It was the best of ads, it was the worst of ads… Actually, we’re not going to talk about the worst, because who needs that negativity going into 2020?!
What a decade it’s been. And what a lot of ads we’ve sat through. For your enjoyment, we took a trip down memory lane and plucked out the best ads of the last 10 years (aka the ones we didn’t block). Don’t be too mad if we missed a winner. There’s a form at the end for that. 😉
Buckley’s (Canada) 🤧
In the mid-80s—an era when clothing and hairstyles were at the peak of bad taste—Buckley’s launched the Canadian “Bad Taste” advertising campaign, with the tagline “It tastes awful. And it works.” The campaign wasn’t just a creative triumph in its own right: it helped establish Buckley’s as a leader in the cough and cold category.
In this decade, far from fizzling out despite a history of over 100 years, Buckley’s continues to innovate and reinvent, producing marketing collateral from video to collaborations with Spotify (“bad taste playlists”) to taking over subway trains.
No Name (Canada) 🟨
No Name has taken the public by storm over the last few years. The brand’s integrated, cross-channel meta campaign highlights the no-frills ingredients in its products—to witty deadpan hilarity. A tweet featuring quick-tie garbage bags might be accompanied by the copy “may be tied slowly”, while public space advertising features obvious signage for common surfaces like “floor” and “glass”.
Nike, “Breaking2” (USA) 👟
Breaking2 was Nike’s quest to break the two-hour barrier for the marathon (42.2km), starring Kenyan marathoner Eliud Kipchoge, the current world-record holder and arguably the greatest runner of all time. Perhaps only Nike could shrewdly pull together and meticulously orchestrate a campaign—at once part-documentary, part-product development, part-awe-inspiring athletic feat—as an extended advertisement for the Nike Zoom Vaporfly sneaks. If you’re Nike, you Just do it.
For the record, they fell short by seconds during this campaign, but Kipchoge went ahead to break the barrier in Vienna earlier this year, running at a mind-boggling 13 mph for—yup—just under two hours.
Oreo, “Dunk in the Dark” (USA) 🥛
In 2013, Oreo capitalised on the Super Bowl power outage in New Orleans by tweeting out the following message:
Cited by many in the industry as one of the best real-time marketing moments, the tweet went viral, generating thousands of likes, comments, and retweets. As HuffPost put it: “The best ad during the Super Bowl wasn’t even a commercial, it was a tweet.” Since then, there has been no shortage of strong brand Twitter accounts, with honourable mentions for Wendy’s and Netflix.
Dove, “Real Beauty” (USA) 🕊
Dove knocked it out of the park in 2013 with their cross-channel “social experiment” campaign utilising an FBI forensic artist to explore the gap between how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us. By flipping the traditional messaging in the beauty industry, an ageing brand launched itself back into the conversation, with sales to boot.
A shout out also to newer beauty brands like Glossier—with a cool 2.5 million followers on Instagram—who are savvily pushing similar “self-love” messaging to GenZ.
Lacoste, “Crocodile Inside” (France) 🐊
In France, some ads are art…
Enough said, non? And Lacoste is no stranger to creating beautiful short films; we’re also still mesmerised by “Timeless” (2017).
Stabilo Boss, “Highlight the remarkable” (Germany) ✊
A picture speaks a thousand words. Stabilo Boss created powerful outdoor and print ads in 2018 that reframed history, putting the stories of remarkable-but-lesser-known women centre stage. The campaign grew legs, going viral on social channels online and winning numerous industry awards, including Cannes Lions.
IKEA, “Real life series” (Spain) 🛋
A delightful Spanish campaign injected some pop culture into the Swedish homeware giant just earlier this year, becoming the most shared IKEA campaign of all time. The living rooms of popular television shows were recreated using only IKEA products, where users could “shop the look”.
Greggs (UK) 🥧
High street baker Greggs consistently delivered cheeky humour on multiple campaigns, killing it on marketing metrics and sales figures across the last decade. A recent highlight was an ad that parodied Apple. The launch of a vegan sausage roll was marketed with a video (“the next generation of sausage roll technology”) with features including:
Pastry layers: 96
Flake resolution: optimal
User interface: Into user’s face
Additional recommended reading is, as always, at the official Greggs Twitter account.
John Lewis, “Monty the Penguin” Christmas Ad (UK) 🎄
And finally, we can’t have a holiday season post without mentioning the gold standard of all holiday advertisements by John Lewis. Everyone has a different opinion on the “best” one, but one thing’s for sure: these cinematic ads—stretching back to 2007 and continued throughout this decade—are still eagerly anticipated, and have become woven into the fabric of the British holiday season.
We’ll leave you with this one from 2014, and wish you all a very happy holiday (P.S. have Kleenex handy).