It’s been another year of trials and tribulations for the ad world. The industry remains drawn to brand purpose, even when it backfires spectacularly (see Gillette’s attempt to address toxic masculinity in January) and ads of this ilk still seem to dominate when it comes to awards season, creating what can feel like a vicious cycle of over-worthiness.
Meanwhile, a new report from advertising body IPA suggested that creative effectiveness in advertising is in crisis, and there was further chatter about the threat of AI to the industry.
It wasn’t all bad though; 2019 proved once again that when advertising is done well, it has the power to surprise, delight and, most importantly, sell. Here, we select our ten favourite ads from this year, listed in chronological order. Get stuck in!
Nike, Dream Crazier – Wieden + Kennedy Portland
Nike followed up a hugely successful year creatively in 2018 with this brilliant spot, directed by Kim Gehrig and starring Serena Williams. Making reference to how Williams has previously been criticised for her ‘angry outbursts’ on court, the ad cleverly addresses the derogatory language often used to describe female athletes, urging them to “dream crazier” instead.
BBC, This Time With Alan Partridge – BBC Creative
Alan Partridge just emailed everyone in the BBC. pic.twitter.com/DM3POwgIDu
— Tim Johns (@timoncheese) February 25, 2019
Following a 24-year hiatus, the Beeb brought back Britain’s most excruciatingly awkward radio host, Alan Partridge, to temporarily fill in as a presenter on fictional TV show This Time. In classic Partridge fashion, he took it upon himself to send a round-robin email to the broadcaster’s 20,000 staff ahead of the show airing, complete with the particularly inspired subject line ‘Clearing the air’. Cue the email going viral on social, and all without spending a penny.
Mothercare, Body Proud Mums – Sophie Mayanne
In the era of wokeness, there’s a real risk of campaigns focused on issues such as body positivity coming across as contrived. Thankfully, Sophie Mayanne’s raw, beautiful and, crucially, non-Photoshopped portraits of ten new mums with their babies were nothing short of authentic. Shown across the London Underground, the campaign has been widely applauded for its celebration of post-partum bodies in all their glory.
Pornhub, #BeeSexual – BETC Paris
Best known for its NSFW video content, 2019 was the year that Pornhub marked itself out as an unlikely champion of creativity. Its campaign in collaboration with charity Operation Honey Bee was no exception, and saw it create a standalone channel to house an array of ‘funny kinky nature porn’, narrated by some of the world’s most popular porn stars.
Ikea, Real Life Series – Publicis Spain
Ikea is well known for its refreshingly unconventional campaigns. This one, aimed at expat UAE customers who are less familiar with the brand, put a clever twist on the age-old concept of product placement by using Ikea furnishings to recreate some of pop culture’s best-loved lounges – including The Simpsons, Friends and Stranger Things.
The Female Company, The Tampon Book – Scholz&Friends Berlin
Another example of brand purpose done well, The Female Company’s subversive take on the tampon tax debate in Germany (which took the form of an illustrated book filled with tampons to avoid the usual 19% tax rate – books are only taxed 7%) saw it win big on the awards circuit this year. Beyond the campaign hype, it also helped to bring about real-world change, when the tax was finally changed in Germany in November.
Channel 4, Complaints Welcome – 4Creative
While trolling isn’t a new phenomenon, Channel 4 shone new light on the issue with its recent spot, which featured famous faces including Big Narstie and Grayson Perry reading out some of the more disturbing real-life complaints made about them. The message behind the ad feels all the more pertinent given the Tories’ recent threats about the broadcaster’s future, after it replaced a noticeably absent Boris Johnson with an ice sculpture during an election debate on climate change.
Lego, Rebuild the World – BETC Paris
Everyone’s favourite toy company made a splash in September when it launched its first ad campaign in 30 years. Shot by Traktor, the film had all the key components of a blockbuster ad spot. Alongside being filled with a plethora of delightful visual effects and creative in-jokes to please Lego fans, its more serious underlying message acted as a powerful rallying cry to society to help ‘rebuild the world’ we live in.
Spotify, Wrapped – in-house
Spotify’s end-of-year deep dive into how we stream music has become an annual event since it first launched in 2017, as everyone and their mother rushes to share their listening stats on social. This year is extra special though, as we bid a collective farewell to a whole decade. To mark the occasion, Spotify spotlighted some of the more memorable (and regrettable) musical moments from the past ten years in a series of well-executed poster campaigns and films. Beyond the ads though, Spotify users once again spread the message far and wide on social, with Spotify’s unusual description of music genres (pop rap anyone?) causing particular debate.