The Academy Awards are this weekend, and you can bet DiCaprio's bear that brands will be using it as an opportunity to create and unleash a whole lotta new ads. That's because, as you may have noticed over the last few years, tentpole cultural events—your Super Bowls, your Grammys, your Golden Globes, your major sport playoffs—have become the new ad calendar. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Only one of this week's picks is an "Oscar ad," so we'll see what everyone comes up with on Sunday. Let's all just hope and pray it's not just trigger-happy social media managers waiting in sweat-drenched anticipation for Chris Rock to say something they can somehow use to "pull an Oreo" on Twitter. Onward!
What: A celebration of perhaps the world's greatest soccer star, and his refusal to treat the slightest touch like a hit to the face with a shovel.
Who: Gatorade, TBWA/Chiat/Day
Why We Care: One of America's biggest complaints against soccer—aside from the lack of scoring and not enough commercial breaks—is how players have turned flopping and diving into an art form. Now here is Gatorade celebrating arguably the greatest player ever and his ability shrug off tackles and refusal to dive. Which is something no one can say about that other superstar in Spain.
What: To raise awareness that it has 50 times more drive-thru restaurants than its rival in France, McDonald's trolled Burger King with a billboard featuring overly detailed directions to a Burger King very, very far away.
Who: McDonald's, TBWA/Paris
Why We Care: The billboard in the video is near Brioude, a town of 6,700 in France's Haute-Loire region, where two temporary billboards were built. One is a small sign showing the closest McDonald's is five kilometers away. Towering next to it is a giant version of an IRL Google Maps directions to the closest Burger King—a five-hour journey away. This is just funny, next-level commitment to what could've been a one-note joke.
What: The second phase of the brand's "Rule Yourself" training campaign uses the U.S. women's national gymnastics team to show all the hard work behind the flips, jumps, and glued-on smiles we all see during the Olympics.
Who: Under Armour, Droga5
Why We Care: The first phase, with Stephen Curry, Misty Copeland, and more was cool, but this goes deeper into the concept of all the hours needed to find those moments of glory, and the brand promises to unveil even more detailed content into these athletes' regimens. The overall campaign positions UA uniquely among the other sports giants, but even just as a sports ad, both this and the one with young Manchester United star Memphis Depay are stylish and have enough swagger to make all that unglamorous hard work look cool.
What: Paul Giamatti is just trying to explain the benefits of web TV to this family of film nerds.
Who: CenturyLink, Arnold Worldwide
Why We Care: With so many brands so often trying to create marketing opportunities that "don't look like an ad," sometimes it's nice to see an ad embrace its utter ad-ness. Here's Oscar-nominee Paul Giamatti outlining the benefits of CenturyLink Prism TV like any good spokesperson . . . when things go a bit meta and this family starts dropping names such as The Frozen North, Half Shot At Sunrise, and the French version of Whispering City.
What: The female characters of the animated comedy make an appearance in the legendary Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.
Who: FX/Archer, Sports Illustrated
Why We Care: It's kind of the next logical step in the batsh*t progression from having nude photos on Reddit to having Pam's nudie pics exposed in a phone hack, and just sleazy-funny enough to match the show's sensibility perfectly. Meta-marketing at its finest.