Top Ten Ads of the Year 2015

Our pick of the most inspiring, innovative and exciting advertising of 2015.

It’s been a complicated year in advertising. We’ve seen marketing campaigns masquerading as products, sculptures and even entire shops, but the traditional worlds of TV and film (and occasionally even print and poster) have flourished too. Here, in reverse order, are our favourites this year.

10. Volvo, LifePaint, Grey London

Anyone who follows the CR website regularly will know that including Volvo LifePaint in this list is controversial. Initially launched in a very limited edition, LifePaint is a spray that cyclists can apply to make themselves more visible at night. It aims to promote, laterally, Volvo’s commitment to road safety. It was both celebrated and criticised at launch, as this article from April explains, but went on to win two Grand Prix awards in Cannes. Was it a genuine product? In October, Volvo (and Grey) went some way to answering that by widening LifePaint’s distribution to make it available via dealerships, but this hasn’t convinced everyone. In many ways LifePaint sums up some of the problems of brands using product design as marketing – particularly the question of whether, when scrutinised, the products really stand up in the real world. But as this was such a significant trend of 2015, the campaign has made it on to our list.

9. Diesel, Fall/Winter 15, Spring Creative


Diesel launched a new brand language this year, which emphasised its irreverent heritage and was used across posters, print and also in unexpected media such as Tinder and Shazam. In the latter, Spring Creative, who created the work, demonstrated how programmatic advertising could be fun. With its tendency of serving up ads for products you’ve just been looking at online, programmatic can be one of the more intrusive forms of advertising, but here Diesel demonstrates how it can also be amusing, if the right tone of voice is used.

8. Channel 4, Humans TV launch, 4Creative

To gain chatter around its new drama series Humans, Channel 4 created an elaborate campaign featuring a fictional company titled Persona Synthetics which purported to sell cyborgs to help us around the home. The campaign’s charm was in its depth, which included the above TV spot, a listing on eBay and even a shopfront on London’s Regent Street. Twitter and the media went crazy as audiences became confused as to whether it was real or fiction. This campaign was part of a generally great year for Channel 4, which also launched a triumphant rebrand in September.

7. Apple, iPhone6 posters, TBWA Media Arts Lab


Apple took a brave and simple approach in its iPhone6 advertising earlier this year, focusing solely on the skills of its camera and featuring images sourced from members of the public. Okay, so the photos are ‘optimised’ so they look good at poster size, but the elegant style of the ads proved impressive, even charming CR columnist Paul Belford who, as regular readers will know, is rarely enamoured with much modern advertising.

6. Sport England, This Girl Can, FCB Inferno

Sport England launched this campaign at the beginning of the year in a bid to encourage women to believe that sport can be for everyone, regardless of size or ability. It sparked a general trend towards less competitive sports ads aimed at women (including this ad from Nike) and, according to recent reports, has been successful in inspiring women to exercise more.

5. Harvey Nichols, Rewards, adam&eveDDB

Harvey Nichols is well known for its bold, and at times controversial, approach to advertising, but this spot – which features real CCTV footage of shoplifters in store, with their faces covered by cartoon masks – still proved shocking. It was shared all over Twitter and written up across the media though, proof that confident, risk-taking advertising can still reap benefits.

4. Geico, Unskippable, The Martin Agency

Advertising on YouTube is the bane of most viewers’ lives, but this campaign for Geico demonstrates how, if you have fun with the medium, you can create advertising that is hilarious, and unskippable. Unsurprisingly, this campaign won big at Cannes.

3. John Lewis, Man on the Moon, adam&eveDDB

John Lewis is king of the Christmas ads in the UK, and with this year’s spot it once again proved why. Preempting the most prominent theme of this year’s Xmas spots – the need to look after the elderly during the festive season, which appeared across a multitude of campaigns, with varying success – the ad saw off stiff competition from Sainsbury’s Mog, the Spanish National Lottery and Edeka to make it onto our list.

2. Airbnb, Floating House, TBWA

Photograph by Martin Parr, courtesy of Airbnb
Photograph by Martin Parr, courtesy of Airbnb

It’s hard to knock the ambition of Airbnb’s Floating House: a real house drifting down the River Thames in London was bound to get attention. And it did, appearing across the media and wowing audiences. We posted a story on how it was made here back in July, and it remains the standout example of experiential advertising this year.

1. Shiseido, High School Girl?, Shiseido in-house

We’ve picked Shiseido’s short film as our number one ad of the year in part because of its innovation within the notoriously risk-averse beauty sector. The film is cleverly shot too – apparently filmed in one take over seven hours, its reveal keeps you gripped until the end. Brave and compelling work.

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