While some brands stumbled, there was no dearth of marketers pushing the envelope to create some brilliant ads in 2017 either.
The year started on a high with several marketers making statements about diversity and inclusion during the Super Bowl. Things only got better, with several viral campaigns and engaging digital work were pushed out in the following months.
As 2017 wraps to a close, we look back at some of the most creative, innovative and funny ads by marketers.
Oh and like the Worst Ads of 2017, we’re grading these for fun too.
10. Snapchat’s Dancing Hot Dog (Grade: B+)
While not technically an ad, the dancing hot dog helped tout Snapchat’s technical and creative prowess in the realm of augmented reality like none other. The adorable animated hot dog took the internet by storm, birthing memes galore. And brands were all too happy to jump on the dancing 3D objects bandwagon, when Snapchat rolled out the functionality widely for them in September.
9. Squarespace’s John Malkovich Super Bowl Ads (Grade: B+)
This quirky Super Bowl ad by Squarespace featured actor John Malkovich attempting to claim a domain based on his name from a less-famous owner. The JohnXHannes ad clearly resonated with audiences, as it ended up sweeping the Creative Arts Emmys for the 2017 Outstanding Commercial award.
“Squarespace wins for their surprising use of John Malkovich and for smartly and simply connecting domain names to their brand, said Winston Binch, chief digital officer of Deutsch North America. “Provocative, and entertaining focus.”
8. Lowe’s DIY Instagram Stories Ad (Grade: A-)
This crafty Lowe’s Instagram Stories campaign by Facebook’s Creative Shop and BBDO weaved together 64 micro-videos to demonstrate how a tiny, unused room can be creatively transformed into a useful space. The closet-sized room perfectly matched the dimensions of Instagram’s camera field, and the Stories format allowed users to flip back and forth with the swipe of a finger, reviewing how the changes were made.
7. Bud Light’s “Dilly Dilly” (Grade: A-)
- Bud Light
If you haven’t yet heard the phrase “Dilly Dilly,” you are probably living under a rock. Bud Light has once again managed to turn a garbled, non-sensical phrase into a cultural phenomenon. (Remember Wassup, anyone?) This series of ads created by Wieden+Kennedy quickly went viral, thanks to their constant appearances during commercial breaks in NFL and college football games.
6. 84 Lumber’s “The Journey Begins” (Grade: A)
- Lumber 88
This 90-second Super Bowl ad was an instant hit, by taking a strong stand on immigration and catapulting an unknown brand into public consciousness along the way. It depicted a Mexican mother and daughter embarking on an arduous journey to leave their country of origin and find a better life in the US, and invited viewers to watch the conclusion of the ad online. So many people flooded the website that it crashed after the ad was aired.
“This late in the year, it’s easy to forget the impact of ads that ran in February, but 84 Lumber’s Super Bowl film is one of the most powerful, courageous ads in memory,” said John Barker, Founder and Chief Idea Officer at Barker. “It’s remarkable, almost unheard of, for a brand to act so bravely and speak so unequivocally on a lightning-rod issue such as Trump’s Border Wall, boldly siding with undocumented immigrants who are pursuing the American Dream. It put this relatively unknown brand at the forefront of the national debate literally overnight.”
5. The New York Times’ “The Truth Is Hard to Find” (Grade: A)
- The New York Times
This powerful, masterful series by The New York Times and Droga5 did not shy away from making a statement, and unabashedly highlighted the dangers and the value of finding the truth, especially in the country’s current political climate. The visuals are hair-raising, and drive home the point effortlessly.
4. Procter & Gamble’s “The Talk” (Grade: A)
Brands did not hesitate to weigh in on some hot-button issues this year, even though it ended up backfiring for some. P&G, however, passed with flying colors with this evocative, heart-wrenching spot in which black parents are depicted as having “the talk” with their children about the difficulties of growing up black in the U.S.
3. Netflix’s Stranger Things AR lens on Snapchat (Grade: A)
Netflix promoted the second season of its hit sci-fi thriller series Stranger Things with an all-out integrated marketing push. But it was a first-of-its-kind 3D World Lens that it ran on Snapchat that took the cake. The lens literally served as a portal into the show through the Snapchat camera – thrusting viewers into Joyce Byer’s memorable living room from the show. Once in the room, viewers could also interact with various easter eggs, which were brought to life using augmented reality. This was definitely a first, and hella cool.
2. Burger King’s “Google Home for the Whopper” and “Bullying Jr.” (Grade: A+)
- Burger King
Burger King stole the show this year with its sheer ingenuity and big heart. Earlier in the year, the fast food chain created a sneaky TV spot that served as a hack for Google Home. The ad featured the phrase “OK, Google, what is the Whopper burger,” which triggered any Google Home device within earshot to start reading aloud from the Whopper Wikipedia page. It then followed through with a poignant PSA that highlighted the issue of bullying.
“My favorite work of the year is the Burger King Bullying Jr. PSA – it pulls your leg and then your heartstrings, making a very powerful statement about how we should treat one another,” said David Krupp, CEO of Kinetic North America. “Besides being a compelling creative execution, it is also smart business. Consumers are paying close attention to the actions, beliefs and values that brands express and they align with the companies that they believe in.”
1. State Street Global Advisors’ “Fearless Girl” (Grade: A+)
This bronze sculpture crafted by Kristen Visbal became an overnight sensation and cultural icon almost instantly. It was installed by asset manager State Street – and advertising agency McCann New York – to call attention to the lack of gender diversity in boardrooms. It swiftly took over not just Wall Street, but subsequently invaded Cannes too, picking up a bunch of awards on the festival’s first day itself. But it didn’t come without controversy, with accusations of hypocrisy after State Street was forced to pay $5 million for allegedly underpaying women and minorities. Nevertheless, she persisted.
“Beyond its massive scale, reach and impact, as a jury we came to understand that indeed every woman could see herself and moments of defiance and bravery in her own journey in that little girl,” said Wendy Clark, DDB North America CEO and jury president of Cannes Glass Lions 2017. “And, at the same time, Fearless Girl represents our highest hopes and ambitions for the potential of all little girls the world over.”