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Channel 4, BBC, Adidas, Oatly, Lil Nas X: the best ads of the month

After a busy month in creative, The Drum rounds up the best ads that arrived in July.

After a year of frustrating postponements, July’s calendar was satisfyingly packed with Euro 2020, Wimbledon and the beginning of the Tokyo Olympics. In pursuit of reach, brands, sponsors and broadcasters have had plenty of opportunities to capture some eyeballs after a difficult and somewhat uneventful year.

At the end of June and into July, for a brief window, Europe had football fever with the long-awaited Euros. Advertisers from all around the world were keen to get a slice of the action. And it proved to be a lucrative tournament for ITV, who secured exclusive rights to the semi-final (the most-viewed television event of the year), netting in £500,000 per spot.

Putting a dampener on the history made, the Euro finished in bad taste. After Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho failed to score penalties to win the title, sore losers hurdled racist abuse online at the footballers. With the debacle exposing dark pockets of English culture, brands were quick to offer their support.

After it launched a bold anti-hate speech campaign back in May, BT naturally waded into the furor, with a clever graphic that captured the spike in online hate using an audio frequency graph. Working on two levels, the increased frequency stood in for the England flag.

ITV meanwhile placed a print message of support. The ad featured a black-and-white photograph of England players taking the knee, with the tagline ‘Together We Will Never Lose’.

And, after Rashford’s mural was defaced in Manchester, a stone’s throw away Sportbible erected a touching piece of creative on Europe’s biggest digital billboard. ‘Never apologize for who you are’ the ad insisted, referring to Rashford’s poignant statement following the final. Above the quote, the ad featured the three footballers adorned with crowns.

From one sports event to another, the Olympics followed hot on the heels of the Euros. With not long until Tokyo 2020’s starting line, brands were quick off the mark in the race for attention.

Going for gold, BBC Creative brought viewers to a wholly Japanese land buzzing for the upcoming visit of the world’s best athletes. The adventure takes us through street signs, shops, an arcade, a Gashapon parlor, a sports fanatic’s bedroom and a J-pop music video – and this one’s for Easter Egg hunters, filled to the brim with nod-worthy references.

Scoring a hattrick, Channel 4 excelled again with the third edition of its ‘Superhumans’ Paralympics push. Serving a more gritty look at the trials and tribulations of competing at the Games, the ad ran with the premise that to be a Paralympian, there’s got to be something wrong with you.

“We spotted an opportunity to present Paralympians in a way they hadn’t been shown before – by pointing a camera at the realities of their lives and, as with any elite athlete, the sacrifices they make in pursuit of greatness,” explains Lynsey Atkin, 4Creative’s exec creative director, on capturing the blood, sweat, sacrifices and dedication it takes.

“Whether that’s defying medical advice, missing c­­hildren’s birthdays, anxiety, repetition, getting endless blisters – collectively these choices paint a story of mental determination, not of disability.”

Paving the way for a new generation of teen girl skaters, Rayssa Leal’s career took off when a video surfaced of the young Brazilian dressed as a fairy princess, landing what Tony Hawk coined the ‘fairytale heelflip’. As she rolled into this year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympics at the age of 13 as a fan favorite, Nike and Wieden + Kennedy São Paulo created ‘New Fairies’ – a Disney-esque film that features the young skateboarder.

Thanks to social media out-of-home (OOH) is having a renaissance. Hoping their installation will go viral, brands have been finding usual ways to promote their brand.

Oatly doesn’t like following rules. “It’s not one of our core competencies,” insists its in-house creative director Kevin Lynch. “We realize billboards are supposed to be short and to the point.” So when it came to announcing the oat milk brand’s arrival in New Zealand, it naturally took up two billboards just to get ‘one thing’ across.

Possibly ‘the wordiest, stupidest billboards ever’ (Oatly’s words), the ad goes to great lengths to tell its audience all they need to know about the brand, continuing on to an adjacent billboard when it ran out of room, concluding ‘yes, your initial skepticism was apparently well-founded – that really was more than one thing’.

Joining Oatly on the off-kilter OOH stunts, Adidas invited women to a popular beach, where it had erected a swimming pool billboard for them to swim in.

The stunt was part of a wider initiative to make sports more inclusive. Five meters high and three meters deep, the swimming pool billboard was constructed with reinforced transparent acrylic, with the structure containing 11,500 gallons of water (the equivalent of 163 bathtubs). Inside the pool itself, the team installed a camera to stream footage live to the largest digital display in the city, amplifying the action to a wider audience.

If you’re a musician in 2021, you’re better off navigating the world of social media to make your music known, rather than relying on being discovered by scouts at gigs or busking on street corners. After a well-spent youth schooling himself in online culture, Lil Nas X has graduated in the school of memes and starting trends – skills he uses to artfully promote his music.

As all news is good news in the Lil Nas X playbook, the rapper applied his unconventional promoting methods ahead of the release of his latest single Industry Baby. Poking fun at the ‘Satan Shoes’ Nike controversy, Lil Nas X made out on social that he might be going to prison over it. Alarmed that their favorite musician could soon be behind bars, Lil Nas X fans reacted to the news with memes, and a trending campaign hashtag #FreeLilNasX soon emerged. Before things got too far, it soon emerged that the court case is the setting for the Industry Baby music video.

It was a busy week for Kanye West, who co-produced Industry Baby. A few days later the rapper teased fans, who are awaiting the anticipated release of his tenth album Donda. Collaborating with Beats by Dre, he dropped a surprise ad starring banned Olympic athlete Sha'Carri Richardson.

Suicide prevention charity Calm is also jumping into the sporting ring with its new campaign that encourages those struggling with their mental health to open up and seek support.

The short clip takes heavyweight boxer, Tyson Fury’s fight against fellow boxer Deontay Wilder from December 2018 to spark a conversation about the impact of mental health challenges. By taking out Wilder, the audience only sees Fury battling around the ring, fighting an invisible force and evading punches as his skin ripples with the impact of jabs.

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