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US Creative of the Year: W+K Portland/NY and GS&P

By Minda Smiley and Doug Zanger

It got a little bit on the heated side. The editorial team in the US knocked candidates for top creative back and forth like Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber — or Andy Murray (we are a Scottish company) and Novak Djokovic — in the Wimbledon finals. Everything seemed to be going OK until there was a stalemate. Much like Lay’s potato chips’ rally cry of “Bet you can’t eat just one,” we couldn’t just pick one creative execution to award US Creative of the Year.

With that in mind, The Drum is pleased to award both Wieden+Kennedy Portland/NY and Goodby Silverstein & Partners US Creative of the Year — the former for Nike’s “Unlimited” campaign and the latter’s Dali VR project.

Wieden+Kennedy Portland and New York, “Unlimited” for Nike

There could very well be an argument for the power of “Unlimited,” which aired before and during the Summer Olympics in Rio, through the sheer bravery of some of the people highlighted in this wide-ranging campaign — from transgender Olympian Chris Mosier to “The Iron Nun,” 86 year old Sister Madonna Buder, to mountain-climbing quadruple amputee Kyle Maynard. Additionally, a spot created by W+K New York with Chance The Rapper, “Unlimited Together,” was a nice, beautiful surprise, in promoting Team USA basketball.

Interspersed among the Nike roster, these inspiring athletes serve as a reminder to anyone, no matter whether they are elite athletes or not, that limits are meant to be broken. In some ways, it fits the ethos of the company in the first place, when legendary Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman once famously said, “If you have a body, you’re an athlete.”

Moreover, this campaign feels like a nod to the earlier glory days of Nike and Wieden+Kennedy who, to be fair, invented the narrative of athletic advertising — one that is inspiring and aspirational.

Over the past several years, Nike and W+K have filtered in more athletes who don’t make the big bucks (see: Nathan Sorrell, the overweight then-12-year-old who, in 2013, noted that he lost 32 pounds in large part due to the ad itself) and this work certainly fits the bill. What we appreciated most is its familiarity, but with a new spin.

The choice of Bobby Cannavale in “Unlimited Future” was dead on. Casting Oscar Isaac as the narrator/foil for the campaign was smart and an excellent choice. In typical W+K/Nike style, the production, done by The Mill and Prettybird in Los Angeles — and Doomsday (for the Chance The Rapper work), was dead on for the brand.

Oh, and was it effective. The global campaign earned 480m views and north of 1.1bn TV impressions around the world. It was also the top brand, according to Google, with over 34% of consumer remembering seeing the campaign and 3.5bn impressions overall.

Throw in 17 days of events in London, Los Angeles, New York, Rio, Shanghai and elsewhere, the “Unlimited” mantra went far beyond just ads — it was a true rally cry for athletes of every shape and stripe to go beyond what’s possible and worthy of our nod.

We can’t wait to see how many awards this things scoops up.

Goodby Silverstein & Partners for “Dreams of Dali”

This year, brands both big and small have created virtual reality (VR) experiences in an attempt to woo consumers with the budding technology. While many of these have fallen flat, a few stand out as powerful examples of how virtual reality can be utilized in an impactful way, with one of the most notable being Goodby Silverstein & Partners’ (GS&P) “Dreams of Dali” experience.

“Dreams of Dali” takes viewers into Salvador Dali’s 1935 painting Archeological Reminiscence of Millet’s “Angelus”, giving fans of the surrealist painter a chance to explore one of his most famous pieces of artwork from a completely new perspective. Via Oculus Rift, people can virtually immerse themselves in the painting to explore its figures and landscapes, an experience that GS&P says is akin to exploring Dali’s imagination. While museum visitors could check out the Oculus version of “Dreams of Dali” at the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg earlier this year, a 360-degree video version of the experience is also available on YouTube.

Many agencies have spent the past few years getting their feet wet in the world of VR as brands increasingly bet on its nascent capabilities, and GS&P was no exception when it first pitched the idea client the Dali Museum a few years ago. Although the San Francisco agency had never worked on a project of this kind before, a simple Google Cardboard prototype combined with a good agency-client relationship was enough to convince the Dali Museum to give GS&P the greenlight.

Roughly one year later, the agency was able to pull of the feat when it launched “Dreams of Dali,” a project that was impressively created almost entirely in-house by the agency. While the experience is surely the first of its kind, GS&P creative director Sam Luchini believes that the exploratory and interactive nature of VR could potentially change the way that people think about and view art. Earlier this year, he told The Drum’s Katie McQuater that “Dreams of Dali” and experiences similar to it could reinvent how we see art.

“When people see a movie or a film, they say ‘I saw that,’ and when people experience this, they say ‘I was there,’” he said. “People can say ‘I was inside the tower. I was underneath the elephants.’ Simply hearing ‘I am, I was there’ is really special. People feel they are part of the environment; not just being given the content. It’s a reimagination of what art can be. When technology isn’t just trying to push you a product you’re not interested in; when it connects with something people relate to, that becomes magical.”

As much conversation as there is around VR at the moment, GS&P proved that, even though the technology is emerging, being brave and giving something a fair shot can result in something beautiful, powerful and meaningful.

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