The biggest phenomena and most zeitgeisty moments defining 2016.
Celebrities go political
Between Brexit and the US presidential election, 2016 saw celebrities across the globe try – and fail – to wield their influence over the general public. In May, more than 250 of Britain’s best-known actors, artists, musicians and writers, including Benedict Cumberbatch, Danny Boyle and Helena Bonham Carter, signed an open letter warning the UK would become “an outsider shouting from the wings” if it were to leave the EU. In June, political group We Are EU recruited Kiera Knightley and Vivienne Westwood among others to front it’s ‘Don’t fuck with my future’ campaign.
But despite the wise words of Cumberbatch et al the UK voted to leave. Fast-forward to November and US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had recruited just about every US superstar, from power couple Beyoncé and Jay Z to popstar Katy Perry and millennial icon Lena Dunham, to back her campaign against a candidate who no one influential would publicly back – and we all know how that turned out.
Agencies and brands go political
One of the most contentious presidential elections of all time also brought about commentary from ad land. A number of agencies voiced their opinions: GS&P founders Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein rolled out three videos criticising the Republican nominee, while Minneapolis-based Fallon took a light-hearted approach by gently reminding people of its close proximity to “politically stable” Canada. One Canadian agency even created a campaign to remind its southern neighbours that it thinks America is “already great”, in an obvious dig at Donald Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ campaign slogan.
Brands got in on the action, too – Mexican beer brand Tecate rolled out a spot poking fun at Trump’s proposed wall
Bake Off break-up
By September we thought we’d endured everything 2016 could throw at us – celebrity deaths, the demise of BHS, Brexit – but then Channel 4 swooped in and stole The Great British Bake Off from the BBC. Bake Off and the BBC is a partnership as logical as bread and butter. No other broadcaster could whip up a national treasure from a show that is essentially 12 amateur bakers in a tent worrying about ‘soggy bottoms’. But the BBC did. For seven glorious years.
The drama-filled weeks that followed were full of speculation as, one by one, hosts Mel Giedroyc, Sue Perkins and Mary Berry chose to stay with the BBC – casting Paul Hollywood as the villain for following the cash to Channel 4.
The never trust the public award
What do you do when you’ve invested £200m on a new royal research ship that is set to host 90 of the most highly qualified scientists Britain has to offer? Ask the public to #NameOurShip, of course – what could possibly go wrong?
Well, someone might suggest the name Boaty McBoatface and that name might just top the poll. With more than 7,000 choices available to them, the great British public stumped for Boaty McBoatface; it really should have told us how the rest of the year was going to pan out for democracy.
If Boaty McBoatface heralded the decline of brands’ trust in the public, McDonald’s New Zealand’s drive, asking the internet to name and design a new burger, solidified this.
Undoubtedly creative but endlessly twisted people bombarded the microsite with crude, offensive and sometimes funny entries before it was quickly canned. Looks like we won’t be tasting the ‘Nihilist’, ‘Peta Burger’ or ‘Carbonator’ anytime soon.
The Drum put a lot of faith in AI in 2016, enlisting none other than IBM’s Watson to guest edit an issue of our magazine. Not all AI proved to be as trustworthy however, as evidenced by Microsoft’s conversational Twitter bot Tay which, in March, lasted all of 16 hours before being pulled following a very public meltdown.
Modelled to speak like a ‘teen girl’, it seems it fell in with a bad crowd and was soon spewing out sexist, racist, Hitler-loving, Holocaust-denying, 9/11 conspiracy-theorising tweets. Machine learning, by the looks of things, still has some way to go before it is a match for Twitter trolls.
Stuff that made 2016 just a little bit better
Agency Post-It War
New York City’s Canal Street became the site of an advertising agency Post-It war as the likes of Havas Worldwide, Cake Group, Biolumina, Horizon Media, Getty, Harrison and Star adorned their office windows with creative messages and designs, turning the area into a mosaic of passive-aggressive art.
Domino’s One Click app
Domino’s Pizza is an active disruptor in the fast food industry and beyond with its outlandish digital drives making it easier to receive immediate pizza. A mobile app called the Zero Click wanted to cut out order indecision, giving browsers 10 seconds to pick their pizza or risk it randomising their orders.
Shock brand ambassador exit
Barry Scott dumped
Cleaning brand Cillit Bang bid farewell to surely one of the world’s most enthusiastic cleaners and famous brand ambassadors, Barry Scott. Scott previously took a break in 2013 and then again while the cleaning brand rolled out its global Flashdance-inspired campaign. However Cillit Bang has left fans wondering if this is the end as they finished Scott’s final farewell with “Barry Scott is gone…for now”. The question on everyone’s tongue now is, will be seeing Scott in 2017 after all?
Biggest flash in the pan
Pokemon Go took the world by storm in July, going from unknown to 50 million users in less than a month, but five months on only a fraction of players are still searching for Pikachu. Dropping 15 million active users during August alone, a lack of development and no additional challenges saw the super fans who’d already caught ‘em all lose interest in the augmented reality game. At its height, McDonald’s turned 3,000 of its restaurants in Japan into Pokemon Gyms, small retailers benefitted as hunters crowded their stores and Nintendo’s stock shot up 25%. On the flipside, there were robberies, thefts, assaults and driving offences, but in the end, it was probably the army of Drowzees in towns and cities across the globe that saw off most users.
You can read more New Year Honours here.