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This Girl Can, Cards Against Humanity and The New York Times: the best ad campaigns of 2017


By Dani Gibson, Senior Writer

December 15, 2017 | 8 min read

Amidst all the clashing noise around this time of the year when we are often left wondering if we should highlight the good, the bad and the ugly, The Drum spoke to the industry to talk about the best of the best advertising campaigns in 2017.

Following is a list of what eight of the industry stalwarts said.

Jen Smith, global creative director, Maxus - The Drum Creative Out Of Home Awards

Comic Relief -The Comic Relief Swear Jar

It’s the end of the year and we are all meant to be super jolly, so it says a lot about my Scrooge demeanour, that my favourite campaign of the year was The Comic Relief Swear Jar.

A brilliant combination of understanding the brand – Comic Relief does good with a dose of bonkers.

Understanding the audience – the British perverse and extensive collection of swear words and occasions for use.

And finally, the media or platform – A super clever app that actually uses data to do something fun and good at the same time. Serendipity in a jar.

Merry F****in Christmas all.

Bo Hellberg, executive creative director, Kaiser - The DADI Awards

Cards Against Humanity Saves America

We talk a lot about bravery in the industry. I think few brands have more guts than Cards Against Humanity, the masters of ‘earned media’ and it’s all very ‘on brand’.

This year they did something that wasn't just funny - they got people to pay $15 to participate in buying acres of land along the Mexico-US border - each participant was given ownership of a small portion. Then they hired a law firm to prevent the US government from ever building a wall. The campaign sold out in hours.

A proper two fingers up to the Trump administration. As if that wasn’t enough they issued this statement on their website: “Donald Trump is a preposterous golem who is afraid of Mexicans. He is so afraid that he wants to build a twenty-billion-dollar wall that everyone knows will accomplish nothing”

David McMurtrie, head of UK publishers, global partnerships, Google - The Drum Marketing Awards

The New York Times - The Truth is Hard

It has been a difficult year for News organisations facing unprecedented attacks from politicians: the rise of ‘fake’ news (challenging their own journalistic integrity), and seeing a continuing fall in print readership.

The NYT fought back through an attention grabbing multi-media ad campaign that debuted with a 30” TV spot in the live Oscars coverage. The theme tackled Trump and fake news head on with a headline of ‘The Truth is Hard’. They followed this up with a digital subscriptions drive that delivered great results with a 14% YoY increase in net digital subscriptions in Q3 17.

Proof that there is still an appetite for real news and that people are prepared to pay for it.

Louise Hunter, creative director, Brand Union - The Drum Scottish Design Awards

This Girl Can – Phenomenal Women

Coming back bigger, better and bolder than the last ad you did isn't easy, especially when the first was so successful.

So, when 'This girl can' launched their follow up campaign it had to embody all that it had captured before, and more.

The passion, drive and determination of the previous ad is successfully delivered in the new campaign with more incredible stories, made even more impactful because they were informed by a real community of women that emerged following the previous ad via social media.

Combine the voice of Maya Angelou reading her poem ‘Phenomenal Women’ and you have a rally

Howard Lenn, group creative director, J. Walter Thompson New York - The Drum B2B Awards

Gillette - Handle with Care

There’s no way I’m going to spend $30 for a pack of razors. Or at least there wasn't until I saw the Gillette spot, “Handle with Care.” Never mind that it’s for the first razor designed to shave someone else. It conveys a raw and honest emotion, and that’s rare.

I’d gladly spend the money to pay my father back for everything he’s done for me. It taps into a truth: what I won’t spend on myself I often spend to benefit my loved ones. This beautiful film captures why. And makes me feel great about the brand.

Lisa Nichols, executive creative director, TBWA\Manchester - The Drum Scottish Creative Awards

Pedigree and Colenso BBDO New Zealand - Child Replacement Programme

I’m a die-hard cat lover but the ‘Child Replacement Programme’ campaign from Colenso BBDO and Pedigree in New Zealand, might just have convinced me to think about getting a dog.

Unlike kids, dogs don’t leave home when they grow up and only text when they need to ‘borrow’ some money. No, dogs stay loyal, loving and they never borrow cash they can’t pay back.

Pedigree and BBDO recognized that parents are left with a ‘gaping void’ to fill once their kids fly the nest and abandoned dogs are the perfect way to fill that void. They created a brilliantly funny and insightful campaign that deservedly went on to pick up a lot of awards. It was a refreshingly witty light-hearted take on what could have been a cry-fest, heart-string puller of a campaign.

Ross Neil, executive creative director, WCRS - The Chipshop Awards

The North Face - Imagination: Tom Wallisch

I don’t ski. I am however, a complete sucker for a well told, emotional story. The short film called “Imagination” for North Face is such a well told, life affirming and well observed film it just has to be my favourite.

Aside from all the skiing tricks in it that equate to some sort of OK Go-esque, in-camera labour of love, it’s the small conversational moments between the parents that absolutely nails this for me. Their perfunctory conversation of domestic mundanity plays perfectly against the boy’s flights of fancy and imagination. Beautiful stuff.

Laura Jordan-Bambach, chief creative officer, Mr. President - The Marketing Can Change the World Awards

Toyota - Landcruiser Emergency Mobile Network

My favourite piece of 2017 has got to be seeing Toyota Land Cruiser’s peer-to-peer emergency network get off the ground properly. Seeing a full-blown piece of well-engineered kit, that grows the brand (and is available to non-Toyota customers) as well as solving a very real issue back home. Ambitious projects like this take years of commitment and partnership from brands, agencies and researchers to develop. Toyota and Saatchi & Saatchi Australia have broken new grounds here.

At The Drum, we know how to give great companies the recognition they deserve and celebrate success. Winning awards can help raise your profile, instill trust and attract new business.

Entries for the awards in the first half of 2018 are now open.

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