Starbucks Petition To End The Shutdown

Call it conversation with a purpose.
Way too many brands awkwardly, even offensively attempted to conversate with real people by inserting themselves into current events this year. But Starbucks, which has a history of involvement in public issues, participated in a more meaningful way, joining the public outcry about this fall’s government shutdown. With CEO Howard Schultz leading the way, Starbucks stores and its site became an action hub on the issue. The company used its ads to drive signatures on a petition to be shared with Washington and with other companies asking the government to reopen, to pay national debts on time and to pass a long-term budget deal. Nearly two million people signed.
The next time the government shuts down, expect brands to just step in and start running the country. They sort of do anyway...

Oreo Super Bowl Tweet

Oreo’s timely Tweet during the Super Bowl blackout wasn’t the first instance of a brand commenting on an event-in-progress via its social channel. But you’d think it was for the waves it made. While some proclaimed it overrated or overhyped, it’s important to remember that this Tweet was part of an ongoing, excellent campaign which saw Oreo and its agency teams 360i, DraftFCB and MediaVest create daily, culturally tuned content for its 100th anniversary celebration. It wasn’t a lucky one-off--there wouldn't have been a Super Bowl Tweet without its Gay Pride cookie post and other creations--and the discipline built in creating them.
The Tweet also kickstarted an industry conversation about realtime marketing. While some marketers took that to mean they should Tweet during every news-worthy event, even if it’s wildly inappropriate, many more understood that realtime marketing is about shifting their mindset toward being an always-on content creator and away from being a periodical shouter of messages.

The Humane Society Of The U.S. "Ricky Bobby"

At the end of last year, the world was introduced to Billy, a tiny dog rescued from a puppy mill by an angelic Humane Society worker. And the world wept (well, I did, at least). Since then, the Humane Society has rolled out a number of videos culled from the organizations various animal rescue operations and initiatives. This December, if you watched a YouTube video, you may have encountered an ad featuring Ricky Bobby, another rescue who was given a new lease on life with a nifty back-end cart. The videos aren’t just tear jerkers (although..sheesh), they’re a great example of a company using its story as content, and the organization has done a great job of getting its message in front of a larger audience. These aren’t "Epic Split" numbers, but they are solid--Buzzfeed even covered Ricky Bobby.

Lowe's Home Improvement Vines

Everyone rushed headlong into the business of Vine creation when the app hit early this year. And why not? They’re so easy to make! Lowe’s and agency BBDO New York actually put the platform to good use with small but powerful home improvement tutorials.

The Anchorman 2 Campaign

Yes, maybe the sheer volume of Will Ferrell appearances across viewers’ entire media landscape caused a little Anchorman fatigue as we got close to the film’s release date--the makers of this campaign could have reduced overall stunt volume by 20 percent. But the cross-promotional, cross-platform, journalistic-line-crossing campaign for Anchorman 2 signaled the ultimate expression of modern content marketing. This campaign has everything: a 70-ad tie-in with a huge auto brand wherein the star of the film actually helped create the ads (ads that actually boosted sales of Dodges), native advertising efforts that set new standards in quality and quantity (a few examples: a Peyton Manning interview on ESPN, Huffington Post op-eds) a Tumblr full of GIFs, a Scotch-focused app, contests and much, much more. The onslaught may create a minor backlash that will provide lessons for the next generation of this campaign (one lesson: this movie has something that makes this all work: Will Ferrell), but for now, the team behind this rollout (Paramount, Ferrell and co, Wieden + Kennedy Portland, and Zemoga) have d-worded (yes, disrupted) social and movie marketing.

Chipotle "Scarecrow"

Chipotle followed its award-winning 2012 “Back to the Start” video with another musical tale of farming gone wrong. This year’s “Scarecrow,” from CAA Marketing, featured Fiona Apple’s cover of “Pure Imagination” and made a harrowing, animated statement about sustainable food production. “We have become firm believers in the value of entertainment as a way to educate,” Chipotle Communications Director Chris Arnold told us. Read more about it here.

Kmart "Ship My Pants"

We’ll acknowledge this is a controversial choice, not for the cheeky language--f*ck that--but for the fact that it’s unclear if this viral blockbuster spurred any sales. We leave it in because it’s another great market mover--a call to other brands that people actually like it when you speak to them using language that real human beings use.
Read more about the campaign, from DraftFCB, here.

IBM World's Smallest Movie

IBM wanted to talk about a "small" breakthrough--that the company had figured out a way to reduce the number of atoms it takes to store a bit of information from one million to 12. Not exactly a stop presses moment for most people, but a big development for IBM. The company and Ogilvy New York opted to celebrate and promote the advance by making A Boy And His Atom, the world's smallest movie (certified)--a movie made by moving atoms around. Read more about it here. Yeah, science!

Westjet "Christmas Miracle" Realtime giving

Brands of all kinds did their best to make people break down in tears in 2013, especially with this year’s crop of holiday ads. Westjet did the job in a way that was also a nifty tech-driven, real-world stunt that had Santa delivering personalized presents to weary travelers at the baggage carousel. Read about it here.

Dove "Real Beauty Sketches"

It is, according to some measures, the most viral ad of all time. Whether that’s the case or not, and whether or not you think the underlying message is positive for women, this was one of the most talked-about and most instructive ads of the year. And perhaps the biggest lesson is one that you don’t see: this project was born from a two-line creative brief. Too often, brands create biblical briefs that prescribe what a marketing campaign should be, what media it should use, what tone it should strike, and how it should be produced. Here, the marketer unleashed agency Ogilvy Brazil on the following: "Research says only 4% of women consider themselves beautiful. We need to do something to show the other 96% that they're more beautiful than they think." It shows a confident marketer that’s built a solid platform allowing its creative partners free reign to do what they do. That’s a pretty good head start toward making something amazing. Read more about it here.

IBM Smart Cities Outdoor

IBM and agency Ogilvy Paris won a Cannes Grand Prix with this campaign that turned outdoor signage into useful urban furniture. See more of the ads here.

Budweiser Super Bowl "The Clydesdales Brotherhood"

Yes, it’s been the year of the tear in advertising, with many brands opting for emotional moments over LOLs. Budweiser set the tone with this Super Bowl spot from agency Anomaly that reintroduced the Clydesdales to the football-watching public and resulted in men and women everywhere being suddenly besieged by a whole lot of “dust.”

Tesco Mobile's Twitter Feed

The U.K.’s Tesco Mobile was another brand that waded into the murky waters of “funny” Twitter responses, only, unlike most others, it was actually funny. The account gained global attention by using real comebacks instead of saccharine sucking up when countering disparaging Tweets (sample Tweet and response: @JayFeliipe: “Immediate turn off if a girl's mobile network is tesco mobile” / TescoMobile: @JayFeliipe “Are you really in a position to be turning girls away?”). But as the agency responsible told Adweek: "The #nojoke campaign was launched to change perceptions about Tesco Mobile—to show the British public that there's really nothing funny about Tesco Mobile. By creating content that's authentic to the brand and consumer, we're creating a story people want to engage with. That's true brand advocacy."

Intel/Toshiba "The Beauty Inside"

Another Cannes Grand Prix winner, this Intel/Toshiba joint venture from agency Pereira & O’Dell is that surprisingly rare beast: a brand-originated content series that’s simply worth watching.

TrueMove Mobile "Giving"

That’s right. Don’t put away the tissue yet. You’re going to need it. Get through this ad for Thai mobile service TrueMove without getting misty and you better get your cockles checked.

Volvo Trucks "The Epic Split"

A commercial trucks brand has no business making some of the most entertaining and most viewed online videos of the year, does it? It does. And as it did so, Volvo Trucks threw down a mean gauntlet to the ad world--where’s your excuse now, unsexy brands?? The brand started releasing stunning stunt-based videos last year, starting with a crazy truck tightrope walk. Things escalated from there, and culminated in the Jean-Claude Van Damme “Epic Split.” According to Visible Measures, the video was viewed by over 25 million people its first week (its since been viewed over 60 million times), making it the most viewed video that week, and spawning 50 related clips (including the Channing Tatum spoof that itself has been viewed 13 million times). And the beauty of it all is, these are all product demo ads.

Coca-Cola "Small World Machines"

Coca-Cola puts its Happiness money where its mouth is, creating an ambitious initiative to bring the citizens of India and Pakistan face to face over a cold beverage. Is it going to cure war? No. But, again, it’s a callout to other major brands to use their creative resources in a more meaningful way. Read about it here.

The Cronut

A donut. A croisssant. A product innovation. A brand. An earned media phenomenon. A cultural moment. An ad.

GoPro "Eagle"/"Fireman Saves A Kitten"

In September, a YouTube user posted a video called “Flying Eagle Point of View” that showed jaw-dropping aerial footage of Chamonix in the French Alps captured by a camera mounted on an eagle’s back. If you look at the headlines from the many, many sites that covered the video, you'll note that they are mostly variations of "GoPro On An Eagle.." (our headline was: Some Hero Strapped A GoPro To An Eagle And The Footage Is Breathtaking, and, it should be said, the post was one of our most popular of the year). That's GoPro, not "camera." As noted in this story's intro, it's just one of a number of hugely popular pieces of content created by GoPro users that make up the brand's endless "ad campaign."

GoPro "Eagle"/"Fireman Saves A Kitten"

And, if eagles aren't your thing, we'll wrap things up with an appropriately tear-jerking bit of GoPro video--“Fireman saves Kitten." The video, which pretty much does what it says on the tin, actually WAS a GoPro commercial (well, that is, GoPro turned it into a commercial after the fireman had posted it to YouTube himself).


The 20 Best Ads Of 2013

It was a big year for content marketing, desserts and videos that made you cry.

Can a pastry ever be an ad? What about a video created with a certain brand’s product but that the brand didn’t create? A Twitter attitude?

All of those things feature in our list of the best ads of the year.

Rather than having a list for best spot, best social media thing, best brand content, etc. (like award shows do!), we assemble all the best instances of brand creativity in one list. You could argue that some of the entries on the list aren’t ads, or you could argue, as we would, that they represent the evolving notion of what an ad is.

The best ads do something useful or they tell great stories, or both. And the best work here took that mandate to a new level. On the list this year: a mega-integrated movie marketing campaign that became its own attraction, a vending machine designed to transcend geopolitical boundaries, possibly the cheekiest Twitter feed of the year, user generated videos, and yes, a pastry.

Naming a donut hybrid as one of the best ads of the year is, in part, simply a recognition of a great creative story and, in part, a statement about the nature of marketing and what constitutes brand creativity. That statement is: the best marketing is every great experience a person has with your brand, from product to packaging to customer service to communications. The cronut is the story of a company that made an innovative product, gave it a name and a brand and turned that into one of the biggest earned media phenomena in recent memory. The cronut put a small New York business on the map, but we are less concerned here with sales at Dominique Ansel Bakery (though, apparently they are still brisk) and more concerned with what Ansel and his cronut can teach any marketer, which is: don't just ask, what am I saying, but what am I making/doing?

Speaking of doing: naming a GoPro video (or two) as our top pick of the year is another recognition of a product that is at one with marketing, as well as recognition of a stellar content marketing story. Advertisers make a lot of noise about consumer control and letting consumers tell their brands’ stories, blah blah bling blah blah. But, really, hardly anyone does this. GoPro does it. The company, makers of wearable and gear-mounted cameras, has been an outstanding example of a brand that has built, and spread, its name based on the creations of its audience. The company encourages users, famous and otherwise, to share their EXTREME! outdoor content (or, in the case of "Dubstep Baby," their EXTREME! indoor content). The company has 1.4 million YouTube subscribers and an endless archive of user-created videos of all manner of people doing all manner of things (many of the videos have a million plus views, several have 10 million plus); an Instagram search for #GoPro yields more than 1.6 million photos, most of them, obviously, from users. This year, the videos got more dramatic and more watched and you were as likely to see them as you were to see the company’s "ads" on TV.

See all of our picks in the slide show above—oh, and a warning: things took a turn for the weepy this year, so be prepared to claim "allergies" if you’re watching at work.

Add New Comment


  • Billy

    How could you possibly not put VOLVO Van Damme as #1.. That is without a doubt one of the best ads in history. Certainly the best since 2010's Old Spice..

  • JayEarl

    One small problem with your choice of coke's "small world machines" -it never actually happened! It was a scam for Cannes.

  • Sebastian Quevedo-Busch

    What you guys complaining about, the videos are right there to be played on the top ...

  • SJ

    This would have been an interested article (didn't read it) if a list was given, even if the videos link aren't there, fine, but at least give something so i can copy and paste and look it up myself

  • ankitmahato

    Terrible way of presenting this post .. a list would have been better from readability POV.