The Top 5 Most Strategically-Driven Advertisements of 2013

2013 marked what I like to deem as the start of the “human era.” I’m not alone, as Hill Holliday later released a white paper stating the same thing. More than ever, people crave authentic stories and companies that value them as individuals. The rise of social media has allowed people to cut through the bureaucracy of large companies–to see them for what they are. As such, personable, transparent communications  have never been more important. Advertising built on a sound strategy that helps reduce the distance between brand and consumer, such as the ads featured below, will  continue to come to the forefront in 2014.

*Note: These ads were chosen for their ability to utilize insights effectively, they aren’t necessarily my personal favorites.*

1. Chipotle “Scarecrow”

A continuation of the “Back to the Start” advertisement that has received rave reviews from consumers and industry experts alike. It may not be very popular with marketing execs, but it does have 11.6 million views on YouTube. This ad lines up with a consumer desire to know where their food comes from and to live a more healthy lifestyle. It positions Chipotle as daring enough to take on the establishment. The introduction of an app-based game gives Chipotle another medium to show how they “cultivate a better world.”

2. Skype “Family Portrait” Campaign

Rather than explain the features of Skype, these ads show the end benefit to consumers. Skype connects people; it makes the world a close-knit place. Since Skype is free, barring some extra features, all the ad needs to do is get more people to use Skype.

3. PlayStation 4 “Perfect Day”

The juxtaposition between a classic song and visually aggressive behavior provides the perfect backdrop for what console gaming is about. Men (and it has been mostly male since video games were engendered in the late 1990s) want to play online with their mates as a way of socializing in a competitive environment. No other ads have captured the reason men game better than this one.

4. Coca-Cola “Let’s Go Crazy”

Coca-Cola wanted to spread happiness, but it is tough to do that in today’s world of 24/7 bad news. The folks at DAVID The Agency discovered towards the end of 2012 that kindness was the best way to spread happiness, as 98 percent of consumers agree that it’s the key to a happier world. By highlighting positive stories of people giving, they were able to create a campaign that resonates globally.

5. Toshiba “The Beauty Inside” (crowdsourced short)

Mac is cool, but Toshiba…not so much. That’s the problem Toshiba faced when trying to stay relevant to younger generations.  In response, Pereira & O’Dell created several short films that utilized social sites such as Facebook.  “The Beauty Inside” story spilled onto social media and continued beyond the confines of film. It won several awards and made the Toshiba brand a little more desirable to youth.

Honorable Mentions:

Dove “Real Beauty Sketches”

Famous Footwear “A Letter to Mom”

Dodge Ram “Farmer” (See my criticism)

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Can Advertising Change the World?

One of the biggest criticisms of advertising is that it sells people things that they don’t need. This type of criticism paints the ad person as just a schmuck for hire that will sell anything without regards to ethics. It points to historical cases of duplicitous advertising and marketing: P.T. Barnum gets crowds to line up to see the head of a monkey crudely sewn onto the body of a fish;  Lydia E. Pinkham inserts a non-existent sign under the Brooklyn Bridge;  Listerine invents the nonscientific term halitosis in order to sell mouthwash; De Beers convinces us that a “diamond is forever,” ensuring that diamonds don’t flood the market and lose their value. The list goes on and on.

Now, I’m not here to argue that any of the above cases are ethical or that present day advertising is consistently ethical. Rather, I argue that advertising reflects the times. Change happens on a societal level and advertising slowly comes to reflect that change. Ads have always reflected society’s ideal vision–for good or for bad.

The modern day ideal American family isn’t just Anglo-Saxon–it’s all shades, all genders, all theologies– and advertising is slowly starting to reflect that. For example, in the advertising of the 1950’s, the only place where you would see a wife was in the kitchen. Today, as women take their rightful place as power players in the economy, it’s not uncommon to see a women on TV in business attire.

With all that in mind: Do I think advertising can change the world for better? You’d be surprised to know that I think that it absolutely can. It’s not going to create radical change, but it’s a powerful vehicle that can accelerate change at certain points in history.

Some very recent examples of advertising being used for good:

1. A record 55% of Americans now support gay marriage. Unfortunately, mainstream advertising still seems to consider showing a gay couple as controversial and political–gay people  are almost non-existent in ads. However, Amazon was brave enough to release an ad that includes a married man that happens to be gay.

2.

One thing that really warmed my heart after the Boston Marathon tragedy was how Hill Holliday created The One Fund in seven hours. The bombing had barely happened and the folks of Hill Holliday were able to pull together the resolve to create  a unified fund for the victims of the bombing.

3. The Dove “Campaign for Real Beauty” displays the negative results of America’s unhealthy perception of an ideal woman. It a vanguard of sorts in representing America’s changing ideals.