Ads of the Year 2014

Well, what a year’s it’s been. Here’s our pick of the ten best advertising moments of 2014.

Well, what a year’s it’s been. Here’s our pick of the ten best advertising moments of 2014.

In choosing our top ads this year, our focus has been on the work that has most captured the public’s imagination, that has raised discussion and debate, and has been shared all over social media and beyond. As testament to the changing nature of advertising, several of the entries on this year’s list did not come out of major agencies as a ‘big idea’. Instead we saw films become massive successes due primarily to public interest and shares, and two of the biggest and most memorable brand events of the year were not even official campaigns at all.

Rather than do a top ten, we’ve listed our hits of 2014 in date order, with the oldest ad first. Let’s get started…

The Lego Movie, Lego Ad Break, PHD/Warner Bros/ITV/Drum

In early February viewers of the ITV show Dancing on Ice were in for a surprise when one of the ad breaks featured commercials created entirely in Lego. The stunt, which was created to promote The Lego Movie, included ads for Premier Inn, BT and, all created in the little plastic bricks.


Apolosophy, Apotek Hjärtat, Åkestam Holst

2013 saw the success of British Airways‘ ‘look up’ digital poster, which featured a toddler that stood up and pointed when a real BA flight went by overhead. In late February, Swedish haircare brand Apotek Hjärtat proved that there were further impressive applications of responsive posters when an innocuous-looking ad displayed in a subway station reacted to the arrival of trains by showing the model’s hair blowing in the wind.


Save The Children, Most Shocking Second A Day Video, Don’t Panic

The biggest challenge that most charities face is getting audiences to empathise with their cause. This film for Save The Children was hugely successful in bringing public attention back to the crisis in Syria on the third anniversary of the conflict, by asking them to imagine what it would be like if the events were happening in London.


First Kiss, Wren, Tatia Pilieva

Within 24 hours of being posted on YouTube, the First Kiss film was viewed over 20 million times. Created by fashion company Wren, it captured 20 strangers sharing a smacker for the first time on film. Its initial success may have been down to the fact that viewers online thought it was an art film, rather than an ad, but it was a huge commercial triumph regardless, leading to a 14,000% increase in traffic to Wren’s website.


#nomakeupselfie, Cancer Research UK (unofficially)

Another big charity moment came later in March when social media was gripped by the phenomenon that was the #nomakeupselfie. The public and celebrities alike queued up to post images of themselves online sans the slap before making a donation to Cancer Research UK. This event raised huge amounts of money for the cancer charity but was not an official campaign at all, having instead spread virally online. It was followed later in the year by the Ice Bucket Challenge, which raised money for a range of charities.


The Game Before The Game, Beats by Dre, R/GA

Expectation was running high in the lead up to the World Cup, with ad fans excited to see what the biggest sports brands would deliver. Yet it was actually electronics brand Beats that triumphed, with this five minute long epic that featured a range of footie megastars preparing for the tournament.



The other most memorable ad moment of the World Cup came not from an official source but instead was a reaction to the infamous Luis Suárez bite that happened during the Uruguay match against Italy. After the event, witty fans saw an opportunity in using a poster of Suárez, that formed part of an adidas campaign shot by photographer Timothy Saccenti, to create their own ‘bite selfies’, which they shared on social media using the hashtag #suarezing. In a year when there was much talk about ‘real time marketing’, this was probably not quite what adidas had in mind.


Like A Girl, Always, Leo Burnett Chicago

Feminism was suddenly seen as commercially viable in 2014 with many brands creating ads that aimed to empower women. The most striking was this film from Always, which challenged the negativity around the expression ‘like a girl’. While some were left uneasy by the idea of a sanitary product brand adopting the guise of a feminist activist, with over 50 million views on YouTube alone, the film was an undeniable success.


Christmas ad, Sainsbury’s, AMV BBDO

With the Christmas season in the UK now viewed as an advertising event on the scale of the Super Bowl in the US, anticipation was running high for the release of this year’s crop of commercials. While John Lewis may have initially stolen the show, it was Sainsbury’s’ ad, which recreated the famous Christmas Day truce from the First World War, that proved the most topical, even prompting an episode of Radio 4’s Moral Maze. The ad is undeniably beautiful, though its dabbling with history for commercial ends (despite Sainsbury’s long-standing association with the Royal British Legion) was a source of fierce debate.

If You’re Happy, Weight Watchers, Wieden + Kennedy Portland

Our final ad on the list is arguably the most traditional. A TV spot for Weight Watchers in the US, it is set to the tune of ‘if you’re happy’ but with the lyrics adapted to reflect our complicated relationship with food. Released in late November, it is a startlingly different approach for a diet brand, with the sector usually waiting until the new year to remind us that we’ve all over-indulged. Instead of stories of guilt or reinvention, this spot offers a refreshingly honest approach to a major problem for many, and thus earns its place on our Ads of the Year list.

And now over to you, dear readers – what do you think? Have we missed any of your favourites out? Please share your thoughts in the comments box below…

More from CR

At home with Michael Wolff

The latest issue of YCN’s members’ magazine features an interview with Wolff Olins co-founder Michael Wolff. To accompany the article, YCN has also released a short film shot at the designer’s home in North London…

Let’s Get Physical

Now that the sound can be delivered digitally, does that free the physical object to play a different role in our enjoyment of recorded music? asks Artomatic’s Tim Milne

Exposure: Anna Pogossova

Art director Gemma Fletcher examines the work of photographer Anna Pogossova, in the second installment of a series looking at new talent in photography, from recent graduates to photographers breaking into the commercial world…

Graphic Designer

Fushi Wellbeing

Creative Designer

Monddi Design Agency