstern, Oslo
This controversial social film from 7-Eleven Norway and Oslo agency Morgenstern riled the country's tourism board because it billed the nation not only as home to natural wonders but also as the "land of chlamydia," for its high rates of the STD. The campaign, which also included print ads that ran throughout the country, got a lot of buzz for a brand that doesn't get talked about a lot. It even landed a segment on "Last Week Tonight With John Oliver."
The marketing behind Netflix's "Stranger Things" has built out the show's story beyond the typical series framework as fans wait for more episodes to drop. This 90-second film promoted the new Starcourt Mall coming to Hawkins, Indiana, where the show is based. It took viewers way, way back to when malls were still thriving shopping and social meccas, featuring retailers like Waldenbooks and Sam Goody. It aired online with no reference to the series itself -- save for the fact that it was shared on the show's social platforms and featured a cameo from one of the show's stars, Joe Keery. The film followed another excellent marketing push, a tie-up with Schwinn to sell a limited-edition Stranger Things" bikes that sold out within a week.
No. 8: Tourism Australia, "Dundee: The Son of a Legend Returns Home"
Agency: Droga5 New York
Earlier on this list we saw a "tourism" ad that was actually a retail play and now, here's an entertainment play that was actually a tourism ad in disguise. Droga5 delivered one of the best surprises during this year's Super Bowl when it pulled together an impressive lineup of celebrities to star in movie trailers promoting what appeared to be a new "Crocodile Dundee" film--but it all turned out to be an effort beckoning Americans to visit Australia. The day following the Super Bowl, the trailer racked up the most online views on our Viral Video chart, and according to one study ranked among the best Super Bowl campaigns in terms of both entertainment value and efficacy. The campaign went on to earn a Titanium Grand Prix at Cannes.
No. 7: Amazon ,"Alexa Loses Her Voice"
Agency: Lucky Generals
Amazon scored big at the Super Bowl with this entertaining ad imagining a world gone awry when A.I. assistant Alexa loses her voice and celebrities like Rebel Wilson, Cardi B., Anthony Hopkins and Gordon Ramsey step in to sub. Even Jeff Bezos made a cameo. The spot, created by London shop Lucky Generals and directed by Hungry Man's Wayne McClammy, earned the top spot in USA Today's Super Bowl Admeter.
No. 6: Libresse, "Viva La Vulva"
Agency: AMV BBDO
Essity's Libresse continued to defy fem-care marketing taboos with this joyous, celebratory ad featuring an array of singing "vulvas," represented as conch shells, fortune cookies, papayas and more. While promoting the brand's body wash line, the ad also serves as a commentary on the increasingly popular trend of "designer vaginas" and aims to encourage women to love their privates just as they are. Directed by Somesuch's Kim Gehrig, the spot follows Libresse's Cannes Lions Grand Prix-winning "Blood Normal" film, which also appeared on this list last year.
No. 5: Nike, "Nothing Beats a Londoner"
Agency: Wieden & Kennedy London
Nike's expertly crafted ad, created out of Wieden & Kennedy, London and directed by Megaforce, showcased the tremendous athletic talent that can emerge from the city of London's gritty environs. The spot suffered controversy early on -- the company ended up pulling it due to legal challenges surrounding its use of the abbreviation "LNDR," which had been trademarked by another brand. Nevertheless, the film went on to earn the first Cannes Lions Social/Influencer Grand Prix this year as well as Titanium.
Childish Gambino, aka the multi-talented Donald Glover, and long-time filmic collaborator Hiro Murai, created this brilliant work of protest art -- the music video for the single "This Is America." The film had the world talking at the time of its release, with its heady juxtaposition of culture (Glover's dancing, choir members singing) and terror (there are graphic depictions of shootings at the hands of Glover himself). It's a thought-provoking fever dream that lays bare the injustices and seemingly inescapable violence that continue to plague our country and shape the black experience in America.
No. 3: Apple, "Welcome Home"
Agency: TBWA/Media Arts Lab
Apple's captivating musical short promoting its Homepod directed by Spike Jonze and starring FKA Twigs was arguably the year's most superbly crafted brand film. A riveting behind-the-scenes video that followed its release revealed the extensive expertise, including Jonze's meticulous attention to detail, the choreography, art direction, set design and more, that went into pulling it off. The film earned Apple the Cannes Lions Branded Entertainment Grand Prix in music as well as multiple Gold honors.
No. 2: Tide, "It's a Tide Ad"
Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi New York
Tide's 2018 Super Bowl extravaganza challenged and entertained viewers throughout the entire game. Saatchi & Saatchi and directing collective Traktor created four commercials, each of which posed as a pitch for something else (with the help of "Stranger Things" actor David Harbour, Old Spice front man Isaiah Mustafa, Mr. Clean and even a Clydesdale). From the first spot on, P&G had viewers wondering which of the Big Game spots would ultimately turn out to be a Tide ad. The campaign went on to earn the 2018 Film Grand Prix and Titanium at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
No. 1: Nike, "Dream Crazy"
Agency: Wieden & Kennedy Portland
Nike took a powerful stand when it stood by controversial football player Colin Kaepernick in a powerful tweet and this subsequent two-minute film featuring the message, "Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything."
The move dropped Nike into the center of a cultural storm, but ultimately shifted the marketing conversation and helped to propel sales, earning the brand Ad Age's Marketer of the Year title. The overall "Dream Crazy" effort is a series of spots that highlight how athletes have made their aspirations a reality through hard work, perseverance and defiance. Though it's part of Nike's 30th anniversary celebration of the "Just Do It" tagline, after three decades the line has never felt fresher.