The top 10 most-read creative stories of 2021

Campaign US rounded up the most click-worthy creative stories of the year.

As the pandemic continued to rage into 2021, creativity also thrived on. The work reflected people’s changing lives from the return of live sports and travel to their desire for a new home. In between, purposeful work proved that people are still willing to help each other. 

Campaign US rounded up the top 10 most-clicked creative stories in 2021.

10. Child sexual abuse survivors wish Twitter ‘Happy Birthday’ in chilling PSA

Child sex abuse survivors had a chilling message for Twitter’s 15th birthday.

Child safety nonprofit The Canadian Centre for Child Protection teamed up with Mischief @ No Fixed Address and sister agency No Fixed Address to create a PSA featuring actors telling real survivors’ stories. 

Twitter users aren’t able to directly report tweets or messages with child sex abuse material. So, images of children being exploited continue to spread on the social platform, serving as a constant reminder for survivors. 

And the problem has only gotten worse. In the past year, child sex abuse material on Twitter grew 41%, according to the National Centre For Missing and Exploited Children.

“15,” the PSA concludes. “Such a fun age.”

9. Wieden + Kennedy Brazil creative leadership departs over controversial work

Wieden + Kennedy São Paulo’s executive creative directors Eduardo Lima and Renato Simoes, and general director Fernanda Antonelli, exited the agency in September after a piece of work sparked criticism online. 

The film “Crises,” released for the Brazilian creative festival Festival do Clube de Criação, showed historical events including the Inquisition, U.S. slavery, the Spanish Civil War and World War II, before ending with a clip of the COVID-19 pandemic. Each historical crisis was accompanied by an artistic or cultural movement born from the same time period (i.e. the Black Power Movement and the work Guernica by Pablo Picasso). 

After critics blasted the film for insinuating that the crises served as creative inspiration, particularly slavery, it was removed from the air and Twitter. Clube de Criação and W+K posted a joint statement saying, “as soon as the negative reactions surfaced, [they] understood how inappropriate the message is,” and decided to remove the ad.

W+K later said regarding the departures of Lima, Simoes and Antonelli: “The decision was not taken in isolation or just based on an incident.”.

The incident came after W+K was one of several agencies that committed to release diversity data for non-profit 600&Rising’s “Commit to Change” initiative in 2020.

8. Zillow brings emotion into the real estate category in new campaign

The pandemic forced us to be homebound more than ever, making people realize they need more space, a more desirable location or simply a change of scenery. 

Enter Zillow. The real estate platform that recently expanded into a one-stop shop for the home buying process, including renting, selling, financing and closing on a home. To mark the expansion, Zillow released a new brand campaign “To Move is to Grow,”created in collaboration with Fig, in April. 

In one spot called “The Journey,” a young girl travels through a stormy sea and a dark forest before arriving at her new home. When she wakes up, she’s greeted by sunshine and a friendly new neighbor. 

7. Adidas and VICE Media light up Brooklyn Library in sustainability push

For Earth Month this year, Adidas and VICE Media teamed up on Step Out to the Future, an outdoor experiential campaign at the Brooklyn Public Library in Grand Army Plaza. . For four nights, the brands projected a seven-minute video using LED and an eco-friendly generator that showed how plastic can be recycled into a pair of Adidas Stan Smith sneakers.

Adidas and VICE also partnered with nonprofits Grow NYC and Prospect Park Alliance for the Green & Go clean-up event in April. Volunteers received a Green & Go kit, including a trash grabber, garbage bags, a reusable bag created by Adidas and Vice and gloves, to help clean up the park. 

The sneaker brand and media company also developed eco-friendly art installations, like recycled out of home posters and chalk stencils to promote social distancing, throughout New York City.

6. Ad of the week: New Balance’s ‘We Got Now’

Gen Z is paving the way for change — and they’re not willing to wait. 

For this Campaign US Ad of the Week winning campaign, New Balance tapped actor and musician Jaden Smith, tennis star Coco Gauff and Olympic sprinter Sydney McLaughlin for the spot “We Got Now,” created by VMLY&R New York. 

In the spot, Smith loads up a truck for his Water Box project, which delivers safe water to underserved communities. Gauff and McLaughlin’s cameos show them practicing their respective sports. 

"Impatience is a virtue,” Smith says. “When you know what you want, waiting isn’t an option. New Balance. We got now.”

 5. Jessica Alba and Zac Efron star in Dubai tourist board spy thriller

Dubai Tourism’s mock film of an action-packed movie trailer in the spot “A Five-Star Mission,” created by Mother, was one of our top creative stories of the year. 

The spot stars Jessica Alba and Zac Efron as a couple whose marriage is on the rocks, but there’s a twist. They also happen to be spies. 

The short film, directed by Craig Gillespie, takes viewers through popular Dubai attractions like Burj Al Arab, Jumeirah Al Naseem, overwater restaurant Pierchic, the Jumeirah district and Hatta, a spot for hiking, biking and kayaking.

The campaign also included out of home posters, which emulated classic film posters, social media and digital advertising.

4. Motel 6 launches first ad campaign since parting ways with The Richards Group

In June, Motel 6 released its first brand campaign with its new agency of record, Barkley.

The campaign uses Motel 6’s iconic tagline “We’ll leave the light on,” and spotlights each person the motel chain is “leaving the light on” for. It’s customers include grandparents traveling to meet their grandchildren for the first time, people traveling for a family member’s graduation and a man delivering his mother’s rocking chair for his sister’s baby. 

The economy lodging brand also targeted “movers,” the truckers and frontline workers who needed lodging while traveling the road during the pandemic.

Motel 6 tapped Barkely as its AOR after cutting ties with longtime agency The Richards Group. The motel chain axed The Richards Group after founder Stand Richards made racist comments about the client’s audience in a meeting. Keurig Dr. Pepper and The Home Depot also fired the agency amid the backlash.

3. Truth Initiative sells “depression sticks” in anti-vape campaign

Vaping has replaced cigarette smoking for Gen Z, but the negative effects are just as alarming.

According to CDC data, e-cigarette use among youth has skyrocketed to epidemic levels in recent years. Eighty-one percent of people who vape started to decrease anxiety, depression or stress, according to a survey of youth by the Truth Initiative. But, ironically,93% of vapers report that vaping makes them feel more stressed, depressed or anxious. 

In response to that data, the Truth Initiative created a satirical campaign about “Depression Sticks.” In the spots, Craig, a Depression Stick marketing manager, tries to “sell depression” to social media influencers, advertising executives, lobbyists and gas stations. At the end, Craig’s pitch is rejected by everyone. 

The Truth Initiative’s campaign comes after the FDA postponed reviewing e-cigarette company applications, delaying regulations. 

2. Tokyo Olympics 2020: 8 ads pulling for the gold

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics was one of the most historical Olympic competitions to date, following a one-year postponement due to the pandemic. 

After months of uncertainty, the Olympics kicked off, but without fans in the stands. Despite the new format, brands geared up for the event with memorable spots. 

One notable ad was the International Olympic Committee’s “What Agnes Saw,” which chronicles a century of the Olympics through the eyes of Agnes Keleti, the oldest-living gold medal champion. 

Other popular spots include Nike’s “Best Day Ever,” which starred athletes Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Diede de Groot, A’ja Wilson, Lebron James, Serena Williams and Sha'Carri Richardson, and Facebook’s “Longboard Family,” which celebrated skateboarding’s Olympic debut.

1. Ad of the week: NFL’s ‘We Run as One’

For the first time in more than a year, fans were invited back to the stands for the NFL season. It’s no wonder, then, that our most read creative story of the year was about the film the league debuted,  called “We Run As One,” celebrating its return. 

Created by 72andSunny Los Angeles, the spot stars players Aaron Donald, DeAndre Hopkins, Cam Jordan, Derrick Henry, Justin Herbert and DeVonta Smith. 

Influencers including Deestroying, Gerald Huston, India Love, Nick Mercs and Reginae Carter, LA youth team Watts Ram and Apex Predators, a Las Vegas-based female flag football team, also make cameos. 

Throughout the film, players chant the popular pre-game chant, “Who got my back?” Fans passionately respond, “We got your back,” showing the true spirit of the football.


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