Most creative ads of 2014

Always 'Like a Girl' among top ads of 2014.
Always 'Like a Girl' among top ads of 2014.

Agency creatives from Wieden+Kennedy, Y&R, The Martin Agency, Genius Steals and Huge discuss their favorite campaigns of the past year

As 2014 draws to a close, Campaign asked creatives to reflect on the campaigns that caught their attention over the year. From the importance of truth in advertising to interactive ideas, here is a roundup of the year's best campaigns to provide inspiration for 2015. 

David Kolbusz, executive creative director, Wieden+Kennedy New York

I don't typically get jealous of other peoples' campaigns. I tend to be grateful and celebrate when my contemporaries put something brilliant out into the world because it pushes our industry forward. Great work inspires clients to buy great work.

There was one thing this year, though, that hurt. Heat's work for Madden NFL 15 — specifically, Wayne McClammy's "Madden Season" film — was a bit of long-form content that had me squirming with every twist and turn. From the way the "Dave Franco's House" title is introduced at the beginning, the Robyn-esque chanteuse belting out absurdist lyrics, through to the "blah blah blah" rap breakdown, every moment of this piece had my green-eyed monster stirring.

There wasn't a second that didn't feel fresh, which is an incredible feat considering how hackneyed the "music video ad" has become.

Mimi Cook, chief creative officer, Y&R California

Once advertising turned erectile dysfunction into comedy and taking Viagra into a source of pride, it was probably just a matter of time before sanitary napkins could be flipped into something actually watchable.

And here we are. Always and #likeagirl. What excites me about this work isn’t the "You go, girls" message. It’s that their point doesn’t feel like a pat on the head. There’s a power to it. It captures such an unpleasant truth and lets it unfold before our eyes in such a simple, unvarnished way.

What we’re now (politely) calling "social experiments" are as riveting to me now as the reruns of "Candid Camera" I once watched. They show human beings for what we are: human. We're delusional (Prudential), insecure (Dove), and highly entertaining (#fuckthepoor). A great truth can make for advertising that doesn’t feel like advertising — though, sure, there’s still a logo at the end. But I’ll always make time for someone — even a brand — who makes me smarter or opens up an important conversation.

Here’s to more truth in advertising.

Joe Alexander, chief creative officer, The Martin Agency

It’s funny. I didn’t think 2014 was a great year for creativity until I started rooting around the web and finding some pretty amazing stuff.

The IKEA "Beds" spot, Sainsbury’s "Holiday 2014" gem; "Monty the Penguin" for John Lewis; Arby’s dead-on "We Have Pepsi" ad; the Newcastle's Anna Kendrick Super Bowl takeover; the new definition of "Wholesome" from Honey Maid; and my close second, Apple’s "The Song," which beautifully captured the power of the brand.

My favorite of the year? Honda’s brilliantly rendered "The Other Side" interactive video, which seamlessly toggles between two stories: a dad dropping off the kids at school in a base Civic and the same actor, now playing a guy in the middle of an art heist, driving a Civic R. The fun? Just press the "R" on your keyboard to go between the two stories. The craft alone makes this the Cannes Cyber Grand Prix favorite.

Faris Yakob, co-founder, Genius Steals

What are ads for? It’s not a trick question. Ads are designed to make people do something, usually by changing their mind. What’s the best way to change someone’s mind? By getting them to do something.

Our actions change our ideas because cognitive dissonance is uncomfortable. That’s why I love interactive ideas, which were in short supply this year, at least as represented at awards shows like the Cyber Category at Cannes, which has been colonized by films (probably because ad folk really love films).

Films are great, but they don’t require actions, only audiences. So one of my favorite advertising ideas this year is a lovely digital billboard you can swipe with a credit card. The Social Swipe lets passers by interact directly, donating money, seeing the impact it can have.

The future of what we do, I maintain, is in creating ideas that are worth interacting with.

And, for me, the most memorable ad, and best media bet placed, was the MailChimp sponsorship of the podcast "Serial." It was unknown when the brand stepped up. It became, through spontaneous sharing, the most listened to podcast of all time.

"Mail … Kimp?"

Anna Balkrishna, associate editorial director, Huge

As a writer, I’m intrigued when boundaries get blurred between smart content and smart advertising. I love the latest Acura commercials that Jerry Seinfeld wrote specifically for his web series, "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee."

Instead of leaving his ad-sales team to handle the sponsor pre-roll, Seinfeld has collaborated with Acura to make sure each season’s campaign feels conceptually integrated with the show.

This year, he created a series of spots featuring a memorable character: a no-nonsense über-salesman who drops bizarre, pithy pearls of self-help advice while underselling Acura’s TLX with the tagline, "I sell cars. You sell you."

The ads include plenty of shiny product shots, but really serve as a vehicle for perfect Seinfeldian non-sequiturs such as, "You give out a fake number, make sure it’s a working number at least someone answers." (True aficionados should recall the Seinfeld episode when Elaine gives a fake number to a guy she calls "Denim Vest.")

It’s a hilarious anti-campaign tailored for a show that openly embraces its relationship with its sponsor (despite Seinfeld’s tongue-in-cheek remarks to the contrary at the Clio Awards). As high-quality, short-form online programming continues to gain traction, I hope to see more brands take this nimble approach to reaching audiences.

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