Creatives from Hill Holliday, Deutsch, CP+B and more choose their favorite ads of 2016

Credit: YouTube

Before putting 2016 behind us, The Drum has asked creatives in the US to reflect on the past 12 months and choose their favorite campaign of the year.

From Wieden + Kennedy's recently launched "Time is Precious" campaign for Nike to Pantene's pre-Super Bowl "Dad-Do" ads created by Grey, creatives from Hill Holliday, Barker, CP+B, Young & Laramore and more have shared which campaigns have inspired them the most over the course of this year.

Check out their answers below.

Deutsch NY CCO Dan Kelleher

For me, 2016 is summed up in five words—The Field Trip To Mars.

In preparing to write a few words about it, I just watched it again.

Or should I say, I was just blown away by it again.

I felt the same rush of emotions that I experienced the first time, and every time since. This is the pinnacle of creativity. It’s an idea combining technology, heart and bravery. And the result is magical.

This is now the bar. And it’s really damn high.

ECD at Young & Laramore Carolyn Hadlock

Women empowerment has become a hot topic for marketers recently. Too often brands tap empowerment in their communications through empathy rendering women vulnerable not powerful. This spot from H&M strikes the perfect balance between femininity and badass. It comes from a gutsy, almost subversive place. The song choice, diverse casting: age, gender, race and body type along with the glamorous and unglamorous moments makes it the most authentic female empowerment spot done to date, and my favorite ad of 2016.

Heat creative director Jonathan "JB" Byrne

I really appreciated this Amazon Echo campaign. It does two things exceedingly well that the whole industry is striving towards. First, they’re short. We’re all feeling the squeeze to fit ideas into shorter and smaller boxes as television and online video continue to get more expensive and clients strive to maintain reach. To tell a smart, funny story in ten seconds is jealousy inducing. Second, we’re getting more data about audiences and customers every day. It’s a challenge to all of us to make our work more personal. Basing the campaign on real user’s stories is like UGC on steroids.

Goodby Silverstein & Partners associate creative director Tristan Graham

The line between tech products and advertising has never been blurrier. So while the work that impressed me most this year didn’t come from an agency, I’m confident it easily could have. That’s why I’m so jealous of it.

I doubt they’ll bother, but if Snap Inc. were to enter their social media innovation, Spectacles, at Cannes, I suspect they would pick up an award in every category, from product design to print.

Because through bold, colorful campaign imagery and a playfully designed product, they’ve managed to take a technology that was inherently uncool (remember Google Glass?) and reframe it as something socially acceptable. Cool, even.

CP+B LA ECD Steve Clarke

Given that white men don’t have rhythm, perhaps I’m not best placed to recommend this one for Bose from Grey London. But, I must say, there’s something wonderful in the insight of how music can take us into our own world. Many a time I’ve wandered through my old hometown and, well, not danced exactly, but certainly tapped my feet or occasionally hopped to the beat echoing in my head. Lost in music.

Group Creative Director of Tribal Worldwide New York Steffany Bane Carey

Pantene changed the conversation this year by flipping the script and focusing on the love that exists between a father and daughter through their 'strong is beautiful' campaign. I thought the work was so simple in production but so thoughtful in execution. There is no doubt a special bond exists between a father and a daughter and seeing those moments unfold around the involvement of hair was great. The added cherry on the top was the use of the professional athletes. Powerful, strong men who are well-known hard-asses on the field showed their softer side as they attempted to do their daughter’s hair. Some of them were actually able to flex their hairdo muscles off the field, which proved to be quite impressive.

Executive Creative Director at Team One Tim Wettstein

This campaign is a nice wake-up call for everyone glued to their smartphones, including myself. It’s a cultural statement without being judgmental.

The mundane execution (white text on a black background and a text-to-speech robotic voice) compliments the message well. It makes the viewer question what’s really important and if time is being spent in the right places.

Seems that everyone is doing a digital detox these days, and this message goes beyond category to resonate with multiple audiences.

ECD and partner at Supermoon David DeRoma

Man, I love a good reveal spot and this year finished strong with some old school “Holy sh*t I didn’t see that coming” from Wieden + Kennedy with “Time is Precious” and BBDO's "Promise Evan." My love for the spots is not based on me kind of disliking my cell phone or my being a dad and having issues with guns. What I liked was not knowing what what was coming next or who it was coming from. And this is coming from a guy that hates surprises so much that his wife would prefer giving him money for Christmas. So I guess I'm feeling really inspired now. Mags, if you're reading this, you can surprise me for Christmas this year. Go ahead and pick a cool shade of blue for the new board I sent you a link to.

Creative director at Undertone Jeff Ortegon

Reebok’s “25,915 Days” is my campaign of 2016. It’s dirty, lovely, impeccably shot and edited. It captivates, avoids preaching, demands consideration.

Like any superb narrative, it feels timeless. As a father, it does more than make me feel that my infant daughter can be anything she wants. It makes me believe that all young women can be even more than they believe they can be. The ad reminds us all to, wait for it, “Be More Human.”

Fun fact: ‘I Need Never Get Old’, soundtrack to the ad immediately became part of my run mix.

Senior writer at Heat Jon Korn

I’m an unabashed fanboy of this Dutch duo—and this spot perfectly exemplifies why. They continually find new and exciting ways to infuse their obsessive and glorious design with deep, deep absurdity. Advertising should always be this artful, and this batshit crazy.

SVP group creative director at Hill Holliday Lauren Herman

Oh 2016. With so much ugliness happening all over the world, this promo for the Rio Paralympics broke through like a ray of kick-ass sunlight.

Yes, the Games have always inspired. Athletes from around the world, competing on a global stage, together in triumph over great adversity.

But this spot is pure adrenaline-charged genius-y joy. From concept to finish, they dreamed big, and they nailed it. Just awesome.

SVP, creative director at Barker Sandi Harari

The ads that turned the heads of everyone at Barker, but more specifically the women, was Thinx's outdoor campaign. When the campaign hit, everyone came into the agency like, "Oh my God, did you see those ads!?" The campaign was inclusive and disruptive, and one of the first campaigns I can think of to feature a trans man. The copy effectively touched on how Thinx's underwear are not only period-proof but life-proof as well. Very often you see male creative directors marketing to women for female products, but it was very obvious that these ads were made by people who can speak from experience. The ads are artfully done, but don't sugarcoat the fact that this is something all people who menstruate have to deal with every month.

Executive creative director at R2C Group Steve Diamond

There’s a notable genre of TV advertising I’ll call the Stunning Photography/Stirring Music/Great Poem construct. We saw several of them this year (“The Human Family” for iPhone; “The Song of the Open Road,” for Volvo; “Portraits,” for Jeep). The approach can be criticized as lazy. Certainly, the result can be pretentious (see Volvo). But, when done well—goosebumps. The “Keep Walking America” spot for Johnnie Walker is a brilliant example of the latter: extremely patriotic, uplifting, brave, topical, perfectly crafted, and completely on brand. I could watch it a hundred times and think of another flattering adjective with each viewing.

RPA VP-creative director, social media J Barbush

​IKEA thinks like people, not marketers. They are brave, know their fans and trust their instincts. Their ethos can range from unsettling, as with the Syrian room installation, to quirky, as with their “Where Life Happens” campaign. Their stores are easy to redecorate with a “campaign” for whatever message they are trying to deliver. That is a wonderful canvas for a creative. “Retail Therapy” (in their "Where Life Happens" campaign) names products based on SEO searches, like “My Partner Snores” and matches a product that’s the remedy. SEO is as unsexy as it gets, and when you get clever with it, it’s a win.

ECD at Collins Teemu Suviala

Luke Fontana

This campaign served as a disturbing reminder of a current environmental crisis: the warming planet. Although the artwork was displayed in December of 2015, its effect extended into 2016 through follow-up programs and projects completed by the art community to generate new ideas and discussions around global warming — and what can be done to reach the UN goals for 2030. The project was reenergized in November 2016 with the release of a dance performance video from the original site, integrating the sensory experience of melting and crackling ice with an intimate ballet. It was the most beautiful celebration and mourning of 2016.

Creative director at Goodby Silverstein & Partners Sam Luchini

It’s always hard to pick a favorite. So much good work is made every year, and everything is so different, from films to stunts to hacks. For me, the best pieces of work are the ones that are difficult to classify.

Almap BBDO's HP Magic Words is a piece of work that beautifully embraces a very problematic cause in Brazil: the entire country suffers from a lack of investment in education that, in the poorest areas, results in a significant amount of people who don’t know the basics of reading and writing. The work beautifully shows how technology could help these people do something that they were not able to do before—write a book. It’s a well-crafted piece of work that’s fully integrated from digital to a documentary to a hack, resulting in a beautiful book.

CCO at DDB San Francisco Kevin Drew Davis

From a brand that have had a great year across the board, this piece is a lovely example of knowing your audience, disrupting your category, and leveraging the power of social and earned media to change brand perception.

The “Fly Babies” Mother’s Day promotion by MullenLowe for JetBlue is a simple, relevant and contextual idea, well executed, and completely on brand and on strategy – what more can you ask for?!

It’s just one baby-shaped example of how JetBlue have used the one thing at their disposal – free flights – converting their commodity into meaningful, human brand connections.

Minda Smiley

Minda Smiley is a reporter at The Drum covering creativity and advertising. Based in Philadelphia, she primarily covers independent agencies and B2B marketing. She also oversees The Drum’s “Independent Influence,” a weekly series that spotlights the work, perspectives and inspirations behind independent agencies. During her time at The Drum, she has covered industry events including SXSW, ANA Masters of Marketing, 4A’s Transformation and C2 Montréal. She is a graduate of the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism.

All by Minda