As we saw in Part 1, there was much to celebrate: advertising that was funny, emotional, well-meaning, well-executed, and much more.
But in the end, some work rises to the top. Below are the top 5 ads featured on Ad of the Day in 2013, in order of appearance. I may run out of superlatives by the end of this…
1. IBM “People for Smarter Cities”, by Ogilvy Paris!
Once you’ve picked up a Grand Prix at Cannes, there’s little more that needs to be said. A rare and wonderful “perfect storm” of idea, brand, medium and execution. Amazing.
Original write-up (June 11) Cannes can be such a lottery that making predictions is a fool’s game. But I’m going to be a fool right now and guarantee that this outdoor campaign will pick up at least one Lion next week. There’s too much that is awesome about it for it to go unnoticed…it’s exactly what I think judges will be looking for: A simple, “why didn’t I think of that before!” idea. Credible integration with the brand and its message. A great example of “show, don’t tell” (instead of just talking about IBM being useful to cities…these OOH boards are useful!). Use of media that transcends its normal limitations (this isn’t just a print ad made big.) A fetching case video. A sub-category that may likely has less competition than others. Fantastic work. Advance congratulations to my colleagues in Paris:)
2. Southern Comfort “Shampoo”, by W+K New York!
This ad just oozes class and easy charm. Along with Lion-winning companion “Whatever’s Comfortable“, it’s the type of campaign that I would kill to be involved with: confident, different, edgy, and extremely courageous in how it’s executed. Just…superb.
Original write-up (July 4) This campaign is a gem, it shines bright for its courage and its flair. This is the second ad in the series, and it sustains the momentum and the “wtf?” fascination of the first ad (if you haven’t seen the classic, Gold lion-winning first ad, click here.) The flair is in the little details: the way he just goes ahead and checks the woman out…the old-fashioned shape of his glasses…his snakeskin boots…the real-world sexiness of the woman…her subtle smile of acknowledgement…his retro ring and bracelet…all of these details set off fireworks of secondary thoughts in your brain, and add depth and story to a narrative where seemingly not much is happening. But let’s talk about the courage, because as I watch this ad I have an ongoing thought of “wtf? this…is oddly awesome…I don’t know how to feel about this but I’m drawn to it. How did they ever pull this off?” Ask a FMCG client or account person about the ideal process to get out an ad and they might say something like: 1. concept testing/validation, 2. write-up a tight, specific brief, 3. develop creative that addresses all the nuances of the brief, 4. qualitative testing to make sure consumers get it, 5. quantitative testing to hopefully have statistical validation/guarantee of the breakthrough, comprehension, and forecasted efficacy of ad, 5. Hire director to “shoot the animatic”, without much deviation from what has been validated. We may talk about creative excellence, but really the driving factor here is to minimize RISK, to get it as close to zero as possible. This has a side effect: it eliminates the need for courage. It makes sense, after all there is big money at stake, careers, etc. So that’s fine. But let’s be clear: without risk, without courage at some point, there is no chance at all for great creativity. There. just. isn’t. In the example above, I’m sure they went through steps 1,2,3 and had a nice little strategy and brief. And then…they went off-road. How do you even present an ad like this? What is it even about? An oddly-semi-cool guy getting his hair washed? Imagine the leap of faith required! Going with this campaign takes courage, it assumes risk, it gives a feeling of mild discomfort, dread, and excitement. I doubt they tested it for validation. And I bet that they hired a talented director that added a thick layer of opinion on how the idea comes to life. And that…is how you get to great creativity. It’s messy, often risky, and requires courage and guts along the way. It’s a simple recipe to jot down, but a very hard dish to cook.
3. Guinness “Surge”, by AMV BBDO in London!
If you can hang it up on your wall unchanged and have it look like an beautiful piece of art, that’s a pretty special print ad. It’s amazing how these can be so simple and powerfully distinctive at the same time. I mean, it’s a picture of the product! Ah, but it’s much more than that. Simply beautiful
Original write-up (September 25) It almost seems unfair, really, when you have a series of print ads that are so simple – yet so filled with raw power, meaning, and brand linkage. It feels as if it should be a little more complex, a little harder to get things so right. Ah, but it is so hard. Simple is the hardest of things to pull off! A brand needs to earn the right to go for simple, and this can take years or decades of consistently laying the groundwork. And then of course, an agency and client team have to have the talent, the vision, and the courage to let the message speak for itself, without the heavy burden of add-ons that act as insurance policies. There’s nothing simple about making something look simple. And that’s why this series of print ads is the type of work that should be celebrated.
4. Mercedes-Benz “Magic Body Control”, by Jung von Matt/Neckar in Stuttgart!
The year’s best car commercial features no cars. And yet it’s all about product benefit, while being crisp clear, entirely disruptive and very memorable. That’s tough to do. It also takes a lot of courage to even attempt. More of this, please!
Original write-up (September 26) Bravo to Jung von Matt and Mercedes, for breaking one of the laws of automotive advertising! (Law 14.c.iii which states “When showcasing stability control, one must show the car in one of three situations: 1. Traversing impossibly rocky terrain, so that all four wheels are a different heights at the same time, 2. Driving around rough roads while humorously not disturbing something inside the car, like a sleeping baby or a cup of boiling coffee, or 3. Inside a modern, robotic “auto lab”, showing the car elevated, with each wheel attached to a hydraulic piston that violently shakes the axle in different directions at once.” There was nothing mentioned about chickens! Or not even showing a car! But were you instantly hooked? Did you get and understand the functional message? Were you entertained, even delighted? Did you remember who it was for? Did it leave you singing the song inside your head? Does it make you feel good towards the brand? Yeah, me too. And this is exactly why in advertising one must strive break the rules, if you’re striving for a great ad.
5. Volvo Trucks “Epic Split”, by Forsman & Bodenfors in Gothenburg!
What an accomplishment: a truck ad so so quirky that it goes viral and gets over 2 million hits (I mean…who’s in the market for a truck?). Mind you, I’m talking about the first ad of this campaign, called “The Hook“. Because the “Epic Split” ad…at 60 million views and counting…it’s almost beyond commentary. As I said back then: “we are not worthy” of Van Damme’s awesomeness:)
Original write-up (November 18) One could talk about the amazing streak of late for Volvo and Forsman & Bodenfors, with great little ads like this one, or this one. One could talk about how this ad rates so highly on replayability, shareability, and brandability, making it deliciously viral (indeed. 21 million views in a few days!). One could talk about how this is a cool torture test idea (have trucks drive in a perfect parallel line, backwards), taken to new heights by amazing writing, celebrity casting, timing, visuals, tonality, environment (sunset!), camera work (one fluid, graceful take), and sublime use of exactly the right music at exactly the right time. One could even speculate that this is a guaranteed Cannes Lion come next June. But perhaps it’s best to simply sit back, hit play, and bask in the sheer awesomeness that is this ad:) We’re not worthy.
And there you have it.
A Grand Prix winner, with multiple Cannes Lions guaranteed to come. Work that is courageous, idea-driven, brand-elevating, lovingly crafted, and expertly executed. It all equals disruptive messaging that sells, and elevates our profession in the process. Congratulations to the teams involved! If you’re reading this, I hope it’s an inspiration to aim higher. After all: Why not us? Why not now?
See you in 2014!