2016 brought many a fine example of cutting-edge creative, from both a commercial as well as a societal point of view. From Maltesers to Mirrors, here are some of the most outstanding.
Iceland and its activity during Euro 2016
Iceland (the supermarket) decided to sponsor Iceland (the country) in its bid to win the Euros, encouraging Brits to make the national football squad their ‘second team’ during the tournament.
The highlight of this was when the side met England in the final group game of their pool. Iceland Foods’ social team killed it during the game, which resulted in England’s shock exit from the Championships.
The social team employed canny thinking, humour and tapped into the collective social consciousness of the UK (not even a week after the announcement of the Brexit referendum). Through the team’s light-hearted revelry on #ENGICE, Iceland scored marketing equity when the UK needed a pick-me-up.
But the love affair between the supermarket
chain and its namesake did not see out the year,
as the frozen-food specialist now faces a fight for its identity after the Icelandic government mounted legal action against the trademark on the island.
Best controversial ad
The diversity debate is still in its infancy, but 2016 saw great strides being made in move towards minority groups being given a place in advertising. Channel 4’s Superhumans campaign may have been the powerfully positive tipping point for making people with disabilities the star of ads, but it was Maltesers’ humorous take that got people talking in 2016.
The ‘Look on the Light Side’ messaging, created by AMV BBDO, centred on a group of girls discussing a new boyfriend, the punch line being around a sexual act and how a disability wasn’t exactly a disability. Joking about a hand job is controversial on its own, but using it to bulldoze through the awkwardness people feel when discussing disabilities is so cheeky, it works.
Work that made a jaded ad person stop and pay attention
‘Sports Alphabet’ – Bleacher Report and barrettSF
It doesn’t happen often, but once in a while, there is work that makes one stop, pay attention and legitimately soak it in. The remake of the iconic Blackalicious song ‘Alphabet Aerobics’ showed real ambition by barrettSF and the client. The unbelievable talent that took part in this massive effort was even more impressive. A true collaboration of artists, coming together to make something that deservedly took home a chunk of hardware in 2016.
Best use of insight
‘Free the Kids’ – Persil and MullenLowe London
One of 2016’s most powerful pieces of creative came from an unlikely brand, and its success was firmly rooted in a very simple piece of insight – kids spend less time outdoors than prison inmates.
Laundry brand Persil commissioned the research as part of its ‘Dirt is Good’ positioning and constructed an advert around that one insight. Working with creative agency MullenLowe, the ad saw prisoners at a high-security correctional facility in the US interviewed about outside time.
The research not only achieved global press coverage, but the accompanying campaign reached an estimated at 471 million people. Furthermore, 82% of mums planned to get their kids outdoors more the following week (as measured by the agency’s own poll of more than 500 UK mums).
Best political ads
‘Mirrors’ – Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton ran a number of powerful political ads over the course of her campaign, but perhaps the most memorable was a spot that juxtaposed misogynistic comments that Donald Trump has said over the years with footage of middle-school girls self-consciously looking at themselves in the mirror.
While actual audio recordings of Trump saying things like “a person who is flat-chested is very
hard to be a 10” plays, the girls are seen scrutinising themselves in the mirror. The ad concludes with
the question, “Is this the president we want for
Although the ad failed to prevent Trump’s supporters from electing him as president of the United States, it likely left a bad taste in the mouth of anyone with a daughter – regardless of their political affiliation.
‘Grown Up Politics’ – The Green Party
Between Brexit and the US election, we have been bombarded with boring party political broadcasts and empty promises from politicians over the past 12 months, but the Green Party managed to cut through all that noise thanks to some pint-size politicians.
Devised by Creature of London to promote the party’s message ahead of the May local elections, the film depicted leading figures using child impersonators. From a mini Jeremy Corbyn wearing an ill-fitting beige suit, to a little George Osborne waving his red lunchbox around outside the classroom, the ad showed how a small budget can go a long way and appealed to viewers tired of playground politics.
Best use of social media
On 1 August, French model Louise Delage opened a social media account. Over the course of two months she amassed 50,000 followers who were impressed by her lavish lifestyle, filled with yacht trips, parties at sunset and hanging out in swimming pools. So far, so Instagram.
But on 30 September, Delage updated her account with one final video that revealed the connection between each of the 149 pictures she had uploaded: in every photo there was an alcoholic drink in her hand. The hoax account had been created by BETC as part of a campaign for alcoholism organisation Addict Aide, in a bid to highlight how easy it can be to miss the signs of addiction.
The final video has now racked up more than 300,000 views, with the campaign making headlines the world over for its innovative approach to raising awareness of that fact that alcohol addiction can affect anyone.
For smashing stereotypes
There’s no denying that, even in 2017, sex still sells, and few companies know this better than Pirelli, the Italian tyre company more famous for its calendars featuring sexualised and often Photoshopped images of women in various states of undress.
Quite what these calendars tell you about grip or your car’s fuel economy when sporting a set of its rubbers has never been clear, but, while world events in 2016 may have knocked society back a few decades, it was encouraging to see this rather lamentable tradition turned on its head.
Annie Leibovitz, with a mandate of “doing something different”, got the nod to sit behind the camera for the 2016 effort, while famous women of varying ages and ethnicities, all ostensibly chosen for their brains rather than looks, got the nod to sit in front of it. The result is an airbrush-free affair that celebrates rather than objectifies women – something the brand looks set to continue (2017’s calendar, shot by Peter Lindbergh, features older women, fully clothed, sans make-up or Photoshop).
‘All for the First Hello’ – Elevit and J. Walter Thompson Shanghai
Great ads will cross cultures and geographies, even when the insight is unique to the market in which it was generated. J. Walter Thompson Shanghai and Elevit’s ‘All for the First Hello’ is the perfect example of an ad’s emotional pull, no matter where you’re from.
In China, fathers aren’t allowed to attend ultrasound appointments and can be distant from the key moments of pregnancy. To prove that fathers are emotionally invested and are there for their partners, Elevit used technology to recreate the ‘meeting’ that happens during an ultrasound, allowing the parents to share the experience. Breaking down the traditional roles during pregnancy in China isn’t something other cultures may have to understand, but it’s a clever way of tackling a stereotype that resonates universally.
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