J. Walter Thompson London – KitKat
As the countdown to the festive season began in earnest, millions of Brits had one worried eye on the exhausting side of Christmas. On top of this, they had to contend with more and more banal Christmas ads, starting earlier and earlier, featuring traditional jingly bells, families around the turkey, re-recorded Christmas songs and all the usual Christmas schmaltz. So J. Walter Thompson London decided to take all of this Christmas-based antipathy and combined it with the long-running KitKat tagline “Have a break,” by giving us all a break from the usual Christmas crap with this wonderfully droll spot featuring actor Tom Hollander against a plain grey background. And nothing else. As a man largely indifferent towards the festive season, I was floored that nobody had done this sooner, but then, all the best ads should make you think that don't you think?
Y&R New York – MTV
In a bid to generate conversation and awareness in the fight against HIV and AIDS during World AIDS Day (1 December), the MTV Staying Alive Foundation and Y&R New York teamed up to create “Sext Life,” a tongue in cheek, faux-raunchy short film bringing sexting emojis to life in situations that would be rather risqué if they weren’t being acted out by giant emojis. In the 30-second spot, life-sized versions of the most common sexting emoji pairs (a banana and a donut, an aubergine and a peach, and a finger and an OK sign) start going at each other like horny teenagers. The pairs are then joined by a giant wrapped condom, and the tagline: “Make foreplay a threesome. Add a condom.” It's all a bit cringe, but that's kind of the point.
72andSunny – Dropbox
The endlessly inventive 72andSunny released their first creative for Dropbox earlier this month, created in partnership with Nexus. The campaign plays on the fact that Dropbox is used primarily by creative individuals who like to be able to access their files from any device. It underlines the creative freedom offered by the service in a gloriously colourful way, by combining the work of over 100 collaborators into an eclectic and abstract film that features works from scientists, designers, sculptors and more. Big design names such as Bompas & Parr and Barber Osgerby are featured alongside relative unknowns such as food photographer Yuki Sugiura and data visualist Marcin Ignac, with each blink-and-you'll-miss-it piece created with 100% artistic freedom (each collaborator was told to literally create whatever they wanted). It's an eclectic and ambitious spot that makes its point in a genuinely unique fashion. Typically inventive stuff from 72andSunny.
Mother London – PG Tips
The PG Tips Monkey has fallen out of the spotlight in recent years, which is a shame. I always thought the mascot was a rather genius way of bridging the brand's chequered advertising history with its more savvy modern identity. So I was thrilled when I saw the new batch of ads from Mother London starring everyone's favourite knitted monkey (sans comic foil Johnny Vegas). The ads were part of an ambitious £5 million ATL campaign, which ran across OOH, VOD advertising and social media, to support the recent revamp of the brand’s entire range. With the tagline “Keep It Tea,” the campaign aimed to remind consumers of the continued cultural relevance (in the UK at least) of the iconic hot beverage, and its power to keep them grounded in a world run rampant with fakery and superficiality. We see our cuddly hero sporting a rather fetching 'vajazzle' (the fact that Microsoft Office didn't automatically underline that word genuinely worries me), and complaining about asinine reality TV, pretentious tea alternatives, and frilly food. It's a snappy, humorous idea with a potentially iconic catchphrase and I love it.
Wieden + Kennedy – Old Spice
The “Old Spice Guy” spots for the titular aftershave by Wieden + Kennedy has been something of a cultural phenomenon, and with good reason; it's a bloody good idea, it's delightfully odd and it's consistently hilarious. You'd think there's only so much humour to be mined out of such a simple idea, but Wieden + Kennedy Portland seem to have managed to eek a little more blood out of the stone with this spot, rather aptly titled “Interruption.” The ad finds original Old Spice Guy Isaiah Mustafa (I can't be the only one who read “Mufasa”) and ex-professional American football player/current comedic actor Terry Crews helping men choose between their favourite Old Spice scents. With sexy (and bloody hilarious) results.
BBH London – Virgin Media
Being something of a sofa bear myself, I was quite taken with the Sofa Bear campaign by BBH London for Virgin Media, which cast comedian Nick Helm as a lovably lazy TV-addicted grizzly. So I was delighted that the agency decided to stick to their guns for their next campaign, which once again used a range of cuddly, animatronic beasties to promote the TV provider’s position as the only provider showing all televised football matches on Sky Sports and BT Sport, including ALL the Barclays Premier League and UEFA Champions League games. The ad demonstrates that not all football fans watch the game in the same way. Some howl at the TV. Some gloat to their friends. Some watch it with rivals. And some can’t bear to watch it at all. The puns are bad, yes, but the ad isn’t (just watch it yourself if you don’t believe me).
Adam&eveDDB – Fosters
Having officially sent the popular Australian agony aunts Brad and Dan packing in their last campaign, Foster’s finally introduced its new brand campaign by Adam&EveDDB called “Why the hell not?” this year, with a concept inspired by an Australian ingenuity and attitude to life. The first TV spot for the campaign featured a character defying his cynics to become the first male rugby cheerleader in Australia. It might not have the instantly iconic appeal of its predecessor, but the vibe is undeniably Foster’s.
Leo Burnett – Always
The #LikeAGirl campaign for Procter & Gamble's Always brand was the undeniable hit of this year's Cannes Lions festival, claiming a PR Grand Prix amongst a slew of Gold, Silver and Bronze awards after reaching over 50 million viewers on YouTube. So Leo Burnett had some pretty big shoes to fill with the campaign's latest spot, which posited phrases such as “Girls can’t be brave” and “Girls aren’t strong” as antiquated notions from a bygone era. The spot, called “Unstoppable,” was built around a social experiment, which reveals that many girls today feel limited by society’s expectations about women. Always once again partnered with Leo Burnett Chicago & Toronto, as well as award-winning documentary filmmaker Lauren Greenfield, to create a video that highlights how society’s expectations have a profound impact on girls confidence, especially when entering puberty.
VCCP – Compare the Market
This year, the cuddly Russian Meerkats created by VCCP for the comparethemarket.com insurance comparison website came face-to-face with the most famous action movie star on the planet (Arnold Schwarzenegger), and it was surprisingly delightful! It's all very twee and a bit silly, but it was also really refreshing to see such a larger than life character taking himself a little less seriously than perhaps we're used to, and it showed that there is still plenty of life left in the Compare the Meerkat positioning. The main spot premiered last Friday (April 3) on ITV during Coronation Street, and looks set to become one of the most popular spots of the season.
Cheil UK – Samsung
I've never been a big fan of James Corden. He's needlessly loud and almost completely devoid of charm. I'm willing to let that slide, however, thanks to his latest turn in this spot by Cheil UK for the Samsung Galaxy S6 smartphone, because it might not be a side-splitting performance, but it's a smartphone ad that doesn't take itself seriously. That fact alone is surely worthy of applause? Plus it (quite slyly) berates the -bearded hipster, and nobody really likes them right? The piece in question was an online spot that coincides with the launch of Samsung's flagship Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge phones. It saw the new host of The Late Late Show (it's an American institution apparently) cast in two roles; his normal affable self introducing the snazzy new phones and their features in a simple, elegant fashion, and the pretentious director “Wilf Meltson.” The Wilf character is one we've seen countless times before; an overbearing, self-absorbed luvvie with delusions of grandeur, who wants to take a simple ad spot and turn it into some kind of “Transcendent artistic experience.” It's quite obviously a dig at Apple, and as such, it's like shooting fish in a barrel (who hasn't taken a swipe at Apple lately?), but given the fact that Samsung is quite easily Apple's closest competitor in the smartphone wars, it was a wise move indeed.
So those were my favourite ads of the year, but if there are any you think I've missed, or that you simply don't agree with, feel free to sound off in the comments below and I'll do my best to respond if I'm not in some kind of mince pie induced coma.
Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer and struggling musician from Kidderminster in the UK who wishes all Creativepool readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!